On the evening of Monday, July 18th, Jay Myers, the founder and CEO of Interactive Solutions Inc. (ISI), visited the Start Co. Lounge to speak to our Accelerator teams at our weekly Founders Dinner. Interactive Solutions integrates the latest components and software into customized systems that connect organizations to their workers and to the world. They deliver solutions in corporate communications, distance learning, telemedicine, digital signage and more. Inc. has named ISI to its 500|5000 list of America’s fastest growing companies seven times. We were honored to have such an accomplished entrepreneur on site to share his wisdom. Here are some key takeaways from Mr. Myers’ talk:
Mr. Myers has faced an unbelievable number of challenges on his path to building a successful company. At one point his brother passed away unexpectedly. Less than a year later, he discovered his accountant had embezzled $250,000 from him. Then, within a single month in 2007, he had two friends die, lost employees that accounted for 80% of his sales revenue, and his wife was diagnosed with breast cancer. All of these experiences left him emotionally distraught, but he learned that if he didn’t allow that negativity to seep into his business, he could use them as growth points. When he had a negative response to that adversity, his business suffered. But when he had a positive response and chose to overcome that adversity no matter how difficult, it resulted in substantial growth. The year following the fraud incident ISI doubled in size, all because of how Myers chose to deal with the challenge. “It’s gonna come at you, you just have to be able to deal with it.” He’s discovered that that ability, more than anything else, is what separates success from failure.
Hire the Right People
A common theme at our Founders Dinners, but Mr. Myers stresses something different: think outside the box when defining who the right employee for your company is. At the time when ISI experienced that exodus of employees, every company in the tech industry hired older employees with years of experience in the field. But when Myers looked at the tech industry, he saw a rapidly growing field that older generations wouldn’t be able to keep up with. He saw the future, and knew he couldn’t be stuck in the past. So he bucked industry standards and hired a bunch of millennials, choosing to focus on energy, determination, and a desire to join a cause rather than simple experience. Then he trained those employees, building what he calls an “employee farm system”. Other tech companies thought he was crazy…until he more than doubled the size of his business – from $11 million to $25 million – in the middle of the Recession.
Community Involvement is Rewarding in More than One Way
Community involvement is often weaved into the very fabric of an entrepreneur’s company; after all, ideas for startups usually come from a problem the founder witnessed in their own community. But once you’ve reached success with your project, it’s never a bad idea to give back to your community in other ways, such as through service or donations. These actions can even reward you with more than a full heart and clear conscience. Mr. Myers is a living testament to this. He’s heavily involved in the Memphis community, and told us that through one connection made within seconds of beginning involvement in a certain service project, he secured a deal that he estimates has netted him at least $15 million. We’re not trying you to encourage you to do good for the wrong reasons, but we won’t judge you either.
Grant Hechinger is a Start Co. Summer Associate and a rising senior at Rhodes College. He can be reached at email@example.com.