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"When customers would come for meetings, they'd last 50 minutes longer because they'd want to look out the window and say a silent prayer. That went on for months," Isford said. The employees came back, but business was another story. It was a struggle and in July 2002, Plural was sold to Dell in May 2002.
"The transaction was not related to 9/11 but how do I grow the business. It was either grow by getting capital or combine with someone or sell. We couldn't get the capital to grow. W were profitable but had no extra money to grow because sales dropped off. We looked a couple different merger scenarios with other [systems integrators]. The Dell thing came to us. They found me and it turned out to be a good deal. At that time, [customers] were nervous about small businesses when the economy is down. It gave us the backing we needed," he said.
Two years later, Isford joined IBM, where he now is vice president of Smarter Analytics for IBM North America.
While no wishes to witness a horrific event like 9/11 up close, the experience of surviving that harrowing time gave him a new perspective that has carried with him through his career.
"The first thing is we were all really naïve. I certaintly felt that way. That was the first thing. We took for granted the freedoms we had. We took for granted there are people that are that evil, that want to do those things to innocent people. Maybe it's because some of us had grown up without having to go to war and certainly never on our shores," Isford said. "It fundamentally changed all of us. We're so much more aware now.
"I think another thing is it certainly made me more appreciative of life in general. It can be so fleeting. Who would have thought to go work that day and never come home. It makes you more appreciate good times and family.," he said. "The other thing is it made proud to be a New Yorker. Everybody come back to the office. The determination and camaraderie: everybody felt a renewed sense of determination to be successful."
Isford has only ventured down to lower Manhattan a handful of times in the last 11 years. Most recently, it was a year ago when his daughter was helping to film a documentary on 9/11 and he was interviewed there.
"I'm glad to see downtown come back. It's taken a while," he said. "And when the anniversary comes, it's vividly back in your mind. It was a horrific event to be part of and it will always be part of me."