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Massachusetts small business of the year

Leominster technology firm gains plaudits for ‘people first’ approach

Kenneal Patterson
Massachusetts small business of the year
Tony Fields, Cleartech Group president and founder. COURTESY PHOTO

The Small Business Administration recently named Cleartech Group the 2020 Minority Owned Small Business of the Year for Massachusetts.

Cleartech, based in Leominster, was founded in 2017 and specializes in providing technological assistance to companies throughout the commonwealth.

Tony Fields, the company’s president and founder, told the Banner that Cleartech is a “people-first” company. He said that he uses technology to give back to businesses and his community as a whole.

“In learning more about technology and learning more about how to leverage technology and help people reach their goals, I started to realize it’s an act of service,” he said.

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Fields has prioritized certain values in his company vision. He’s learned some of these values from his time in the Air Force, where he served from 1992-1996, he said.

“Part of that,” he said, “was building the discipline and the service-oriented mentality that I grew into and decided more and more that I wanted to serve. Serve not just by country, but my community. Serve my family.”

The SBA recognized Cleartech for “outstanding community service” as well as revenue growth. The company has increased its revenue by 40% from 2018 to the end of 2019.

Fields said that he was nominated for two programs in 2018: the SBA Emerging Leaders Program and the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses Program. The programs were free, he said, and he learned to map out a growth plan for his business.

“By the end of 2018, I had a growth plan for 2019,” he said. His plan centered on hiring the right people, focusing on customer needs and managing the business’s financial side.

After these programs, he said, he was able to look at his business from a strategic perspective. “It was a combination of that training in 2018, getting the right people and getting them in the right places, and then leading with vision and also serving my customers and my team,” he said.

“As a result, 2019 was phenomenal growth,” he added.

The company was in “growth mode” until March, when the pandemic hit

Fields said that the company was in “growth mode” until March, when the pandemic hit. “Our growth plan and our vision … took a little detour,” he said. “So as of right now, we’re reworking the plan.”

In this new normal, said Fields, his team had to switch gears from focusing a lot on technology to prioritizing more of the people element.

“A lot of the past month and a half has been serving people and helping people through more than just technical changes,” he said.

The “people-first” mentality includes asking customers how they’re doing and caring for their needs. Fields said that many people weren’t set up to pivot in the midst of the crisis, so they’re going to Cleartech for solutions.

Fields first opened a computer-repair franchise in Leominster in 2004. He wanted to be a part of the community in central Massachusetts, where he could be involved with his children’s’ sports games, he said.

After more than 10 years of working with the franchise, Fields’ children were nearing the end of high school. “I could take my lifestyle business and turn it into a business,” he said.

In 2017, Cleartech Group was launched. “I wanted to build it to create jobs and really support my customers in a scalable way,” he said.

As businesses more and more depend on technology, said Fields, it allows for Cleartech Group to work in partnership with them. “They can lean on us, trust us, we’re going to put their best interests first,” he said. “And then make sure that the technology is less of an obstacle and more of an asset to their business as they move forward.”

Looking ahead, Fields hopes to expand Cleartech into a multi-million dollar company. He also wants to continue serving businesses in his county, in Massachusetts and throughout New England.

“One of the things that I often say is that my main goal … is that I want to climb while pulling,” he said. “And so as I climb, I’m always pulling as many people as I can.”

Fields encouraged other business owners to “climb,” too.

“My advice is put yourself out there and show up, and that’s half the battle,” he said.

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