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York CEO’s advice to entrepreneurs: ‘Get ready to get punched in the face’

York CEO’s advice to entrepreneurs: ‘Get ready to get punched in the face’

  • Mark Zeleznock, the co-founder of York-based Dataforma, says “the key to success is a tight feedback loop.”
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Mark Zeleznock has seen the push of perfection drive too many businesses into the ground.

Putting a product out to market before it’s got all the bugs worked out takes guts, he says, because customers are going to start swinging when they find the flaws.

And Mark lives for that.

“Perfection is unrealistic,” he says. “When you’re building something, you’re in your perfect world. You don’t have outside voices telling you what to do. No one tells you your vision is wrong.”

But, Mark says, that’s where many entrepreneurs get stuck. Their ideas never get off the ground because they haven’t “perfected” their product.

The feedback loop

What an entrepreneur should be doing, Mark says, is inviting their customer to get engaged early — and then “get ready to get punched in the face.”

With a background in engineering, Mark gets it. His company is Dataforma, a technology company based in York that provides systems for service management professionals, such as roofers, HVAC professionals, and other service providers.

Even though the business has been around since 2004, keeping up with the demands of clients and the changes of technology, Dataforma has had to be on top of what their clients may want or need.

“The key to success is a tight feedback loop,” Mark says. “You want to be in constant communication with your customer so you can hear what their pain points may be and then figure out how to address them. Doing that means you have to let go of perfection.”

Think like an entrepreneur

Mark grew up in York County but left in his late teens and since has never lived in one place for very long. He’s had stints in Silicon Valley and New York City, but York is where he always wanted to plant his flag.

Dataforma finds its home in the J.D. Brown Center for Entrepreneurship at York College of Pennsylvania, and the company’s set to be one of the first tenants in the College’s new Knowledge Park.

While Dataforma is a technology business, the company works with blue collar industries. There are plenty of those in this region, and even some of the engineers Mark has hired understand that industry because of family who worked there.

Through it all, Dataforma’s biggest successes come from their clients pushing them to do better.

“Being a good entrepreneur is like being a good doctor,” he says, “You need to ask, ‘What are your problems? What’s killing you? How can I fix it?’ We do that every month with our existing customers. If you aren’t, you’re not going to succeed.”