Q: What helped you decide to found/become an owner of Optimum Networking?
A: When I was working for a former employer (CH2MHill), I was in a meeting with all the regional coordinators from across the country. Every office had someone who took care of servers and systems. A company came into the meeting and said: “Hey, we can outsource that for you. We can do all of the same things your internal people are doing, and you don’t need the staff.” I thought “That can’t be very beneficial financially, because that company needs to make a profit.” Basically, they are just going to hire our people and mark up the price, so what is the real benefit there? I could not even believe they were having the conversation with them. Then the outsource engineer said to our CIO “we can outsource all your networking too”. I was the Network Manager. I looked over at our CIO at that point, and he quickly said, “no, no, no….” It was at that point I decided that when it came down to it, I wanted to be the outsourcer, not the outsourced.
That is what got me moving. I always wanted to run a business and I thought: “this is my chance”.
Q: What role did meeting Joe Turnbough play?
A: It was very important. Meeting Joe was a very interesting story. The management asked me if I wanted to interview Joe to be my assistant, and I said “no”. I was in on a previous interview, and they did not listen to my feedback. I told them that the person was not truthful with their resume. It turned out, that person did not work out. So, with Joe’s interview, I told them to go ahead and hire him and I would do my best to work through it. They hired Joe, and I don’t know what they told him about me, but he thought I would be very hard to work with. When he started, I introduced myself and shook his hand. He was surprised because he had already painted a picture in his mind of the type of person I was going to be. We started talking about hobbies, common interests and that we both wanted to start a business. We became friends within the first five minutes, and I could tell right away that this was someone I could go into business with. I could tell he was serious. It wasn’t a month or two later when I finally said, “let’s do it”, and he said “OK”. We went to dinner that night and we talked about how we would pull it off. We shook hands and that was it. We didn’t have a legal agreement drawn up between us for the first 15 years of building the business.
Q: As an owner of Optimum, what are you most proud of?
A: I’m most proud of the tenacity and perseverance we have to keep going. For a lot of people, when things get rough, they want to walk away. There were a lot of stressful times, but Joe and I both dug deep and said, “we can’t do that”. When we started, I was married, and we did not have a family. Now, 26 years later, I’ve raised 22-, 20- and 17-year-old children, and they get to see that I stuck with something in hard times and good times. Hopefully, that is a lesson for them. I’m proud that I’ve created a legacy of sticking it out.
Q: What are some of your favorite memories over the years?
A: Joe and I are friends, so we’ve done things personally as well. One time Joe and I took our wives on a “mystery trip” through American Airlines. You just show up and you don’t know where you are going. There were many possible destinations: LA, Vegas, Orlando, but the one place we hoped it would not be was…Tulsa, Oklahoma. Of course, we ended up going to Tulsa, Oklahoma. We made the best of it and still had a lot of fun. We’ve taken many motorcycle rides and airplane trips through the years. We have shared business success when you win a big client or land a big project. There are a lot of great memories, and sometimes Joe and will sit and laugh with each other. It is a good thing we can laugh because sometimes things are funny now but, at the time, they were not so funny. It is powerful to be able to look back at some of the more challenging times and know that we have learned from them.
Q: You’ve been doing this a long time. What keeps you fresh and “in the game”:
A: Our perseverance and tenacity to succeed over 26 years creates energy and momentum towards the future. For many years, I’m the last one out before the Christmas Holiday. As I’m shutting things down, I look around and it surprises me every time what we have built here. I’m thrilled to look at this, and then I think “it could be so much better”. That’s what makes me want to keep going. When you start building a house, you don’t stop before the roof is on. Once the roof is on, you don’t stop there either. You are always building and improving. There is no end to where we can go with this company. The sky is the limit!
Q: At company meetings, you often say “This is the best team we ever had” and you always mean it sincerely. Does this mindset help keep you fresh?
A: Yes, because we are always reinventing ourselves. We are getting better. The company is getting better. The team is getting better. The clients are getting better. Technology is getting better. Twenty-six years ago, there was no such thing as a Managed Service Provider (MSP). It was much harder to manage workstations and servers remotely like we do today. So, every year the technology allows us to improve. Back then, there were not many people in IT. Now there are many people, and it is much more competitive. When you look at some of the people we hire, you say “wow, you can do that?”. Looking at what we have done here at Optimum is phenomenal. That is why we are always getting better. We are more diverse and more skilled and more educated than ever before. We just keep getting better.
Q: What is one thing that clients need to know about Optimum Networking:
A: Perseverance! We don’t give up. That can be translated in a lot of ways. We don’t give up in business, and when a client has a problem, we keep going until we find a solution for them. We always say in meetings that we care, and we care so much that we never give up. You can care all you want, but that does not always mean that you never give up. There is something in my DNA, and Brett and Joe’s DNA that does not quit. We don’t know how to quit. One of the worst things for me is when I feel like we are at the end of the road, and I don’t know how we are going to get through this. At these times we all get creative and always find a way to get through. That keeps us going and keeps us fresh, knowing there is always a solution within our team. We just never give up!