Larry Letow

A Team Sport

Looking back, Larry thinks of his life not as a series of defining moments, but as a series of defining relationships with mentors that helped him advance his goals down the field toward success. He approaches business with the same energy, dedication, skill, and camaraderie he channeled toward the team sports he played growing up. And now, as the President and CEO of Convergence Technology Consulting, he has the opportunity to play that team sport every day. “Through my various pursuits in life, I could have gone it alone, but growing something with somebody else is much more exciting to me,” he says today. “When you’re standing at that podium at the end of the day, it’s so much better to have other people up there with you. It’s about the team.”

Convergence was founded in 2002 as one of several companies that rose from the ashes of FutureLink, an application service provider that imploded during the dot-com crash. By 2004, the company was doing well but looking for someone to help take it to the next level. The founders had stayed close to Larry, who had been a colleague at FutureLink. “I had gone with another FutureLink spinoff which we sold, so I was in the market for a new opportunity,” Larry recounts. “The Convergence founders were highly technically savvy, and I was able to come on as the COO and bring the operational business expertise to really lay out the infrastructure and help us become strategic about our growth.”

In the beginning, Convergence made a name for itself as a technology consulting firm specializing in Microsoft services and an array of ancillary products, and when Larry joined as the company’s fifth employee in 2004, it was doing around $1.5 million in revenue. Several years into his tenure, he stepped into the role as President, and later took on the CEO title. Today, Convergence has around sixty employees and draws around $34 million in revenue annually. “For a small company, we’ve seen it all,” Larry says. “From changes in ownership, to product development, to acquisitions of other companies, we’ve sought to remain relevant and stable in a constantly evolving world, ensuring our employees have stable jobs and our clients have top-notch service.”

Though Convergence has never had a losing year, beating its revenue and profit goals on an annual basis, it did not emerge unscathed from the Great Recession and the subsequent sequestration cuts instituted by Congress. “One of the best lessons I learned through that time was to expect the worst but hope for the best,” Larry says. “We were all kind of blindsided by optimism at the time, with no idea that it would be so bad. We made it through by staying true to our basic principles and capabilities, sticking with what we were great at. You can survive as a ‘jack of all trades, master of none’ when the economy is strong, but when things start to spiral, you have to focus on what you’ve mastered. We got through by switching back to our roots and continuing our growth stage. And to this day, we’re very cognizant of the fact that we have to be able to adapt when the economy changes, and we have to help our clients any way we can when times are tough.”

Today, operating under the motto of “secure application delivery,” the company’s mission has expanded to focus on the secure delivery of an application from a server to an endpoint, regardless of the nature or location of that endpoint. “We help our clients build, sell, and protect the software,” Larry explains. “Serving government agencies and commercial organizations all around the nation, we’re working with new technology every day, always pushing the limits of what we thought was possible. That’s an incredibly exciting environment to work in.”

Undoubtedly, Convergence’s success is due in large part to the innovation and integrity of its products. Recognizing that nefarious intentions can be cultivated within an organization as well, one of the company’s signature products is Intelligence ID, an insider threat protection program that prevents employees from stealing an organization’s intellectual property. The product is now sold worldwide.

But in true team spirit, Larry knows that his players are the key to success. “We have a great company because we’re made up of great people,” Larry affirms. “Everyone has a choice in life, and I feel blessed that our employees have chosen to be a part of the Convergence team. It’s important to me that they feel valued, secure, and respected.” Thanks to this philosophy, Convergence has been named one of the best places to work in the Baltimore region for three of the past four years. The company has been named Partner of the Year for the last four years by Citrix, one of its top vendors, and Larry has received several Person of the Year awards for the Baltimore region.

Alongside Convergence, Larry helped to cofound a platform called Cyber Maryland, CyberUSA and the National Cyber Security Hall of Fame, which recognizes past cyber superstars—many of whom were part of the National Security Agency transition from cryptology to cyber. These platforms were all part of a plan to keep Maryland the leader and epicenter of cyber security innovation. Part of a broader cyber conference attended by thousands in October to mark Cyber Security Awareness Month, the annual event hosts around 350 cyber executives and places five people into the Hall of Fame. “The project is a pretty incredible example of using teamwork to take a great idea and make it a reality,” Larry says. “We came up with the concept over breakfast one day, and eight months later, it had been implemented.” The initiative has been keynoted and supported by global cyber security leaders like General Keith Alexander, Admiral Michael Rogers, Congressman Dutch Ruppersberger, and Senator Barbara Mikulski.

Known as a caring, respectful leader compelled by an innate entrepreneurial spirit, Larry’s success stems from his roots. He was born in New York City to his father, an engineer, and his mother, a teacher and genius who returned to school later and pursued a long career as a paralegal for the government. He was three years old when the family moved to Silver Spring, Maryland, so his father could take a job with a defense contractor. “My grandfather was a very successful entrepreneur and had the patent on car antennas,” Larry says. “Through the 1960s and 70s, most of the antennas purchased were from his company, and he taught me a lot from an entrepreneurial standpoint. My father was similar, fostering an entrepreneurial spirit in the government by bringing in new technologies.”

Growing up, sports were everything to Larry. With no electronic devices to consume his time and attention, he spent the days playing outside. He played on football, baseball, and basketball teams, and recalls thoughtful, dedicated coaches who provided good leadership models. “I really looked up to them and knew I wanted to be a leader too,” he reflects. “I became a catcher in baseball because I wanted to be the one to catch that ball every time, calling out the type of pitches and directing people when there were outs.”

Every year, Larry worked to advance his skills and build upon his natural athletic talent. In high school, he concentrated much of his focus on tennis, where he excelled as a doubles player. “In doubles tennis, you can still be a cheerleader for your teammate and raise up another person’s ability to be great, which is what’s always driven me,” he says. “Even now, when I go out to play golf, I enjoy it so much more when I’m with someone else. I’m really driven by the social, relational, supportive aspect of teamwork.”

Larry’s parents grew up during the Great Depression and were very frugal with their money, instilling in Larry a sense of fiscal responsibility that has always served him well. As early as age twelve, Larry would go in to help on the assembly line at his grandfather’s business, putting together antennas. “It was great for me to see him as a leader at work,” Larry recalls. “He treated everyone with the utmost respect, and in return, everybody loved him. It taught me the important lesson that leaders don’t have to be intimidating or threatening. They can be loved and still be just as effective, if not more effective. I was my grandfather’s first grandson, and from day one, we had an exceptionally close kinship. He was a great mentor and role model.”

In junior high school, Larry started a modest lawn cutting service, cutting between five and ten lawns a week until he was sixteen. His first truly entrepreneurial venture, however, came one day at school when a friend wanted to buy a piece of Big Buddies gum from him for fifty cents. “I knew I could buy them from the store for a nickel, so I had my dad drive me to pick up a few boxes,” Larry recounts. “I sold the whole supply for fifty cents apiece, and for a while I was selling out two to four cases of gum every couple of days. The school principal finally shut me down, telling me I was making more money than he was and disrupting class because the kids were focused on trying to buy gum. I didn’t realize then, but the lesson was that even if you have the greatest product in the world, you can lose an opportunity if you don’t have your territory locked up. The whole experience had a big impact on me as a sales person.”

Larry then landed a job at IHOP, which his parents convinced him to quit after only five days of work because he came home smelling so strongly of batter. Instead, he took a job at a pharmacy, running the registers and assisting the manager with whatever needed to be done. He dreamed of being a professional tennis player one day, and grew up with the expectation that he would go to college without question. He attended the University of Maryland, where he majored in criminal justice with a minor in sociology and thought he might want to pursue a career in law.

Upon graduating, Larry landed a job with WR Grace where, under the exceptional mentorship of Mickey Adelman, he became the first person to complete the management training program. “I had applied to work for Herman Sporting Goods as an area manager, but the guy who interviewed me seemed distracted and hurried through the interview process,” Larry recalls. “I decided to write a letter about it to the highest-ranking person I could, which was Mickey. A week later, he called me in, interviewed me, and ended up enlisting me as the first person in his training program. I understood that the letter I wrote had power, and to this day, whether I write a letter or email or tweet, I keep in mind how effective it can be to activate people for good causes and to solve problems. There’s a way to bring something to someone’s attention that really spurs action.”

With Mickey’s guidance, Larry became assistant manager of Herman World of Sports, quickly rising through the ranks to manager before he realized he hated working in retail. “I loved the people, but the quality of life was sorely lacking,” he recalls. With that, he took a job for a defense contractor called United Information Systems (UIS), where he worked as an assistant for the CEO, Bill Johnston. Then, after becoming a facility security officer and learning how to successfully manage projects, he decided to strike out on his own and launch a company called United Computer Systems (UCS). “Bill contracted me on to manage all their systems,” Larry says. “That was a gift. Then he bought me out and brought me back into the fold of UIS, where I became VP and part-owner.”

After five years on his own and another five years back at UCS, Larry decided he wanted to move beyond federal government work to do business with the commercial world. “All through my career up to that point, I knew I wanted something more,” he reflects. “I wanted more control over my destiny.” He spent the next year doing consulting work and then took a job with a small technology infrastructure company building server rooms. After several years working in that capacity, the company was bought by FutureLink. “The dot-com rise and crash that followed was a masters education in itself,” Larry reflects. “Through a strategy of growth through acquisition, we became a global company worth over $100 million. We were building the Application Service Provider Model—what’s now known as cloud computing. We were way ahead of the technology and the trends, but people weren’t ready for it. We became paper millionaires and then watched it flow away.”

When FutureLink went under, Larry partnered with several colleagues to spin out Infinity Consulting Group, where he ran the southeast region. The company grew, and so did Larry, who soon hungered for a new kind of entrepreneurial challenge. Parting ways with his senior partner was challenging, and a life-defining moment in itself that took years to fully heal. But the experience, as all experiences do, contained important lessons, and Larry was open to learning them. “Along the ladder of life, I’ve been able to find mentors to help along the way,” he says. “Those relationships have been priceless defining moments for me, and I’m very grateful for them. They still teach me, and I know that as long as I’m open to learning, I will continue to succeed.”

Equally as impactful has been Larry’s family. His mother was always a “behind-the-scenes general,” making things happen behind closed doors. His father imparted to him a drive to succeed, and he remembers how much it meant to him to earn his father and grandfather’s admiration from a business standpoint. “When I think about it, they’re my two biggest role models by far,” he affirms. “Earning their admiration gave me some affirmation that I was on the right path and doing the right things in life.”

The support of his wife, Wendy, also means everything. The two have been together for eighteen years. “Wendy’s all the good things you could imagine, wrapped up into one person,” Larry says. “Not only does she have a great heart, but she takes action. When her friend died of cancer, she decided to launch an organization called The Little Things for Cancer, focused on providing assistance to caregivers and patients that otherwise get overlooked. She ran it for six years, raising millions of dollars and helping thousands of people with the little things like paying for taxies, covering household bills, and providing foot massages for patients during chemo. Wendy is the angel in the family—the calming influence who’s always trying to get me to do the right thing. Without her, I’m not sure I’d be where I am today.” Wendy and Larry raised three children together, and in 2014, they were given the incredible gift of a grandchild. “She’s one of the most important things in my world,” Larry avows.

In addition to their work in cancer philanthropy, Larry invests his time and resources heavily in education. He serves on the University System of Maryland’s Foundation Board and on the Board of Visitors for Towson University, and is also deeply involved with Howard University. “Brit Kirwan, the former Chancellor of the University System of Maryland, was a great mentor to me,” Larry says. “He taught me that, if we can find a way to give every kid a great education and get them to college, we will solve all ill wills. I believe it, and we must continue to strive to figure out how to do it.”

In advising young people entering the working world today, Larry highlights the importance of staying focused, cultivating mastery, and connecting with mentors. “Also, it’s important to have a plan,” he says. “Always think two jobs ahead so you always know where you’re going. And if you want to have a certain job, go find a person who holds that job and ask them to mentor you. In the sport of life, go out and find the people you want to have on your team, and then give it your all.”

Larry Letow

Gordon J Bernhardt


President and founder of Bernhardt Wealth Management and author of Profiles in Success: Inspiration from Executive Leaders in the Washington D.C. Area. Gordon provides financial planning and wealth management services to affluent individuals, families and business owners throughout the Washington, DC area. Since establishing his firm in 1994, he and his team have been focused on providing high quality service and independent financial advice to help clients make informed decisions about their money.

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