Local Entrepreneur Inspirational Story (MUST Read!)

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There is an incredible amount of learning that comes from taking the time to listen to the amazing entrepreneurs around you. As we serve business owners in our local community of Morristown, New Jersey, every so often we come across one whose story just needs to be told.

We found several nuggets of wisdom in our interview with entrepreneur David Birk of Network Doctor, a provider of outsourced IT solutions. Read this blog for inspo on:

  • Deepening client relationships and opening their minds to being offered more
  • Finding the highest value people to be on your team
  • How personality breeds success within a company’s employees or within any type of business partners

David Birk

How did Network Doctor get started?

I met my business partner Paul when I was 13 years old on the visit day of high school. Our lockers were next to each other and he was actually the first new friend I made in high school. We stayed friends throughout high school and into college (we both went to SUNY Binghamton).

As Paul was more the technical type, he got a job in technology while I went to work at AT&T in sales. This was back in the 2000s when setting up an Internet WiFi service wasn’t as simple as hooking up the equipment. When I got a new client, I would ask him to go the person’s house at night and install the WiFi.

Paul’s business was doing well. When I left AT&T in 2006, I joined him and was responsible for business development and relationship management while he took care of the technical aspects. Over time, we built up the business. It was very balanced.

We’ve managed to build what I consider to be a great business.

What are the three things that have made you succeed as entrepreneurs where other people failed?

1) Good relationship between business partners

Having a good partner is a tremendous blessing. Sole business owners or partners that have a lot of friction in their relationship make managing a business very challenging. It’s a lot of long hours, it’s stressful, and you are wearing a lot of different hats. The fact we had each other allowed us to focus on areas that we were really good at. That has been a big part of our success.

2) Hiring the right people

We have had a focus on hiring people with leadership abilities, that embrace autonomy, who have the ability to make decisions. Some of it is luck.

We look to hire the right people and not the right skill set. If someone came into my office and tried to wow me with all the technical savvy he or she had, it would be a non-starter if they didn’t have the personality. 

We look for what is important to them in a job. Experience does not impress us without the personality. We’ve had people work for us in the past who were great employees but their personalities weren’t a fit. That doesn’t really breed success or a sense of safety within the office environment.

Technology moves so fast that that even if you know everything about one particular subject, it could become irrelevant in a few years. We look for people who know how to learn.

Sometimes we just got lucky to have employees turn out great and we didn’t expect it.

3) Creating deep client relationships

In IT you could very easily be considered a necessary evil, just “the tech guy” you call when something doesn’t work. We worked hard to change the perception of ourselves in the eyes of our clients. You are there to fix things when broken, but more important to enable users to leverage technology.

Clients tend to want two things out of an IT firm, but they really should want three. When they have a request they want a quick response, and they want it done right. It becomes a very reactive relationship and you function almost like a locksmith.

The third thing they should want, and many don’t think of, is a strategic partner. How do you do that? At our firm we appoint each client a vCIO (virtual Chief Information Officer), who acts as a technology advisor, not a support engineer. They have a periodic (usually quarterly) meeting to talk about their business and workflow (as opposed to what tickets are open.) During that meeting the vCIO suggests what technologies are relevant to improving efficiency in their business. Unless you set a time to have these conversations, they don’t happen in a proactive manner. These conversations are tremendously valuable in deepening the relationship and earning the trust.

There’s nothing that upsets me more than losing clients. You invest so much time and ultimately money in each client relationship that to lose one to gain another is less than a zero sum game.

We look for the right client that will see the value in this type of approach.

Do you know an amazing entrepreneur in the NY Tristate area? Send us a note and we’d be happy to interview them for our blog or YouTube channel!

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