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November 17, 2014 Issue

The Most Powerful Name In Corporate News and Information


Customized Web Software and Interactive Applications for Businesses



Michael LaVista

Caxy Interactive

Interview conducted by:
Lynn Fosse, Senior Editor, CEOCFO Magazine, Published – November 17, 2014


CEOCFO: Mr. LaVista, would you tell us the concept behind Caxy Interactive?

Mr. LaVista: Caxy Interactive builds customized web software, interactive web applications for mostly business customers.


CEOCFO: What kinds of issues might you address when you say customized that are not off-the-shelf?

Mr. LaVista: We specialize in helping customers who can benefit from having a system tailored just to them. For example, a lot of customers are just fine buying an off-the-shelf ecommerce site or just fine buying an off-the-shelf ERP system. For customers that can see an advantage for building it to suit their exact business model or putting in business rules that are customized, that is something that we help them to do. Recently we built an online community for a business that I did not know would exist and it is for people paying to learn how to be better at video games. It is an online platform that allows you to gain access to a social media program, to join tournaments, to pay each other to do things inside video games with virtual currency and that is such an unusual and new concept that nothing existed for that so we built a customized system for that.


CEOCFO: I would think that most everybody could benefit from customization!

Mr. LaVista: That is true. I think where our value comes in is whether or not it is worth the investment. For example, not every business wants to spend fifty thousand dollars on a website. Therefore, if you are a corner bakery shop it would be great to have an incredible website presence but the problem is with the revenues of $110 thousand a year or something it is just not worth it to spend all of your capital on a website. Sometimes some of the customizations we do might be a million dollars so we want you to make ten times back your investment. Part of the pre sales process is to see that you definitely benefit from this; I would benefit from having a Mazaratti in my driveway but I want to pay for it and that is the balance between value and the cost time.


CEOCFO: When you are assessing a website what are some of the things that you might look at that others do not realize contribute to a successful site?

Mr. LaVista: One of the things we get a lot is the degree to which a company is prepared to engage the customer from their customer’s shoes as opposed to thinking about customers as a way to talk about what they want to talk about. I just did an article on Huffington Post that is about not wanting your website to be a bad first date. What we mean by that is when you go on a first date with someone and all you talk about is how terrific you are and how great your house or car is then you are a bad date. A lot of businesses talk to their customers through their websites in that way; they are one-way. When we look at a website one of the first things we look at is whether they are there for themselves or whether they are trying to connect and engage with their customers. The same goes for web applications and whether they are being designed in such a way as to be just about the company. A classic example of that is many companies will ask you to Like them on Facebook, but on its own there is no benefit. You are not saying what is in it for the person; the company is basically saying it would be great for us if you Like us but they are not telling you why or what you will get in exchange for that. I think that kind of thinking is something we can help to turn around. I am surprised at how few companies seem to understand marketing especially in today’s social media era where everything is transparent that not as many people as you would imagine engage their people directly.


CEOCFO: When you are speaking with a prospective client do they understand the depth of what you are offering; what is a typical engagement?

Mr. LaVista: I would say that we are in the unenviable business of building things that no one knows exists until we tell people about it. One of my greatest challenges is trying to explain to family members at a holiday dinner what in the world it is that I do and what our company does. We have been in business for about fifteen years and for the entire time I have shuffled around a handful of different words to try to explain what it is and web application means nothing to anyone until you see what it is. A lot of times it is better for us if we find out about a prospect that just has a problem they want to solve because it is like the analogy of when you are a hammer everything looks like a nail. People go out to the world saying they need to buy a website and sometimes they do but sometimes they do not really need that; what they need is a better sales management tool or their email marketing is terrible and they may need to revamp that. It is rare that people understand all that and even the big companies.


CEOCFO: How do you get them to understand?

Mr. LaVista: The phrase I hear a lot are things along the line of I did not even know that was possible. One of the things we do in our business development processes are mostly just to go out and talk to people and we do not do a lot of capabilities presentations and we do not try to be a bad first date. We do not want to walk into your conference room and show you a forty-minute slide about how terrific we are. We want to hear you talk about what keeps you up and night and what is bothering you about the business. We were talking with someone recently where the issue they have is that they have sales reps all over the place and they are all telling a different story. If you were to meet a customer from one part of the country, they have described the company completely differently than they would from the west side of the country and that is because they focus on different parts of the business. In both cases, the customers are missing out on roughly half of the business because no one is telling them about it. What we do not want is for them to show up saying we want you to make this iPad app because I would say most of the time the ideas that they have are not all that great and we can help them.


CEOCFO: Stated on your website is “we care,” how so?

Mr. LaVista: We will push you to do something intelligent. What I mean by that is if client came to us and said we want flashing red buttons and this picture over here and this over there, we would just do it. One of the things that happened is we noticed we were doing a lot of work that we did not like or that we did not think was any good. Therefore, we came back to clients and said we are together on this and we want you to be successful, we want the work that we do to be something we can show to people so we are going to push you away from the flashing red button. We are invested emotionally with the clients and we want it to be great.


CEOCFO: What is your geographic reach?

Mr. LaVista: We are largely Chicago based mostly because I am a little lazy and do not want to have to fly somewhere if I do not have to. From a cost perspective, I have noticed that it is more expensive to do business somewhere else. We have a handful of clients around the country but mostly Chicago based. I have noticed that since we do work that is a little bit more on the complex end of the spectrum a lot of customers seem to like to be close so I think what we do benefits from a lot of interaction. If we are closer, it is easier for all of us to get that interaction done.


CEOCFO: When you are assessing are you looking at what other people in the industry might do or is that irrelevant to the core focus?

Mr. LaVista: The thing that I changed my approach about is I used to think that clients expected us to show up with all the answers and if we did not know the answers there is something wrong with us. What we learned over time is the key to visual media is that you can learn from it and you can learn from it right away. When we put a site out there we start measuring it right away. If for example no one seems to get to the Contact Us page we can look at it and say look at this the Contact Us button is on the bottom of the page in white text on a white background and no one can see it. That is a crazy example. The reason we might look at other sites is that we want to see if we can figure out what seems to be working. For example if you were to do a hospital website and you were to look at twenty of the top hospital sites and you noticed that for some reason everyone seems to want to ask you right upfront if you are a patient or a doctor and you say that maybe that works pretty well. So that will give you some indication of where you might start but then you put it out there and you realize well how come all these patients are on the doctors side and the doctors are on the patients side. We always start with what is out there.


CEOCFO: How is business?

Mr. LaVista: Business is good. We were an Inc. 5000 company this year and we are going to be next year as well. It is kind of steady organic growth for around fifteen years.


CEOCFO: Why does Caxy Interactive standout?

Mr. LaVista: What you will get from Caxy is we will be 100% transparent and honest. We will tell you what we think you should do and if you let us do it we are going to do a great job building something valuable for your company.


“We want you to make ten times back on your investment.” - Michael LaVista


Caxy Interactive







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