InfoComm 2017

Last week I had the opportunity to attend InfoComm 2017 in Orlando and was really glad I did. With so much going on in the AV industry with new products, technologies, vendors etc. these days it seems to be increasingly more difficult to keep up. But we have to try! On Day #1 of InfoComm I got the opportunity to meet with Lindsey Adler who is my editor from System Contractor News(where I am a guest columnist) Lindsey and I had a great discussion about a variety of topics including recruiting millennials into the AV industry as well as noting the significant number of mergers and acquisitions occurring over the past few years. The AV industry is definitely not boring these days!

On Day #1 we looked at a number of interesting products that included a 196” Diagonal LED Touch Screen Display from Planar that was extremely impressive and created a lot of buzz with conference attendees For me it looked like an exciting new product with some niche possibilities for ISI. After that we went by the Vyopta booth and discussed remote monitoring and advanced analytics for enterprise videoconferencing clients. The Vyopta software seems to be an ideal fit for a customer with a large video network and can provide critical information on utilization, service downtime issues, OPX and CAPX system performance etc. Looks like an up and comer to me!

On day #2 we got a chance to visit with the folks from Harman and see their “Connected Retail Experience” which was very interesting. Not sure how many opportunities that ISI might have with that application but it was definitely thought provoking. While in the Harman booth we also got a chance to see the latest products from AMX which was really beneficial for ISI design planning purposes. Our next stop was Crestron where we were able to see a wide array of new products including room schedulers, DSP’s, Alexa integration as well as the Mercury product which is an all new tabletop conferencing system that integrates with SKYPE for Business, Cisco WEBEX, Go to Meeting and Zoom. Really cool product that has a lot of potential in the marketplace!

I wrapped up my InfoComm 2017 experience with a visit to Cisco(who is ISI’s biggest supplier) to discuss their new CMS product(Cisco Meeting Server) as well as Spark and Spark Boards which are gaining a lot of interest with ISI clients and prospects. After visiting the booth I also got a chance to speak to Cisco management about future products and strategies which was very enlightening. Cisco appears to be dead serious about growing their video business and with their significant financial resources they could very well be the dominant company in the AV industry for a long time.

All in all I am really glad we attended InfoComm this year and feel the knowledge we acquired will be useful to ISI in the future. Looking forward to InfoComm 2018 in Vegas next summer! 

Posted by Jay Myers at Wednesday, June 21, 2017 | 0 comments

GrowCo 2017

Last week I has the opportunity to attend the 2017 GROWCO conference (sponsored by INC magazine) which was held at the Sheraton New Orleans hotel. This was my fourth time to attend the GROWCO conference and I have to say it was by far the best of all. A lot of  great speakers and really fun networking with so many enthusiastic small business owners. Their energy  was contagious and is one of the main reasons why I enjoy this particular conference so much.,

The conference kicked off with a presentation by Jia Jiang who discussed the concept of becoming “rejection proof” and never being afraid to “just ask” Jia  cited his real life experiences testing his “rejection proof” theory that included some hilarious stories about asking to play soccer in someone’s back yard (total stranger) to asking a Krispy Kreme clerk to customize donuts (like the Olympic logo) A little off the wall but was a great way to start the conference in a fun way.

The next presentation was by Steve Case (founder of AOL) who discussed his book “The 3rd Wave" and the future of entrepreneurship in the US. One remark that Steve made that really hit home with me was that “250 years ago America was a startup-just an idea” Such great insight! I also enjoyed his observations about the challenge of financing startups and that 80% of venture capital money was being invested in Boston, New York and Silicon valley businesses.  Steve pointed out that essentially the “fly over states” were being ignored which is why he has dedicated himself to helping finance startups in smaller markets like Nashville, Louisville, Oklahoma City etc. Really good stuff and I applaud his efforts to “pay it forward”

After Steve Case’s presentation, we heard from Sheryl Sandberg who is the chief operating officer of Facebook and the author of the bestselling book “Lean In”  that discusses Women, Work and the Will to Lead. I must say that  Sheryl Sandberg is one impressive lady with an incredible resume! And I think I speak for all conference attendees that it was a real treat to hear comments about women in leadership roles in business to what it takes to overcome adversity in your life. I love her comment that “Resilience comes more from failure that Success” I couldn’t agree more with that statement!

I think that INC saved the best speaker for last  which was “Mr. Wonderful”  Kevin O’Leary who is the star of the hit TV show “Shark Tank” I loved his candor and his off the cuff remarks like “I’d give money to a goat if I can get a good return” and “if a business isn’t making money in 3 years, take it out back and shoot it” Some of the conference attendees may have found his comments a little harsh but I appreciated how he “tells it like it is” I also love his comment that his number one priority is that  “entrepreneurs need to know their numbers” when seeking investment capital(on Shark Tank of otherwise)

The conference wrapped up with comments from Neil Blumenthal (founder of Warby Parker) about the evolution of his company and the focus on lifestyle branding in the optical industry. I for one really appreciated Neil’s advice about dealing with risk in business and to “Speed Walk, Don’t Cliff Dive” A useful tip not only in the optical business but also in the AV/VTC industry! The conference wrapped up with some additional discussion from Nancy King with Airbnb about brand strategy and global consumer insights. All in all another great GROWCO conference and looking forward to next year’s event.

Posted by Jay Myers at Monday, May 15, 2017 | 0 comments

2017 NSCA Business Leadership Conference

Recently, I had the pleasure to attend the NSCA Business Leadership Conference (BLC) which was held at the Sheraton Wild Horse Pass in Chandler, Arizona. A very cool venue that is actually located on an old Indian reservation. The opening session kicked off with the 2017 economic outlook which was presented by Dr. Chris Kuel who did a great job combining statistics and humor to make for a thoroughly enjoyable experience. One particular point that Dr. Kuel made was the impact that millennials are having (and will have) on the future economy both as consumers and workers. Interestingly enough, ISI recognized the need to recruit and retain millennial workers over 10 years ago. So glad we did!

Another presentation that really hit home was delivered  by Chris McChesney who posed the question “Do You Remember the Last Major Initiative that Died in Your Organization? Chris made some really good points that outlined the 4 Disciplines of Execution that include 1) Focus Traps 2) Act on the Lead Measure 3) Keep a Compelling Scorecard 4) Create a Cadence of Accountability. I could also relate to the notion of developing Wildly Important Goals(WIGS) amidst the “whirlwind” of day to day distractions that prevent all of us from achieving these goals.

The next presentation was delivered by James Kane who discussed “The Science Behind Creating True “Loyalty”  James did a nice job talking about relationship levels that include 1)Hostile 2) Transactional 3) Pre-Disposed 4) Loyal with expectations such as Competency, Character, Consistency and Capacity. James also made a point that loyalty gets down to a few basic issues that 1) Make Life Safer 2) Make Life Easier 3) Make Life Better. Really good insights that can be used in the AV industry on a daily basis.  I loved his remarks about “Figure out how to gain some enthusiasm from your people about what’s next  and make them feel included in the change”

On a personal note, the ONLY part of James’ presentation I had a problem with was his HATRED for my favorite team the New York Yankees. Hard to swallow but after I got a chance to speak to him later that day, I realized it was all good fun! Other notable comments from other presentations include “You don’t want AV in that room, you want a smart room and I just need to know how smart you want the room to be” Also, I got a lot of chuckles in our breakout session when I made the comment (as a sales/marketing panelist) regarding the use of robots as salespeople (at KFC in Japan) “The last time I checked, we’re in the AV business, not the chicken business” All in all another great time at the BLC and looking forward to next year’s event!

 

Posted by Jay Myers at Saturday, March 18, 2017 | 0 comments

Change in Venue, Change in Attitude

At the start of every year, ISI schedules a kickoff meeting with the sales and management teams to plan for the upcoming year. The meeting is typically a couple of days of presentations and open dialog as well as discussion about a myriad of issues such as managing overhead, cutting costs, competition, state of the industry etc. It is a good way to get back in the saddle after the Christmas holidays and focus on the New Year. Usually the meeting has been held in Memphis, Tunica or Nashville mostly for convenience and logistical reasons

But with all of the upheaval in the AV industry, 2017 just didn’t look like a “business as usual” year to me so I made the decision to change the venue and hold the meeting on Anna Maria Island in Florida. Why there? One reason is that AMI has some of the prettiest beaches in the country and is one of most peaceful places I have ever been to. I also thought that it was a great place for everyone to clear their heads and think about ISI’s future. And the other reason for the meeting on AMI? My wife and I have a house on the island and really wanted to host our employees and do some old fashioned team building over dinner, drinks, etc.

Looking back a month later I have to say that the feedback I received about the kickoff meeting on AMI was the best I have received in my 20+ years of being in business. They loved the venue! And in addition, I also sensed a whole new ATTITUDE amongst ISI team members. They understood the many industry challenges that are in front of them but seemed more determined than ever to make 2017 a successful year at ISI. All in all, a great start which hopefully translates to a big year at ISI!

Posted by Jay Myers at Saturday, February 18, 2017 | 0 comments

Going the Extra MILE

A few weeks ago I had the distinct pleasure to speak to University of Memphis students and mentors who are part of the MILE program. The Memphis Institute for Leadership Education (MILE) Program is a program within the Fogelman College of Business and Economics designed to provide additional leadership education for business students.   Its specific mission is to prepare FCBE students to be future leaders in the city of Memphis through leadership development programs and mentoring.

A key part of my presentation focused on topics from my two books (Keep Swinging and Hitting the Curveballs) such as the day my business died, the summer from hell and "choosing not to participate in the recession." But I also referenced several key concepts from the book “Discover Your True North” by Bill George which included making the transformation from “I To We” in building a team as well as knowing your “Authentic Self” and understanding the value of emotional intelligence and Self-awareness.

One of the most important aspects of authentic leadership is not so much about what you know but more about what you don’t know and discovering/dealing with your “blind spots” as well as finding the right role for yourself. Finding your “True North” will not only help identify your strengths and weaknesses but ultimately make you a better leader. And what community or business in this country couldn’t benefit from having more effective leaders? That is why I feel that it is so important to start the process early as they are doing with the MILE program

Lastly, I received some really positive feedback from  MILE mentors and protégés who seem to be “completely mesmerized”  by my presentation and appreciated that I “kept it real” High praise indeed and very flattering! I have to say that I am looking forward to speaking at future MILE events and helping out any way I can to make this wonderful program a success for many years to come!

Posted by Jay Myers at Tuesday, December 6, 2016 | 0 comments

Collegiate Entrepreneurs National Conference

This past week I had the distinct pleasure to be invited to speak at the Collegiate Entrepreneurs National Conference (#CEONAT2016) that was held at the Tampa Convention Center and hosted by the University of Tampa (www.ut.edu) This year’s event  had over 800 students in attendance and featured a number of high profile speakers including Kevin Harrington who is the founder of As Seen on TV and one of the original sharks on the hit TV Show “Shark Tank” Other speakers included Dr. Gene Landrum who is the founder of Chuck E Cheese restaurants and Mike DeLazzer who is the founder of Redbox which is the largest video rental company in the world. Quite a group of speakers and I must say it was very flattering to be included on such a prestigious list!

Another speaker who really did a great job was Jeff Vinik who is the chairman/governor of the Tampa Bay Lightning NHL hockey team. Jeff was the keynote speaker at lunchtime on Friday and delivered an inspiring message on how he built his financial services and real estate business through the years. Some of Jeff’s secrets to success that he shared with the audience include 1) Having an optimistic attitude 2) Maintaining a strong belief system 3) Be Bold in pursuing your dreams 4) No substitute for hard work 5) Lead your business with integrity. Really solid advice but the best part of Jeff’s presentation had to be his unbridled enthusiasm when he spoke about the city of Tampa and its tremendous business environment/growth potential. Talk about a great cheerleader for the local community!

Besides being a guest speaker at the conference, I was also asked to participate as a judge (with 2 other people) in the CEO “pitch contest” which included hearing from 11 different student entrepreneurs who were given a minute and a half to convince the 3 of us to invest in their businesses. I must say I was extremely impressed with the student’s creativity (and enthusiasm) as well as the wide range of startup companies that were presented .Some of the more interesting companies included a 3D printer for pizzas (no kidding) as well as an urban pantry (Riverside Bodega) and a healthcare app that will potentially revolutionize treatment for patients with depression and bi-polar disorders. A number of impressive companies that in my opinion have a great chance for success! And I have to say that all of these young CEO entrepreneurs were incredibly poised and professional in stating their cases.  I also have to admit as I was listening to the students I was thinking that I personally never had the guts to start my own business in my 20’s much less do so while attending college as well.

The conference wrapped up (for me) on Saturday morning when I presented concepts from my book “Hitting the Curveballs” How Adversity can Strengthen and Grow your Business. The students and faculty that attended my session represented universities from a cross section of the country (West Virginia, California, New York, Kentucky etc.) in addition there were international representatives in my session  from Ghana, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Brazil and India. Literally a worldwide audience! And based on the comments and feedback I received after my presentation, it seems my message really hit home with many of them. Very gratifying! All in all, I had a great experience at the CEO National Conference and hope that I will be invited back to the event next year

Posted by Jay Myers at Tuesday, November 1, 2016 | 0 comments

Be Bold Conference 2016

Last week I had the distinct pleasure of speaking to small business owners at the Be Bold Conference in Johnson City, Tennessee. The event was sponsored by the Bank of Tennessee and I must say from start to finish it was first class all the way! The premise behind the event was to bring Business Owners, Leaders and Decision Makers (BOLD) together in a conference-type format for an idea exchange focused on the tips and tricks of running a small business. 

The morning keynote speaker was Wynne Tyree who is the founder and president of Smarty Pants which is an international market research and strategic consulting firm. Wynne’s presentation was not only entertaining but full of great nuggets of wisdom about running a small business. Among my favorite quotes include 1) You can’t mentor drive 2) Owners of the team don’t play 2nd base 3) Freedom, Security and Happiness is the end game for small business 4) Spend time to learn from everyone. Really good stuff that made a lot of sense to me.

The first presentation I gave was titled “From the Minor League to the Majors” Building An Employee Farm Systems. It seems a lot of small business owners in East Tennessee (who represent many different industries) are struggling with issues such as succession planning as well as creating a strategy for recruiting and developing their young (millennial) employees. It seems to be a popular topic these days! Also, I was particularly pleased that so many people came up to me after my presentation and told me how much they got out of it. Very rewarding!

My second presentation was titled “A Fraud Victim Speaks Out” which detailed the embezzlement crisis that my company (and I) had to endure back in 2003 when our accounting manager stole over $257,000 from the company and almost put us out of business. In my presentation, I discussed the “Day My Business Almost Died” and how we were able to overcome a major challenge and actually double business the next year. It’s funny but even though the incident happened over 13 years ago,  there is still a lot of interest in fraud prevention, detection etc. Not a fun topic but was well received nonetheless. All in all , it was a really fun week in East Tennessee and hope I can be invited back for speaking engagements in the future.    

Posted by Jay Myers at Thursday, September 15, 2016 | 0 comments

TEDx Memphis 2016

This past weekend my wife (Maureen) and I got the chance to attend the TEDx Memphis event that was hosted by the University of Memphis. Although getting up early on a Saturday morning was definitely a challenge, I am so glad we made the effort to be a part of this exciting event. The speakers lineup was impressive and represented a wide range of organizations such as Teach for America, Memphis Brooks Museum of Art and the EPIcenter (Entrepreneur Powered Innovation) There was a total of 16 speakers throughout the day (which sounds like a lot) but truthfully the event moved along at a really nice pace.

One of my favorite talks was given by Philip Mudd on “The Art of Thinking Backwards” Philip is a former Deputy Director of the Counterterrorist Center at the CIA and is the senior intelligence adviser at the FBI. His insights about terrorism were both fascinating (and disturbing at the same time) particularly when he pointed out that we (the US) will never really “win” the war on terrorism. He did put things in perspective that “statistically not knowing how to swim is more of a threat to children than terrorism.” I also loved Philip’s career advice: “Life is short - ask yourself what brings you joy?” 

One of the most powerful points of the day (that continues to be a big issue in Memphis) was displayed on the TEDx discussion board which stated “Every time we talk about crime, we should have a survivor and a victim at the table.” Powerful stuff and makes a lot of sense to me! Another entertaining talk was given by Ned Canty with Opera Memphis who stated that “Opera is not broccoli , it’s a bacon double cheeseburger.” Ned’s presentation was eye-opening as he stated that “opera is at the intersection of words, music and awesome.” I also loved his comment that “I wasn’t born in Memphis but I got here as soon as I could.” What a refreshing remark and was really good to hear!

The last speaker was David Waters, a columnist with the Commercial Appeal newspaper who really knocked it out of the park with his talk on “No Better Place Than This” David was a long term resident of Memphis who moved to DC to work for the Washington Post for several years and then moved back to Memphis. He made a “spot-on” observation that “It’s a big world, where are you supposed to be? Where does your deep gladness meet the world’s deep need?” I hope it’s here. There is no better place” And he further stated that he made the decision to move back to Memphis not for an occupation but a vocation. Powerful way to end the day! All in all a lot of great insights and really looking forward to attending the TEDx event next year!

Posted by Jay Myers at Wednesday, August 31, 2016 | 0 comments

ACFE - 27th Annual Global Fraud Conference

This past week I had the distinct pleasure of not only attending but speaking at the 27th Annual Fraud Conference which was host by the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE) held at the Aria hotel in Las Vegas. The conference got off to a great start with the keynote address from Academy Award winner Richard Dreyfuss who spoke a lot about his experience playing notorious fraudster, Bernie Madoff (ABC TV movie) Dreyfuss remarks about Madoff’s hedonistic mindset were fascinating as well as his comments about his own upbringing and career stating “ I was born in 1881 when the stories began that shaped my morale character and “ I get to play people like you(CFE’s) who stand for something” Some of Dreyfuss other choice quotes were “Whistleblowers and those who expose fraud are heroes” as well as “you(CFE’s) have a shot of restoring the honor of this country and saving America” Inspiring stuff that really hit home for many conference attendees!

Another session I sat in on was “Shining a Light on the Dark Web which was both informative and scary. It seems the dark web was initially developed by the US Navy to allow users a secure, encrypted means to transmit data. This is done through a series of network nodes called “onion routers”  which peels away a single layer uncovering the data’s next destination. As it was explained the dark web has unfortunately become a criminal’s “paradise” where they can initiate transactions ranging from buying and selling drugs to communicating with terrorists to hiring a hitman to kill somebody. Crazy stuff and worse yet cyber-crimes on the dark web are becoming increasingly more sophisticated these days and will continue to be a major challenge for law enforcement worldwide in the future

The last session I sat in on “Sustaining an Ethical Culture, It’s Not Always Black and White” which was thought provoking on many levels. It was suggested that sustaining an ethical culture starts at the top and it is up to the CEO to set the tone for the rest of the organization. Ironically enough statistics show that the major culprit of workplace misconduct(60%) is being attributed to senior management. Not exactly leading by example! Other strategies that were discussed included posing ethical dilemmas to job candidates in interviews in order to gauge their response In addition it was suggested to encourage a culture of clear and transparent communication with employees and co-workers as well as emphasizing the importance of asking more for “permission” than “forgiveness” in dealing with day to day issues in the business.

My speaking session was titled “Fraud Victims Speak Out!” which was moderated by Andy Wilson who was the CFE that helped ISI back in 2003 with our embezzlement crisis. It seems our story never gets old and I must say we received some very positive feedback(and rounds of applause) after I spoke. Andy mentioned  that many of the conference attendees had a lot of experience detecting fraud and “adding up the numbers” but really didn’t engage much with the emotional side of the victims. In an effort to educate our audience and further tell our story, I provided copies of my first book “Keep Swinging” to each session attendee.  Hopefully by reading my book session attendees will more clearly understand the incredible toll that embezzlement can have not just on the business but on families, spouses, children etc.  Not an experience that I want to revisit anytime soon! All in all, participating in the ACFE Fraud Conference and telling our story was not only well worth my time but it also served as a reminder of how far both me and ISI have come since 2003. Been a helluva ride!

Posted by Jay Myers at Thursday, June 23, 2016 | 0 comments

We All Need a Mentor

It’s interesting that many of my fellow entrepreneurs first got started in business by working in sales and I am no different. Before I started ISI, I sold for both Hewlett Packard and ATS (where I was first introduced to video conferencing). But before that, I worked over 6 years for Eastman Kodak selling high speed copier/duplicators from 1982-1988. My career at Kodak got off to a really rough start that first year with very few sales and lots of pressure from management. On top of that I had just gotten married and bought a house. Those were some difficult times that had me not only second guessing myself but also totally destroying my confidence. I was lost! Not a good place to be and definitely not the kind of mentality for a successful sales career.    

But a little over a year later I met a man who would change the course of not only my professional career but my life as well. His name was Jim Murphy and he worked as a manager in copier services at FedEx. Jim was gregarious, Irish Catholic and a huge Notre Dame and Memphis Tigers fan (and alum) Suffice to say, we hit it off immediately! And meeting Jim could not have come at a better time for me. He was like the "hero from central casting" who arrived just in time to save the day. When I needed it the most, Jim provided me the support and encouragement that I was so desperately seeking at a crucial time in my life. He believed in me before I believed in me! He also became not only my best customer but my mentor as well. I learned so much about business and life from him.   

Before Jim joined FedEx, he was a sales manager at Xerox (my biggest competitor) and through the years he constantly shared sales insights and strategies with me. Jim made me proud to be a salesman and helped me in so many ways to become a professional. He was also a lot of fun! I fondly remember the advice that he shared with the Kodak sales team one day when we invited him over to share his wisdom: Sales Rule #1 - Don't call your best customer a son of a bitch! 

And Jim was also very smart having majored in math in college. Another tip he gave me was “always know your numbers” whether it be pricing options, sales commissions, competition, etc. I first learned this from Jim Murphy over 30 years ago.   

Jim passed away a few days ago (at age 85) which greatly saddens me. But his place in my life and career as my mentor will never be forgotten. My wife Maureen and I still refer to our Collierville home as "the house that Jim built." I have to say that I would not be where I am today at ISI if I hadn't met Jim Murphy. He was special. In this life, everyone needs a mentor and for a very long time I had the best. God bless this wonderful man. I’ll always be grateful for all he did for both me and my family.   

Posted by Jay Myers at Wednesday, May 11, 2016 | 0 comments

University of Memphis FCBE Honors Banquet

This past weekend, I was flattered to be invited to the University of Memphis FCBE Honors Banquet as the evening's keynote speaker. I must say when I was first notified about the event by Dr. Irvin Tankersley I was not only appreciative of the invitation to speak but also a little confounded as well. As one of Dr. Tankersley’s former students (Business Law), I guess he must have forgotten that I was not an “honors” student at the University back in the 1970’s. In fact I graduated from the U of M with a whopping 2.34 GPA!   

But I did work my way through school with various part time jobs (that included one year working for IBM) and graduated in 4 years (May ’78) and was debt free. Very proud of that to this day! As I told the students Saturday night, I may not have been a great student but I did learn a lot about goal setting, discipline and time management skills while I was at the University of Memphis. It was great experience that prepared me very well for my future business career.   

In addition I spoke about the importance of being resilient in dealing with challenges and obstacles such as the first big one I faced on “The Day My Business Almost Died” back in 2003. As I told the students it was the “challenge of a lifetime” when I discovered that my accounting manager had stolen over $257,000 from the company 10 months after my brother John died. Unbelievable situation which almost put ISI out of business. And the challenges kept coming four years later during the “Summer from Hell” when we had to grapple with the deaths of an employee and friend, major employee turnover (80% of the sales team quit) and my wife’s diagnosis of breast cancer… all in a little over 30 days.   

As I told the students, it is all about how you deal with problems and crises that defines you as a professional and as a person. In our case, we dealt with that horrific summer of 2007 by rebuilding the company and doubling sales in the next four years amidst the worst economy in 80 years. So proud of my team for that incredible accomplishment! I closed out my speech by encouraging the students to develop a growth mindset and embrace a lifetime of learning and to never, ever give up. As I told them, if a goofball C student like me can be successful, they can too! 

Posted by Jay Myers at Thursday, April 21, 2016 | 0 comments

Fun Day at Christian Brothers University

This past week I had the honor and privilege to speak at Christian Brothers University in Memphis. Christian Brothers (College) was founded in 1871 by members of the Institute of the Brothers of Christian Schools, an international Roman Catholic religious teaching congregation. CBU has grown to a student population of more than 1,800 and exponentially expanded its degree offerings. Today, CBU offers bachelor’s degrees in more than 60 academic majors and concentrations in the arts, business, engineering, and sciences   

At the request of my friend (and fellow Better Business Bureau board member) Reginald Peyton, I got the chance to speak about my book “Hitting the Curveballs” to not one but THREE different classes in the same day. Exhausting and definitely put me to the test! But I must say speaking to those marketing and accounting students was one of the most rewarding experiences I have had in many years. The CBU students, particularly in the 8am class, were incredibly engaging and were full of great questions and comments. And this is at 8am in the morning! Since I am NOT a morning person, I must say I was impressed!   

One thing I observed in speaking to the students is that many of them are working their way through school with various part time jobs and putting in a lot of hours. I have to admit working your way through schools is a big thing with me since I did the very same thing back in the 70’s. Besides the benefit of graduating debt free (in my case) I also believe that setting goals to get a degree by developing time management skills in college is great preparation for a successful professional career. I know almost 40 years later, it has worked for me. And based on what I experienced last week, I truly believe many of the marketing and accounting students at CBU will not only earn their degrees but are destined for much success in the future.

Posted by Jay Myers at Wednesday, April 6, 2016 | 0 comments

20 Years in the Making

A little over a week ago (on Friday March 11th), we had a lot of excitement at Interactive Solutions (ISI) as we prepared to celebrate our 20th anniversary. I have to admit, as the guy that started the business, I was dealing with a lot of different emotions all day long. It started when I read the wonderful article about us in the local paper (Commercial Appeal) and continued as I reflected on all we had been through in the past two decades. I started thinking about the early days, our funding challenges, my cancer diagnosis (melanoma), our first embezzlement ($15K) and the partnership buyout/divorce. As I thought about it, any one of those issues could have easily put us out of business… yet we survived.   

And years later the challenges continued as we dealt with a $260,000 employee embezzlement (2003) 10 months after my brother’s sudden death. And then in 2007 we had to rise to the occasion one more time when 80% of ISI’s sales team left the company with little if any notice. And to add to our struggles, one of ISI’s best technicians (Danney Stone) died of complications from a liver transplant and my wife was diagnosed with breast cancer. All of this happened in a 30 day period that summer right before the Great Recession. Tough times? You bet!  How hard was it?  I remember being so traumatized by everything that had happened that I was afraid to turn out the lights in my bedroom (because I was afraid of what the next day would look like).

But somehow with God’s help and great support from ISI employees and business partners, we made it through those tough times, overcame significant obstacles in the AV/VTC industry and moved forward to continue to strengthen and grow the company like never before. And we never gave up. We kept working hard and never stopped believing in ourselves.  And maybe that’s the reason why this anniversary means so much to me and ISI.  Because the path to get here HAS NOT BEEN EASY! As we wrapped up the celebration with a wonderful reception at a local country club, I must say that I was filled with immense gratitude and pride in ISI and all we’ve accomplished these past 20 years and am looking forward to 20 more! 

Posted by Jay Myers at Monday, March 21, 2016 | 0 comments

USAV and NSCA Business Leadership Conference

This past week, I was fortunate to be able to attend two very impressive professional development conferences sponsored by the USAV Group and the National Systems Contractors (BLC). On day two of the USAV Conference, Chuck Wilson (President of NSCA) lead a group discussion/workshop about how to use metrics to accelerate performance as well as shifting the focus from hardware and software sales to more about creating a better ”customer “experience” One company that was cited for their commitment to changing the customer experience is Sonic Automotive  who have created a more high tech, pleasant way to purchase a used car.   

Another interesting presentation given by Dr. Leanne Buehler was on “Understanding Workplace Motivation” I must admit, as a veteran business owner, I was fascinated by the survey information  Leanne presented about what was important to top performers. At the top of the list? Trust in senior leaders followed by opportunities for development, recognition for work, ability to share ideas, clear expectations and workload. Last on the list? Compensation. That was pleasant surprise to me since I admit that I worry about that very issue at ISI on a daily basis.   

At day one of the NSCA/BLC we got a chance to hear Dr. Lee McPheters discuss the economic outlook for the construction industry as well as the US overall. Although some of the data Dr. McPheters presented was a bit depressing (GDP forecast 3.2% vs 2.4% actual) I must say I’ve never heard a more entertaining, funny presentation. And this is coming from an ECONOMIST! Probably the most impactful part of Dr.McPheters presentation (for me at least) was when he summarized the outlook for 2016. No DOOM, NO GLOOM, NO BOOM! Not very exciting news but important to note nonetheless.   

The next presenter was Morton Hansen who co-authored the best- selling book “Great by Choice” with Jim Collins. Some of the keener insights I learned from Morten’s presentation was how successful companies (like Southwest Airlines, Intel etc.) put a lot of focus on fanatic discipline, productive paranoia and empirical creativity. Really solid advice and looking forward to reading his book which was graciously provided to us.   

The next presentation was given by Seth Mattison on the “Future of Work” and connecting in a new world. Seth’s presentation gave all of us a lot to think about regarding generational communication particularly between baby boomers and millennials. One of the challenges that Seth presented was “as the demand for transparency and connectedness continues to increase from talent today, how will we need to change, if at all”? He further stated that as company leaders we have to lead from a position of influence and also decide how to show up. Lots to think about in the future! The last presenter of the day was Nicholas Webb who talked about digital innovation and creating memorable customer experiences.   

Without a doubt my favorite part of the 2016 BLC was the last day when we got the chance to hear from “The Rookie” Jim Morris. Such an inspiring story of “following your dreams” no matter what obstacles and challenges get in your way. On a personal note, I must confess that(as a baseball nut) “The Rookie” is hands down my favorite sports movie of all time. And I have to say that meeting Jim and getting his autograph(before the presentation) ranks right up there as one of the highlights of my professional career. Jim’s message was simple but powerful. I loved the personal stories he told about his grandfather and  how he was taught to always remember who you are and to never stop pursuing your hopes, dreams and goals. Other great advice Jim gave all of us was to “surround yourself with good people” Good stuff that I preach that to my employees and children on a regular basis   

The last presenter (Dr. Kevin Freiberg) had the unenviable task of following Jim Morris but he did a terrific job of talking about the future of the AV industry and challenging all of us to look at our companies and ask “what makes you unforgettable”? Kevin also discussed the aspect about how to position our companies to be “hungry for change” and that will involve a challenge to be either “opportunity led” or “crisis driven” Kevin’s final message quoted the rules of 2015 integrator of the Year (Yorktel) which include 1) Don’t be a vendor, be a partner 2) don’t sell what’s needed now, help position your customer for future trends 3) evolve with market trends but don’t dilute your core competency. Really good rules that we need to consider at ISI.   

All in all, I have to say that the five days I devoted to attending the USAV and NSCA/BLC was time well spent and a good investment on ISI’s part. I do believe that many of concepts and strategies that were presented will prove to be invaluable in plotting the course for ISI’s future. Looking forward to the even bigger and better BLC in 2017!  

Posted by Jay Myers at Tuesday, March 1, 2016 | 0 comments

Creative Recruiting and Retention

One of my absolute favorite duties as owner of ISI is to recognize tenured employees on their anniversary date with the company whether it be 5, 10 or even 15 years (in one case). Long term employee loyalty is rare these days and I have been deeply gratified and humbled by the many ISI employees who have been with me over 5 years (which is more than 50% of the company). 

This week, we recognized our Vice President of Sales, Jeremy Johnson, who celebrated 10 years with the company on February 9th. Jeremy has done a great job growing ISI revenue  as both a salesman (in Alabama and Kentucky) and as VP of Sales since 2010. In fact, with Jeremy’s leadership, ISI recorded the best year in company history in 2011 with $25m in sales.   

So it was highly appropriate that we recognized Jeremy this past week for his hard work and significant impact that he has achieved these past 10 years. But besides his accomplishments since he has joined ISI, perhaps it was how ISI “found “ and recruited Jeremy that may be even more interesting.  

It was somewhere around 2004-2005 that I met Jeremy who was working at Comet Cleaners (in Collierville near my house) paying his way through school at the University of Memphis. While working at the dry cleaners may not have appeared to be the most “glamorous” job at first glance, Jeremy made the most out of it by using it to hone his customer service skills and establishing personal relationships with a number of people (including my wife Maureen and me). Jeremy and I clicked from day one and had a number of common interests that we talked about but mostly we connected  on our mutual love for the University of Memphis Tigers. Since Jeremy lived in the athletic dorm for several years, I was always privy to getting the “latest scoop” on Tiger basketball, football etc. in our “drive up” discussions at the cleaners. Jeremy’s engaging personality and positive attitude made my visits to Comet Cleaners such a pleasant experience. Engaging personality, positive attitude and a pleasant experience ? Sounded like a salesman to me!  And in 2006 (and today),  I'm always on the lookout for good salespeople who could help build ISI’s revenue. 

And the rest is history. Jeremy joined us a short time later and has been a great fit 10 years later. So what’s the message here? As an entrepreneur, you have to do a lot of things  to be successful which includes creative employee recruiting and retention strategies. You never know where you might find good people! I know 10 years later, I’m sure glad I stopped by the dry cleaners and  had all those conversations with Jeremy. A great success story for sure!  

Posted by Jay Myers at Tuesday, February 16, 2016 | 0 comments

Team Polycom 2016

This past week, I had the pleasure of attending the Team Polycom Partner Conference in Nashville at the Opryland Hotel. I must admit, I haven't attended this event in the past several years but when the venue is an easy 3 hour drive from Memphis it made for a much easier decision to take the time to participate this year. And am I glad I did! 

This year's conference was literally a worldwide event drawing over 1600 people representing 70 countries (speaking 50 different languages) in attendance. And this year's event was all about "changing the game" at Polycom which was a theme that was reinforced many times in almost every presentation during the 3 day event. And frankly, based on the past few years' financial performance, I believe Polycom HAS TO change their game to survive in today's videoconferencing marketplace.

One way that Polycom demonstrated that they really want to change the game is by presenting solutions that are focused more on a company's workflow and customer "experience" rather than the speeds and feeds of a video device. Makes sense! Among the more impressive demonstrations during the conference was with the RealPresence Trio, Office 365 and the VVX. That was cool! 

Polycom Trio - Speakerphone meets easy visual collaboration

One of my favorite presentations was given by my buddy Ira Weinstein with Wainhouse Research (unified communications/videoconferencing consultants) who spoke about today's effective selling strategies and "spending time understanding their customers businesses." Ira talked a lot about positioning technology sales as "solving business problems" and not selling hardware and software. 

Another presentation that was really interesting was given my an executive from LinkedIn who discussed the power of social media and " social selling" in 2016. Many great insights were presented and definitely reinforced that the game has changed in not only the videoconferencing industry but in the entire world of technology sales. Old-style cold calling and prospecting simply aren't the smartest way to grow a business in 2016. Powerful stuff and great food for thought! 

Without a doubt my favorite presentation was delivered by Captain Chesley"Sully" Sullenberger who is the hero of the famous "Miracle on the Hudson" Captain Sullenberger started off his talk by playing the live recordings (from the cockpit and control tower) when he and first officer, Jeffrey Skiles, made an unpowered emergency water landing in the Hudson River after multiple bird strikes caused both jet engines to fail. 

Captain Sullengerger spoke about how he and his crew had to impose a "forced calm" on the 155 passengers to bring them to safety and how "exposure created composure" He also spoke of how the extraordinary circumstances brought out the very best in his entire crew. What an impressive story and a true American hero! 

The conference wrapped up with presentations about the changing world of work and also about attracting millennials in the workforce (with technology). There were also several comments about the  proliferation of huddle rooms (50 million) and the massive sales opportunity they represent. 

 The conference concluded with a terrific presentation from Scott McKain who talked a lot about creating great "customer experiences" and about how a company should be "obsessing about making it easier to do business with you." Scott spoke about how great customer experiences include clarity, creativity, communication and customer experience focus. Great advice and definitely a sound strategy for both Polycom and ISI to "change the game" in 2016.

Posted by Jay Myers at Wednesday, January 20, 2016 | 3 comments

Planning for Success in 2016

This past week, the ISI management and sales team were off-site for 2 days (at the Better Business Bureau office) for 2 days of strategic planning. Planning meetings are something we have done at ISI since 2004 and it has proven to be a vital ingredient for a successful year. And this year, there was no doubt in anyone’s mind that there is a greater sense of urgency to spend the time to “get it right.” Everyone at the meeting understood that the PRO AV/video conferencing marketplace has changed dramatically in the past few years and that it can’t be "business as usual" any more. In 2016, now more than ever, it is imperative that we adapt, evolve and change the ISI business model to build a sustainable business for the future.   

This year’s agenda included a number of important and provocative issues such as the “state of ISI” where I revealed that the company had grown over 7% in revenue in 2015, increased profit margins by more than 2% and cut overhead costs (office leases, headcount, professional services etc.) more than 20%. A strong financial performance for sure and very proud of my team! And the best part? In last year’s planning meeting, 2015 was the year we committed to dealing with modest revenue growth by increasing company efficiency and profitability. I love it when a plan comes together! And nothing like a positive trend to improve company morale and create positive momentum going into 2016.   

Other agenda items that we discussed included the state of the industry that includes many challenges for ISI to sell new technologies such as Cisco Spark which is a team collaboration service with massive market implications. We also discussed the myriad of investments we need to make as a company such as hiring a network engineer to investing in new FDA-approved Avizia and Global Med telemedicine carts. There appears to be no inexpensive way to play in this market in the future. 

  

After the territory sales presentations, we all got the chance to see the newly revamped ISI website at www.isitn.com. Lots of new features with video and case studies and a new chat feature that we believe will drive a significant increase in sales leads, partner opportunities etc. Having a high quality website isn’t a luxury these days, it’s a necessity!   

We wrapped up the first day with a presentation from Bill Catlette on “Building a Championship Team” Bill is a former FedEx and ADP executive who now coaches and advises senior leaders on leadership, strategy and organizational development. His presentation included some great leadership stories about Sir Ernest Shackleton, the famous polar explorer who overcame great obstacles  during the Imperial Trans Antarctica Expedition after disaster threatened to take his life as well as the lives of his men. Bill’s comment about how Shackelton really showed leadership by focusing  on “taking care of his men” really hit home with me since that is what I try to do each and every day at ISI. And I do think when you take care of people they will take care of you. That may one of the many reasons why I believe ISI is poised to have another good year in 2016.

Posted by Jay Myers at Thursday, January 14, 2016 | 2 comments

Crosstown Concourse Tour

This past week, several ISI team members and I were provided a unique opportunity to take a tour of the Sears Crosstown Building courtesy of the Church Health Center staff and Dr. Scott Morris. According to Wikipedia, in 1927 at a cost of $5 million, the building was constructed in only 180 days, with work crews operating 24 hours a day, six days a week. Sears & Roebuck's eighth regional distribution center included a soda fountain, luncheonette, employee cafeteria, and in-house hospital. The Crosstown Building was a premier Sears retail store for more than 60 years and at its height the distribution center processed over 40,000 orders a day in a building with no air conditioning or technology. Take that Amazon!   

In 2010, The Crosstown Arts project began working on resurrecting the building as a "mixed-used vertical urban village." Developers received commitments from nine prospective tenants called "founding partners" to fill more than 600,000 square feet of the building with various uses. The current plan is to have retail stores and restaurants on the first floor; fitness, health, arts, education, and office space on floors two through six, plus 270 apartments occupying floors seven through ten   

What made this visit particularly fun for all the ISI staff was that not only did we get a chance to see an iconic Memphis building going through a major renovation (that’s capturing nationwide attention) but our tour was conducted by one of the most impressive people I have ever met in my 50 years of living in Memphis. 

Dr. Scott Morris, a family practice physician and ordained United Methodist minister, founded the Church Health Center in 1987 to provide quality, affordable healthcare for working, uninsured people and their families. Thanks to a broad base of financial support from the faith community, and the volunteer help of doctors, nurses, dentists and others, the Church Health Center Clinic has grown to become the largest faith-based healthcare organization of its type in the country.   Besides telling us about the plans for the Church Health Center move to Crosstown, Dr. Morris also spent some time describing the Church Health Center’s philosophy and vision for healthcare in the future. He described how he is  treating his patients with a “life plan” that includes dealing with not just their physical but mental health as well and tackling issues like getting an education, vocational training etc. He further explained that the mission of Church Health Center is to 1) teach 2) preach and 3) heal and that everyone on his staff is committed to that mission.   

I must say that spending the afternoon touring Crosstown with Dr. Morris and the Church Health Center staff was one of the most enjoyable and inspiring experiences I have had in a long time. Crosstown is a magnificent building and I am so proud that my community has taken the bold steps to restore it and return to its former glory.  Very exciting! And Dr. Morris is an incredible asset for the entire city of Memphis in all that he is doing for the poor and underserved. There is no doubt (in my mind) that with Dr. Morris’ leadership the Church Health Center will continue to change Memphis (for the better) and the world around us for many years to come.  

Posted by Jay Myers at Monday, December 21, 2015 | 0 comments

A New Kind of Company Christmas Party

This past weekend, we decided to try something different for the ISI Christmas party by not only hosting the party at our office (as opposed to a restaurant or country club) but we also made it a “family affair” by encouraging employees to bring their kids as well.  As we set up for the party, it quickly became apparent how well the new office remodeling design was able to accommodate a party and create a new atmosphere. 

Many employees remarked how we couldn’t have been able to pull it off with the old office design. That really made me feel good! Not only does ISI have a cool new look to the office but the space is also highly functional and versatile. And we’re saving money. Not a bad combination! 

Something else that really made me feel good? As I walked around the office speaking to various ISI employees and their spouses (and some of their children), an overwhelming sense of gratitude and accomplishment came over me. I certainly felt grateful to have been able to create a sustainable business that continues to grow and has provided jobs and a way of life for almost 50 people in several different cities and states. At one point, I really thought about it and my company is not just responsible for those almost 50 employees but also their spouses and children as well. And in thinking about what that meant I came to the conclusion that the real number I’m responsible for is closer to 200 people.  


Am I intimidated by that realization? Not at all - I am actually INSPIRED by it!  Knowing what’s at stake makes me go into the office everyday trying to do a better job than I did the day before. Pure and simple   

And as we enjoyed all the great food, pictures with Santa and special appearances from Anna and Elsa (from the movie “Frozen”), I did pause and reflect. 20 years ago (almost to the day), I was fired from my job and had no visible means of support for my wife and children. Life wasn’t very fun back then and those were some challenging days for sure!  But 20 years later and after all the ups and downs of being a small business owner, I must say that seeing  the look of pure joy on the faces of my employees and their children at our Christmas party made it all worthwhile. Without a doubt it was one of my most gratifying days as an entrepreneur.

Posted by Jay Myers at Tuesday, December 8, 2015 | 0 comments

InfoComm AVEC

This past week I got the chance to attend the InfoComm AVEC which is a conference specifically tailored to executives in the AV industry. I must say that there were several professional reasons why I chose to attend the event for the first time this year (networking, industry update etc.) But truthfully  there was also a personal reason for attending the conference as well which was the venue- Amelia Island, Florida. 

View from our room

Amelia Island was not only the site for the 2015 InfoComm AVEC but was also where my wife, Maureen, and I spent our honeymoon back in 1983. A special place indeed!   

The theme for this year’s AVEC was RECHARGE (by Powering Up Your Business) and was highlighted by several really great speakers including Notre Dame and NFL great Joe Theismann who kicked off the conference with some keen insight about embracing change in the AV industry, defining success by giving back and the value of mentoring. Theismann closed out his presentation by stating that he believes that “mental toughness” is the #1 most important attribute of a successful leader. I couldn’t agree more!   

The next speaker was Leo Hopf (CEO of Teamhopf) who talked about Rethinking, Reinventing and Repositioning businesses in the AV industry. Hopf made some compelling remarks about companies such as Yahoo and Polaroid who were dominant players in their industry for many years but chose not to continue to reinvent and reposition their companies and thus became obsolete According to Hopf, “businesses get in trouble when they play it safe.” He also talked about how it takes different things to win at different points along the business life cycle.  Another presenter was Joseph Pine who talked a lot about innovating in  the “customer experience” and not just selling the high tech hardware and software to AV customers. I appreciated his remarks about no business grows forever but there are always growth businesses.     

The closing speaker was David Labuskes  who talked about the growth in the AV industry(11% worldwide) and the changing face of the AV customer(now an IT manager) as well as the challenge of creating a better value proposition for customers with increasingly high expectations.  After hearing Labuskes' presentation, the conclusion amongst my fellow AV execs was that selling successfully in the AV marketplace (in 2015 and beyond) is certainly not an easy task!   

In conclusion, I must say that I feel that the AVEC was a good use for my time with some solid value for ISI. Keen insight and food for thought. And the added value of being able to return to “where it all began” wasn’t bad either! 

Credit: InfoComm AVEC Flickr

Posted by Jay Myers at Thursday, December 3, 2015 | 0 comments

Belmont University Massey School of Business

This past week, I had the pleasure of meeting at the entrepreneurship center at Belmont University's Massey Graduate School of Business and speaking to a packed room of business school students. The event location was the “Hatchery” which is actually more of an open work area/office rather than a formal conference room.  Once I arrived  my first thought was that this was a perfect location/setup for early stage entrepreneurs who have a need to collaborate, share creative thoughts, strategies.   

And for me, I must say I LOVED the location and the format. Not only was the location different from the typical business school classroom setup (with a PowerPoint, projector, etc.),  the format was truly more of a “meetup” and  not a formal speech/presentation. In fact, I showed exactly one slide (about my book) at the start of our discussion and never thought about another slide for the next hour. One thing I emphasized in my comments to the students was how you had to be able to “take a punch” to be a successful entrepreneur and after hearing the stories of ISI’s past (loss of startup funding, embezzlement, 80% sales team turnover etc.). I think they got the message loud and clear.   

I also talked a lot about how ISI has focused on creating a “farm system” of millennials and how important it is for a business to develop their young talent in order to have a sustainable future. I also noted that as entrepreneur, the #1 thing you should do (from day one) is to focus your time on “building quality relationships with not only your employees, but your customers, suppliers, partners etc. I have always believed that ISI’s relationships and reputation (honesty, integrity, ethics etc.) are the 2 key ingredients to our success almost 20 years later   

The last half of my visit was answering a wide variety of really great questions about  how ISI identifies potential employees, calculating early stage equity share (as a startup) as well as developing future new healthcare products, not “growing broke” (as a business) and the long term sustainability plans for the company. Very thought provoking and  I must say that some questions were easier to answer than others! As I left the campus that afternoon, I truly hope that my visit to the Belmont entrepreneurship center provided the students some encouragement and real value in their pursuit of the American dream.

Posted by Jay Myers at Tuesday, November 3, 2015 | 0 comments

From the Minor League to the Majors: Building an Employee Farm System

This past week, I had the distinct pleasure to be the keynote speaker at the PSA Security Convention speaking about "Building an Employee Farm System.". PSA is the world's largest electronic security cooperative owned by the most progressive security integrators in the country selling a wide variety of products and services including CCTV, biometrics and card access systems. 

This is a really impressive group of people who are working in one of the hottest segments of the tech industry in 2015. And they also picked a wonderful location for their annual convention - Cabo, Mexico - which is absolutely beautiful!   One of the main reasons for my interest in presenting at the PSA Convention this year (besides the venue) is that I truly believe that the development of young talent (through a farm system) is the single biggest challenge facing small business owners today. A very important topic that may literally be a matter of life and death for many businesses in the future. With their future on the line why is it that so many companies struggle with this issue?   

In my presentation, I identified specific strategies in developing a farm system (that have worked successfully at ISI) which include:

1) Recruiting young people by presenting an "opportunity" to join a "cause"- not just another job on the resume. 

2) Offering flexible work hours/telecommuting options 

3) Developing culture of creativity with every employee having "a voice" 

4) Supporting work/life balance 

5) Giving back to the community   

Also, I didn't just provide the strategies to develop a farm system but also presented the WHY behind the strategy. First, it allows you to train employees "your way" and avoid bad habits and baggage they can bring from previous employers. It also promotes  long term viability of business in the future and opens up your business to fresh new ideas, products etc. Finally, it is the most logical exit strategy for many owners who are baby boomers (or older).   

At the conclusion of my presentation I was happy to receive a lot of positive feedback from several PSA owners and partners which was very gratifying. In the end, hopefully by developing an employee farm system, they will all have successful businesses for many years to come.  

Posted by Jay Myers at Tuesday, October 27, 2015 | 0 comments

Office Morale Makeover

Recently we  made the decision to undergo a major office "makeover" of the ISI headquarters in Memphis. Had we lost our minds? Why would we go through such an arduous, time consuming experience amidst such a difficult, challenging year? Initially the reasoning behind the decision was pretty simple. We need to SAVE money and increase efficiency. 

 

When a business (large or small) is trying to increase company profitability, it really has only 2 choices. It can either a) Increase revenue or b) Cut costs. It really gets down to those key issues. So while the ISI sales team was working hard to increase revenue, we made the decision to look for areas to cut costs. We realized that with the growth of team members working from home and the changing of roles within ISI, we had a considerable amount of office space that wasn't being used. In working with our landlord, I was able to change the amount of space we were leasing and renew our lease early helping us to save 25% on our rent monthly. However, part of this change would require constructing a new office layout. To be honest, I was worried that word of cutting down our office size to save money would get people concerned. 

Then as we started to develop the new design, a phenomena occurred at ISI that frankly took me by surprise. Instead of a possible negative connotation with money issues, my employees started getting really EXCITED about the changes. We were stirring things up and they liked it! They didn't seem to mind the steady stream of designers, contractors and construction people wandering around the office every few days. For them, it seems the idea of a new look at the ISI office was almost a shot of adrenaline in the arm. It also reinforced the message I'd been preaching at ISI all year which was that 2015 was "a whole new ball game" and things were going to be different.  

Redesigned main conference room

Certainly making a major change and "new look" to a 15 year old office design was proof positive of that. As we approach the final stages of the "makeover" it is clear that the makeover has had a positive effect on company morale which was an added benefit to the process. And another benefit/challenge? Our "new office" has been designed with new open collaboration spaces (rather than 1980's-style cubicles and separate offices) which will bring together many important work groups like sales and design/engineering. They will also have access to huddle rooms when they need to have private meetings. These two groups were previously on two opposite sides of the building (in more ways than one) and now will be working side by side on a daily basis. With ISI's structure for project management, it is crucial that we get these two groups talking more both professionally and personally. There is also an increased amount of light throughout the office since we no longer have sky high cubicle walls blocking the lights. 

New sales/engineering area for increased collaboration

The costs to implement this change was minimal given we were able to work with our landlord, had furniture refurbished and used internal team for project management. However, any costs we do have are already starting to pay dividends in improvements in morale, collaboration and efficiency. Another benefit of the office “makeover”? We are “decluttering” every square inch of the place and donating a lot of furniture, office supplies, chairs. tables etc. to jubilee schools. It's a great cause and helps us clean up our office at the same time. Going to be interesting to see how this all works out so stay tuned for a future progress report!

Posted by Jay Myers at Wednesday, October 14, 2015 | 0 comments

TEDx Memphis 2015

This past weekend I joined nearly 1000 other business leaders, students, teachers and interested citizens on the University of Memphis campus (Rose Theatre) to hear Memphis’ first TEDx talk. It was an amazing event that lasted over 7 ½ hours and featured a wide array of speakers from dancers, rappers, filmmakers, builders, growers, preachers, doctors, lawyers, and executives from the worlds of sports and logistics.   

TED began in 1984 as a conference where Technology, Entertainment and Design converged, and today covers almost all topics — from science to business to global issues — in more than 100 languages and TED talks are routinely viewed by millions on You Tube and other social media. Meanwhile, independently run TEDx events (like Memphis) help share ideas in local communities around the world.   

The 17 speakers that spoke last weekend were given 18 minutes each and were divided into 4 blocks with topics as diverse as their presenters. FedEx CIO, Rob Carter gave an artful, historically informed tour of Memphis with river, rail and runways morphing into the wide world of digital connections.  Kimbal Musk with Kitchen Community touted “real food” as the next vanguard for innovation. Interesting stuff for sure!   

One of my favorite presenters were Katie Smythe, founder of New Ballet Ensemble who opened the event with “Wide Open Dance: A Tale of Two Cities” which was a reference to Memphis separated by race and class and touted access to arts as a path to educational and personal development. I also enjoyed Dr. Sarah Petschonek who challenged the audience to “Volunteer on your birthday and maybe this year, the day you were born will also be the day you find out why.”   

There were several other interesting presentations from Todd Richardson with the nationally acclaimed Crosstown Concourse project as well as Jason Wexler with the Memphis Grizzlies who both spoke about civic renewal and the character of Memphis. It was really inspiring and I must say it made me proud to be a Memphian! At the end of the day, I am sure I speak for everyone that attended TEDx that it was not only an “immensely civilized” but an extremely successful event as well. Can’t wait to attend next year and get inspired all over again!    

Posted by Jay Myers at Wednesday, September 2, 2015 | 0 comments

CE/CI Summit 2015: Hopefully the Last Presentation on Millennials

This past week I was honored to be a speaker at the 2015 Commercial Integrator Summit which is an annual event  (by invitation only) that was held this year at the Gaylord Hotel in Washington DC. The CI Summit is an opportunity for executives from the industry’s largest and most progressive commercial integration companies to get together to dive into technology and business trends, to share best practices and to move the industry forward. 

The topic I spoke on was "The Millennial Challenge" which is one that has been near and dear to my heart since millennials comprise almost 50% of the ISI sales and support team. So what pearls of wisdom did I share with the over 200+ summit attendees that attended the roundtable presentation? Initially I presented issues that were part of "hopefully the last presentation they'll hear about millennials" which included what doesn't work with managing millennials. Those included old motivation strategies such as cussing, threatening, intimidation, etc. as well as labeling millennials as the "entitlement generation." 

One important point that was made was that, different from Baby Boomers, millennials want to live life on their own terms and don't want their jobs/work to define them After an open discussion and audience/group feedback on their own experience (with what hasn't worked managing millennials), I then presented what has worked managing them which included building an employee farm system, presenting millennials an "opportunity" (and not just a job) as well as flexible work hours and fostering a creative work culture. Additionally I made the point that millennials really weren't that much different from Baby Boomers (like me) which includes traits such as impatience (in moving up in their companies) as well as changing jobs and careers multiple times. 

Finally, it was noted that many of the attributes of millennials has been shaped by social media and exposure to technology at a very early age. There was another group open discussion on what has worked managing millennials and got some great additional feedback (on what was important to their young workers) such as giving back to the community and social responsibility. Really good stuff! 

I then wrapped up my presentation by challenging attendees to go out and actively recruit young millennial talent and work hard to motivate and retain them to not only build their businesses in 2015 but for the future as well. After my presentation , I was gratified to receive a lot of positive feedback from a number of people and really feel that many of the strategies I presented on millennials can and will help my fellow integrators for many years to come

Posted by Jay Myers at Wednesday, August 26, 2015 | 0 comments

Demo Day 2015 in Memphis

This past week the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Memphis was more abundant than ever at Demo Day 2015, where Start Co. and ZeroTo510 worked in conjunction for the first time to present graduates of their business accelerator programs to local businessmen, investors and community leaders. 

The 10 StartCo companies that were part of Demo day are all technology based companies addressing a wide variety of market needs ranging from paperwork and financial problems with divorce (DivorceSecure) to predictive maintenance software for the trucking industry (Preteckt) as well as addressing issues with medical equipment on loan (LendMed). Pretty interesting ideas for sure!   But the one company that really caught my eye was Care Current who have a software program that matches up senior citizens to support agencies. With an every growing segment of the population (Baby Boomers) retiring and in need on ongoing healthcare support, I can’t help but think the Care Current not only makes sense will have some serious nationwide growth opportunities in the future.   

The 4 Zero to 510 companies that participated in Demo Day are all  focused on healthcare/medical device technology which included Sweet Bio. a company focused on revolutionizing dental healing as well as LineGard Med. Another interesting company that was part of Demo Day was GlucosAlarm which is a company that is revolutionizing the way diabetes patients are treated with a patent pending sensor that measures sugar levels in urine. With  GlucosAlarm, patients can more easily manage their diabetes and keep up their daily routine without further complications.   

Of all the presentations, perhaps the one from Inspire Living was the one that appears to have the greatest chance for rapid growth and future success. INSPIRE is a portable diagnostic device that enables caregivers, at all levels, from individuals to doctors, to perform an advanced diagnostic medical exam in one minute for local and remote patients. By automating the sensory device measurements, caregivers can quickly use it as a diagnostic aid anywhere; in clinics, at home or in the most remote areas of the world. Inspire Living presented some very strong growth projections for the future, particularly in the area of rural healthcare and telemedicine which was/is highly interesting to me as well since that is ISI’s game plan as well. 

In fact, both GlucosAlarm and Inspire Living not only presented telemedicine as part of their sales growth strategy but also noted that significant amounts of their R&D budgets will be pointed in that direction for many years to come. Telemedicine/ Rural Healthcare technology appears to be poised for some explosive growth opportunities for a lot of companies in the future.  

Posted by Jay Myers at Monday, August 17, 2015 | 1 comments

Employee Loyalty and Company Culture

Through the years, one of the many sources of pride I've had at ISI has been the large number of tenured employees that have been working for the company 5, 10 and even 15 years. In fact, in the next few weeks we will welcome seven (7) new members to "the club" representing the design & engineering department (2),  operations (4) and administration (1) who will join dozens of other ISI  employees who have been with company for an extended period of time. Pretty impressive for any company but for fast growth technology firm in 2015, it is almost unheard of! And maybe even more impressive is the number of millennials who have been with ISI over 5 years when many of their peers have already changed jobs two or three times in that same time period.   

So what's our secret? How has ISI been able to retain many of our key employees when other companies have experienced significant turnover? In speaking directly to many of my employees, I have been told that there are several reasons for employee loyalty at ISI which include:

1) Company Culture- ISI is a fun company that feels like a "big family" and treats our employees with dignity and respect. 

2) Work/Life Balance- ISI encourages employees to have life out of the office 

3) Community Service- ISI supports programs like Education that Works (ETW), Ronald McDonald House and other programs that give back to the community 

4) Creative Culture- ISI values employees ideas (they have "a voice") and promotes a culture of innovation 

5) Upward Mobility- ISI has a history of creating new positions and opportunities for talented employees.   

All of the reasons why ISI employees stay with the company is really good stuff and I admit that it means a lot to me both personally and professionally. But there's also a practical side to this issue as well. Employee retention also makes a ton of sense from a financial standpoint where turnover can cost up to 65% of an employees salary (replacement).  Do that more than a few times in a year and a company can go from a profitable year to losing money very quickly. Not a desirable strategy for sure!  

 

So it will be particularly gratifying in the next few weeks to honor those 7 employees who have been loyal to me and ISI the past 5 and 10 years and who have helped to make us the company we are today. Congratulations Julia Chrestman, Brad Kirby, Rachel Bates, Bill Cowen, Joseph Timmerman, John Emery and Greg Nemeth. Couldn't have done it without you!!! 

Posted by Jay Myers at Tuesday, July 28, 2015 | 0 comments

Networking in Nashville Technology Community

This past week ISI partnered with Polycom and Microsoft to present new video conferencing and collaboration technologies to over 20 Nashville area technology and business professionals at Microsoft's office just outside of Nashville in Cool Springs. The event included tips on seamlessly unifying video collaboration across SKYPE for business and non-business SKYPE environments with Polycom technologies. In addition, there were interactive demos of Polycom video solutions for Microsoft Lync (CX8000) built specifically for SKYPE for Business/Lync Room Systems.

Exciting new technology that created so much interest that many attendees stayed long after the demos to ask questions, take a deeper dive on technical issues etc. Very exciting stuff that generated a number of new ISI prospects to follow up with! The event was definitely a home run thanks to a lot of hard work from the ISI sales team and support from Polycom and Microsoft. A true collaborative effort that represents a blueprint for future ISI marketing/sales events in 2015 and beyond.   

Later that same day we attended the Nashville Tech Council (NTC) Summer Party/Reception that was held in downtown Nashville. I must say that I was not only impressed with the really good barbeque that was served at the event but also the attendance (considering the afternoon heat and humidity). It was a great chance to network with still more Nashville tech professionals that day who represented a wide array of companies and organizations. Lots of exciting companies in the Music City!  

One conversation that we had that was particularly interesting (with the local economic development director) was how Google made the decision to choose Nashville over many other cities (like Austin) for the prestigious Google Fiber project. Seems Nashville not only represented huge potential for Google with forecasted population and business growth but also the local representatives made it “easier to do business” with them versus other cities in consideration.  

Pretty impressive and it’s obvious that Nashville is definitely on the move! And I have to say it made me feel really good that ISI recognized Nashville’s potential a long time ago (back in 2005) when made the investment in our first office in Franklin. 10 years later and still a winner for us! 

Posted by Jay Myers at Friday, July 3, 2015 | 1 comments

Terminating a Tenured Employee

One of the most rewarding aspects of starting and growing a business over the past 19+ plus years is that I have a number of tenured employees who have shared this amazing, crazy journey with me. 

For instance, my Vice President of Design/Engineering   has been with ISI since close to the beginning (1997) and now it's almost 18 years later. Together we've seen a lot of people and products come and go and sometimes joke about how about how (sadly) we've outlasted a lot of marriages we both know. It is with great pride that I can say there are a number of other long term ISI employees including my Nashville based service tech (12 years) accounts receivable and  programming manager (11 years) and my assistant (10 years). And in the latter part of 2015, ISI's Vice President of Sales will celebrate his 10 year anniversary with the company.  They are all great people and I'm so grateful for their loyalty and dedication all these years later! 

But when can that gratitude and loyalty to a long term employee cloud a business owner's judgment? When does sentimental thinking keep a business owner from rational thinking?   Based on my experience at ISI, one of the issues that occur when managing a long term employee is that (both of you) tend to get so comfortable with each other that you oftentimes "look the other way" when there are problems or other performance issues. When is it acceptable to tolerate behavior from one employee that you deem totally unacceptable for others?  Is it right to cut them slack solely based on their "tenure" with the company? And shouldn't an employee adapt, evolve and change with the times and be held accountable whether they have been with the company 1 year or 10 years? 

Recently I dealt with many of these very issues at ISI which resulted in the termination of a long term employee (12 years). Not only a personal and painful experience but sad as well. 12 years is a long time . And I must say it taught me some really valuable lessons about leadership and making "tough calls." Sometimes its not about doing the easiest thing for you but doing the right thing for the business. So what did the experience teach me? 

1) A leader has to be consistent in managing employees (1 year or 10 years)  

2) Hold each and every employee accountable to adapt/change with the times to stay competitive 

3) Sentimental thinking should never trump rational thinking. 

And at the end of the day, a leader needs to make the tough calls for a company to grow and prosper in the future.  

Posted by Jay Myers at Monday, June 1, 2015 | 0 comments

American Telemedicine Association 2015: The Future of Healthcare

Last week I got the chance the attend the 2015 American Telemedicine Association Annual Conference in LA and must say I came away from the event not only impressed with the many new technologies but excited about ISI's future in healthcare. 

One new aspect of telemedicine that I found particularly interesting was some of the mobile solutions offered by MedPod and Healthspot which are literally "bringing the doctor to the patient" by installing their portable systems in kiosks and "pods" located near drugstores, shopping centers, college campuses etc. The kiosks and pods are equipped with the latest in remote video connectivity, clinical assessment scopes, tools, etc to effectively treat a patient as well as reimburse the physician via EMR technology ( co-pay, reimbursement etc) Extremely convenient and easy for most any patient to access. 

Another area of interest in mobile technology that was interesting to me was a "mole check app" that leads to early diagnosis of melanoma and other skin cancers. The demonstration of the app at ATA seemed simple enough with the physician taking a picture of a suspicious mole (via a smart phone) which is stored and forwarded to a dermatologist on-call for review and diagnosis. Pretty impressive and, as a melanoma survivor, I really appreciated the value of early detection. 

This years ATA Conference also featured the latest in robotic technology with the most impressive solution being developed by Revolve Robotics and their Kubi Telehealth Robot. Kubi not only incorporates facial recognition capabilities and high quality video delivery but is also very cost effective compared to other robotic solutions. Remote solutions using robots to assist doctors makes the future of healthcare both scary and exciting! 

Several other new technologies that caught my eye included the patient engagement systems from Vidyo that incorporated a software portal to handle all the front end record keeping, insurance, co-pay etc while simultaneously having access to the physician via video. Very impressive! Another new application from Vidyo was their bedside patient engagement system that allowed for video connectivity directly from the hospital bed. Too crazy but cool nonetheless! 

Some of the technology that I saw on my last day at ATA that was also really impressive was the bio sensored clothing that tracks vital signs, EKG etc. Crazy stuff and looked to me like an added incentive to stay in shape in the future! One of my favorite demonstrations at ATA was the video interpretation system that offered remote connections to over 50 languages/locations around the world. In the demonstration (to make it interesting) a connection to Vietnam was made to access the interpreter. Although I certainly don't know Vietnamese, it was fun to engage with him and I certainly understood the value of accessing a remote interpreter when dealing with patients from all around the world. All in all ATA 2015 was a very interesting and exciting experience and am looking forward to implementing some of the new healthcare technologies at ISI in the future.

Posted by Jay Myers at Wednesday, May 13, 2015 | 0 comments

Hot Wings for a Good Cause

I have always been proud to be an entrepreneur and one of the biggest "perks" of my job (in my opinion) is that I have the freedom to run my business the way I want to run it. And at ISI, I have always said that giving back to the community "is not an option for us but an obligation" In my mind, it's just that simple. And to that point, I constantly challenge ISI employees to understand that it is not enough for the company to be successful but strive for us to be "significant" as well.   

One community organization that ISI has been proud to support in the past few years is the Ronald McDonald House of Memphis The Ronald McDonald House Charities® of Memphis - at no charge to their guests - provides supportive services and a "home-away-from-home" for St.  Jude families and their children receiving treatment for cancer and other catastrophic illnesses.   Families are stronger when they are together, and their presence helps a sick child heal faster and cope better. While Ronald McDonald House Charities® of Memphis cannot make medicine taste better or take away painful treatments, they do help lessen the burden and ensure families have the stability and resources to keep their child healthy and happy. Because of Ronald McDonald House Charities of Memphis, families can face the weight of illness together. 

One fundraising event that donates 100% of its proceeds to the Ronald McDonald House is the Southern Hot Wing Festival which has been staged in downtown Memphis for the past 13 years. To date, this nonprofit event has raised over $150,000 in financial support for this worthy organization. This signature fundraiser event features great music targeting a diverse array of Memphis and regional natives with an unquenchable hunger for fun, entertainment, and outdoor entertainment. And when presented the opportunity for ISI to be a sponsor for the Hot Wing Festival this year, it wasn't a difficult decision A fun event supporting a great cause-we were only too happy to help out!  

The funny thing is while Memphis has a worldwide reputation for excellent barbecue, after this weekend, I think that hot wings might need to be added to the list of local culinary delights. And the best part? Lots of money was raised to continue supporting one of the finest organizations in the city of Memphis.  


Posted by Jay Myers at Tuesday, April 28, 2015 | 0 comments

GrowCo 2015 in Nashville

This week I had the pleasure to attend INC magazine’s GrowCo conference that was held (once again) at the Omni Hotel in Nashville and it was by far, the best one (of the previous 3) I have ever attended. From day one, the quality of the speakers and energy level of the attendees was simply amazing! And I must say, Nashville has proved to be an ideal setting for the event with the vibrancy of the local business community as well as the first class entertainment provided by Warner Music (Nashville). From Dan & Shay to the Railers to Ryan Kinder the Music City did itself proud making the conference both lively and fun.

    

Definitely, the highlight of the first day was the presentation given by Daymond John who is star of the hit TV Show “Shark Tank” as well as a mega successful entrepreneur. Daymond’s creative vision and strong knowledge of the marketplace helped him create one of the most iconic fashion brands in recent years. FUBU, standing for “For Us By Us”, that represents a lifestyle (hip hop) that was previously neglected by other clothing companies. Daymond’s presentation was not only informative but highly entertaining and I loved his “turn the corner” moment when he got LL Cool J to take a picture wearing FUBU apparel. 

His 5 tips for success were simple but powerful 1) Set Goals 2) Do Your Homework 3) Adore 4) Remember You’re the Brand (that’s a big one for me!) 5) Keep Swimming.  In the Q&A session I really liked his response to my question about Mo’s Bows and how he is mentoring a 13 year old Memphis entrepreneur who is a former Shark Tank guest. What a cool guy! 

The highlight of day two was the presentation given by Jessica Alba and Brian Lee who are the co-founders of eco-friendly e-commerce startup The Honest Company, The Honest Company, helmed by Jessica Alba, Christopher Gavigan, Brian Lee, and Sean Kane, was created to ensure that parents have access to non-toxic, ecofriendly, beautiful family products that don't break the bank. Also, I must say I appreciate Jessica Alba believing so much in the Honest Company and its products that she put her “money where her mouth is” by investing a significant amount of her own money in the company.  Currently revenue at The Honest Company is around $150M but Brian Lee’s comment about growth was interesting. “You’re not changing the world at $500 million in revenue,” Lee recently said. “You start making a true difference when you’re doing billions in revenue. His advice to the GROWCO attendees about growing our businesses? DREAM BIG! Not a bad goal at all. 

The highlights of day three were provided by world renowned business educator and coach Dr. Marshall Goldsmith who talked about understanding the practice of leadership. Dr. Goldsmith used a very entertaining style to get across some key concepts about employee engagement and productivity. I loved his comments about “if they don’t care, don’t waste your time” as well as “be happy now” Made a lot of sense to me. 

Another entertaining speaker was Jay Rogers the founder of Local Motors Company who talked about the cars of the future being created from 3D printers. Some crazy cool stuff but if made a lot of sense to me given the capabilities of today’s technology and the dated manufacturing processes of major car manufacturers. Jay even had one of his cars on display in the hotel lobby which was pretty amazing. 

GROWCO seemed to save the best speaker for last when Marcus Lemonis, star CNBC’s “The Profit” gave his remarkable presentation. From the start (when he put on the red shoes) to the end, Marcus held the audience spellbound with his personal story and philosophy on business. I must say I was particularly moved when he mentioned his lifelong struggles with an eating disorder and learning at an early age about overcoming adversity (abused by family member, etc.) I also really appreciated his comments and advice about “people doing business with people they can relate to” as well as leaders inspire employees by “doing their work with them.” 

I also must say I was highly impressed in the Q&A session when Marcus offered to help a young female business owner who had taken over the family manufacturing business when her father recently died. The compassion he showed this young women was remarkable and genuine and I must say I have all new respect for Marcus Lemonis as not just as a TV star/successful businessman but as a caring human being. All in all, another great GROWCO Conference and I’m looking forward to leveraging some of the great advice and strategies to grow ISI not just in 2015 but in many years in the future.

Posted by Jay Myers at Friday, April 17, 2015 | 1 comments

Power Players 2015

This past week I was honored to be included as one of Inside Memphis Magazine’s “Power Players” (Information Technology). Although I have been fortunate to make this list a number of times in the past, it’s still a thrill to be included with a such a strong group of professionals that represent the “best of the best” in the local area. And what a wide range of businesses that were represented on the 2015 list! 

This year, 32 different groups were represented by highly skilled professionals ranging from the architecture, bioscience, hospitality and logistics industries to name just a few. Very impressive! It also looks like ISI’s category (IT) is poised for expansion as the nation looks to Memphis for growth in the tech industry with the recent announcement of the TechHire initiative out of Washington. TechHire is a $100m federal grant opportunity  that would stimulate the job training programs in the local area and position workers for future careers in the tech industry. A game changer for sure! And that’s just one of many new opportunities that are part of the Memphis tech scene. 

Start Co. is a nationally recognized nonprofit 501(c)(3) venture development organization based in Memphis that relentlessly builds founders and companies, promoting entrepreneurship for everyone with a focus on digital startups. Recently announced additional funding for 4 tech startups including Core Fire Commandos, Pickle, the College Initiative and Well Done. Four very different businesses ranging from college funding and team building to a platform for brand engagement (via competitive selfies and photo sharing) to cloud-based Point-of-Sale software and related services for the restaurant industry. Lots of ways to be successful for sure! Pretty exciting stuff and it doesn’t stop there. 

Recently Wright Medical Technology announced plans to add 100 employees to its Cherry Road corporate headquarters. The 100 employees, which would bring Wright’s workforce at the location to 400, would be part of a 20,000-square-foot expansion of the company’s local office facilities.. Wright Medical Technology, Inc.,(NASDAQ- WMGI) headquartered in Memphis is an ISO 9001 certified worldwide manufacturer of specialty orthopedic implants and instrumentation. Orthopedic implant manufacturing technology has been big business in Memphis for a very  long time (Smith & Nephew, Medtronic etc.) and with the recent success of Wright Medical appears to be well-positioned for continued success in the future. 

2015 Power Players reception

With all the recent announcements, suffice to say, the tech industry is definitely growing in the Memphis area. It also represents a major opportunity for ISI to continue to be a “power player” in the local community and take the company to the next level. Looks like there is going to be some exciting days ahead in 2015 and beyond for everyone at ISI!


Posted by Jay Myers at Tuesday, April 7, 2015 | 0 comments

CBHS Career Day

This past week it was my honor and privilege to join dozens of other area professionals in support of the Christian Brothers High School (CBHS) Career Day. The mission of Christian Brothers High School is to provide young men a college-preparatory education in the Catholic and Lasallian traditions which they have successfully done in the Memphis area for over 140 years. I must say that I was not only flattered to be part of the event but also a little intimidated, particularly after I met some of the other presenters. Talk about some power players! You name the occupation and they were there- doctors, lawyers, famous journalists, financial services executives and even a federal judge.! And I couldn’t help but think that about "back in the day.” I’m sure that they all made a whole lot better grades at CBHS than I ever did! 

So maybe with some additional motivation I worked hard to prepare a message that I thought would be meaningful to the students as well as offer advice that could be useful to them in the future. My presentation was initially focused on technology (which was my assignment) where I talked about the latest in videoconferencing, audio visual, distance learning and telemedicine/healthcare. The students seem to really enjoy hearing about the latest gadgets as well as the wide range of career opportunities available in the technology industry particularly as it relates to electronic medical records, software etc. 

Additionally we also discussed the wide array of opportunities to become a “technology entrepreneur” even with limited funds and while they are going to school. I noted that years ago that Michael Dell started his highly successful technology company (with very little money) out of his college dorm room at the University of Texas. Another part of my presentation focused on “what it takes to succeed” (in both business and life) and what I feel is the key ingredient which I believe is resilience or essentially the ability to bounce back from adversity. I mentioned to them that we all go through it at one time or the other and that what separates the ones that “make it” and the ones that “don’t” is resilience. 

To emphasize my point, I shared my own personal story with them about the start of my senior year at CBHS (August 1973) when I got the news that my oldest brother was killed in a car accident outside of Dyersburg, Tenn. I told them that there were many days that  I didn’t even want to go to school, much less think about the future, college etc. But as I told the students, despite the tough times, even at 16 years old, I had to make a decision about how to respond and move forward which is what I did graduating college four years later and building a successful business career. All in all, it was a wonderful experience being back at my old school for Career Day and I hope that in some small way I was able to help some fellow “Brothers Boys” gain some insight that can help them build for a successful future. 

Posted by Jay Myers at Tuesday, March 31, 2015 | 1 comments

ISI's 19th Birthday

On Wednesday, March 11, my business, Interactive Solutions (ISI) will celebrate our 19th birthday/anniversary. It's hard to believe that the company I started off my kitchen table back in 1996 is still around and thriving all these years later. I still remember that first day at the office "dialing for dollars" all day long using the Memphis Business Journals Book of Lists. Good old fashioned "cold calling" but that's the only way I knew how to get the company off the ground. Gotta sell something!

  


And on this day, I must say that I am feeling incredibly grateful (and lucky) that ISI has done a lot of selling since that first day and continues to do so almost two decades later. That's a long time to be in business in any industry but in technology 19 years is a LIFETIME! So many companies have come and gone since ISI started and yet we are still around. Very fortunate!  Looking back all these years later it really has been a helluva ride and I know, I for one, am looking forward to many more exciting days for ISI in the future.


Posted by Jay Myers at Monday, March 9, 2015 | 0 comments

NSCA: Smart Leaders and Generosity

Last week, I attended the NSCA Business Leadership Conference (BLC), I enjoyed several presentations including one from Liz Wiseman about Intelligent Teams and how “The Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter.” Liz had so many great insights I could post several blogs about her presentation alone but a few comments that she made really stood out for me. 

One was “ The critical skill of this century is that you not only what you know; it is how you access what other people know.” That comment made a lot of sense to me since leadership challenges in 2015 are far different that in they were even 3, 4 or 5 years ago. 

Other thought provoking insights included “ What does your presence do for your team” as well as “Should you hire new employees or get more out of the people you hired”?  I often wonder about what value I do and don’t offer by sitting in on various ISI business and department meetings as well as our HR strategy for new employees. Definitely gave me lots to think about! 

Lastly, I sat in on Edgar Papke’s presentation on “Leading Generously: Eight Actos of Influence, Trust and Personal Alignment" which was very enlightening and heart-warming. Those eight acts include 

1) Appreciation 

2) Listening 

3) Gratitude 

4) Knowledge 

5) Compassion 

6) Acceptance 

7) Intimacy 

8) Commitment

My personal favorite of Edgar’s acts is Gratitude which has been an integral part of my personal and ISI’s operating strategy since I started the business back in 1996. Every day, I feel grateful for being able to live in such a great country as well as the opportunity to start and grow ISI. It is something I have never take it for granted. Another one of Edgar’s comments that really stuck with me was when he discussed how (even as small business) you can build a legacy for not only your business but also for your life. Great insight!  And in the end, as Edgar quoted  “In the heart of God, lies Generosity”  I think that really says it all.

Posted by Jay Myers at Wednesday, March 4, 2015 | 0 comments

USAV Talks Sales Tactics, Embezzlement and Cyber Crime

This week I had opportunity to attend the semi-annual USAV Integrators meeting in Tampa, Florida and I must say it was one of the best I’ve attended since ISI joined the group in 2007. I particularly enjoyed the presentations that Bob Lobascio and Len D’Innocenzo from Corporate Sales Coaches made regarding the business challenges and sales strategies dealing with the various (DISC) personality types. That would include clients and prospects who tend to be more Dominant, Influencing, Steady and Compliant. Seems to me that in the hyper- competitive PRO AV sales environment in 2015, getting a keener understanding of how to “up our sales game” will not only allow ISI to compete more effectively now but in the future as well. 

Also, Chuck Wilson from NSCA gave a great presentation about the future of the PRO AV industry and various trends in 2014-2015 that included 1) Continued Margin Erosion 2) New Competition from Adjacent Technology Sectors 3) Increased Technical Complexity Required to Simplify Solutions 4) Industry Consolidation, Mergers, Acquisitions, Partnerships etc. 5) Changing Expectations of the Customer Experience. Chuck also presented important  information about recurring monthly revenue (RMR) and the value of building that component of an integrator's business in order to build future value. Very valuable information that could have huge impact on many USAV members in the future.

Another presentation that was both eye opening (and disturbing) was made by Rick Harlow who is Special Agent in charge of the US Secret Service office in Memphis. Rick provided some valuable insights to USAV members about both insider and outside threats to small business that includes not only employee embezzlement but issues like cyber-crimes like identity theft and ransom ware. Scary stuff that really got a lot of us thinking about how vulnerable we all are. 

That was certainly not a new feeling for me since I had already dealt with an employee embezzlement case back in 2003. In fact, with Rick’s help(and the US Attorney’s office) we were able to put our “thief” in federal prison for over 8 years. I detailed the whole saga in my first book, “Keep Swinging.” 

While it is a difficult subject to talk about, I think discussing how your business is vulnerable to criminal activity is important for everyone's continued success. Being a member of USAV continues to show value beyond AV industry trends.  

Posted by Jay Myers at Wednesday, March 4, 2015 | 0 comments

Adapt, Evolve and Change

A few weeks ago, I had the honor and privilege to be the featured speaker at the 2015 Kickoff Meeting for XMC, Inc. XMC is  headquartered in Memphis and is the second largest Xerox office printer and office copier dealer in the United States. This is a remarkable achievement considering that XMC reached this status in less than 20 years and has surpassed dealers in much larger U.S. markets such as New York, and Houston. A really impressive company! 


Me and Bob Hamilton

So what pearls of wisdom could I possibly convey to such a successful group of business professionals? After discussing my presentation with Bob Hamilton and Sean Seward (company owners) prior to the meeting I found out that whether you're in the audio visual or copier industry, many of market challenges are eerily similar. Issues such as shrinking hardware margins, added focus on service revenue and employees trapped in the past are just a few of the many challenges at both XMC (and ISI) in 2015. Big problems with no easy answers for sure!

That is why I chose Adapt, Evolve and Change as the theme of my presentation. Seems to me that both XMC and ISI have to adapt (to be more services-based revenue model), evolve (over time as a company) and be willing to change (processes, products, etc.) to meet the challenges of not only 2015 but future years as well. Gauging from the enthusiastic reaction I received from many of the team members after my presentation, I have to say that I believe XMC is well on their way to a successful future.

When dealing with widespread industry changes, concern over future sources of revenue, and diminishing profits, don't get an ulcer worrying about all of it,  Instead, go out and TALK to the people who are paying the bills for your company day in and day out. YOUR CUSTOMERS! I did that this past week visiting some of ISI's key clients in Virginia and the DC area and learned a lot a about what we need to do in 2015 (and also maybe more importantly what we don't need to do) to be successful. A very revealing week and great insight going forward for both me and everyone at ISI as we work towards a successful 2015!


Posted by Jay Myers at Monday, February 9, 2015 | 2 comments

USASBE Conference 2015

This week I had the pleasure of attending the 2015 USASBE Conference which was held in Tampa, Fla. The United States Association for Small Business and Entrepreneurship (USASBE) is the largest independent, professional, academic organization in the world dedicated to advancing the discipline of entrepreneurship.  

  

Patrick Snyder - Executive Director of USASBE

This years conference got off to a great start with the keynote address from Richard Gonzmart who is the President of the Columbia Group which owns the historic, Spanish cuisine Columbia Restaurant in the Tampa area founded by his family in 1905. Richard shared his family's remarkable story of moving to the US from Cuba and working hard for over 100 years to build one of the most successful restaurants in the country. Talk about a sustainable business! And besides the amazing business success over five generations, the Gonzmart family is also very involved with the community and generously donates their time and money to a number of local hospitals and other charitable organizations in the Tampa area. An impressive family for sure! 

Hellen Davis - CEO of Indaba

Another presentation I really enjoyed was from Hellen Davis, founder, President and CEO of Indaba, Inc which is a web-based management, consulting, and training corporation headquartered in Tampa. Her presentation was titled "Being a Chameleon on a Rainbow: What I've Learned about Change and Decision Making as an Entrepreneur." Hellen's advice about "tacking into the wind," conserving cash and listening to people when implementing change in your business made a lot of sense to me. And I loved her story about "the one that got away" back in the early 80's when she didn't "listen" and missed out on making a $25,000 investment in fax machines that resulted in a multi million return a few years later.

I also enjoyed getting the opportunity to present at the conference myself about how to use crisis to strengthen  and grow your business in the exhibitor track Friday afternoon as well as having "Hitting the Curveballs" as the featured book of the conference. Got a lot of positive feedback (on both) which was very rewarding! Also had a lot of fun demonstrating ISI's distance learning and digital signage technology to conference attendees and looks like we may have several good future sales opportunities. 

Dr. Elena Pereverzeva and Dr. Marina Sheresheva from Moscow, Russia

And another  interesting note about this years USASBE Conference? Even though USASBE stands for United States Association for Small Business and Entrepreneurship this years conference had attendees not just from the US but from all across the WORLD including Mexico, Russia, China and Jamaica.  I particularly enjoyed meeting two professors from Moscow State University(Dr. Elena Pereverzeva and Dr. Marina Sheresheva) who came by the ISI booth to check out our technology and get an autographed copy of my book. Very nice ladies doing some amazing work!  Entrepreneurship truly is a global initiative and USASBE is doing a great job spreading the word! 

Posted by Jay Myers at Monday, January 26, 2015 | 0 comments

Planning Meeting with No PowerPoint?

This week my management team and I were at the University of Memphis Fogelman Executive Center for over 2 1/2 days doing strategic planning. Since this was the first time we have done this type of meeting at ISI, I must say I had no idea what would happen. Meet for almost 3 days without a single PowerPoint presentation?  Or flip chart? Not having every minute scheduled on an agenda? Not doing the traditional "year in review"session like we've done since 2004? Really?

Despite my concern over the drastic change in format, I must say I was very pleased with the results of our meeting. The PRO AV and video conferencing marketplace have changed dramatically in the past few years and all of us on the ISI management team understood that it is simply not "business as usual" any more. We have to change our business strategy at ISI to merely survive these days and hopefully build a plan for the the future. So after an intense few days, what did we come up with? 

For one thing, all of us on the ISI management team acknowledged that the PRO/AV marketplace is not likely to experience much (if any) growth in 2015. And to make matters even more challenging, ISI would have to be hyper focused more on growing profitability rather than revenue. Not a novel concept but one that we had to acknowledge (more than ever before) would be a key to a successful year in 2015. One way to grow profitability is by being more EFFICIENT. And one way to be more efficient  is by "pre-integrating" all of our systems (in the ISI Memphis headquarters build room) that are installed outside the state of Tennessee. We believe that pre-integration will reduce install time and return trips to remote sites, provide customers quicker access to systems and provide a better and more professional product. 

Other operational efficiencies we plan on implementing at ISI in 2015 include automating our labor estimating process as well as re-configuring our office facilities in Nashville to meet the needs of our mobile workers. From a revenue efficiency standpoint, we also plan on expanding our service/maintenance sales to competitive accounts on a nationwide basis. Selling our most profitable product to more people just seems to make sense to all of us at ISI.

Without a doubt, the highlight of our meeting was when Coach Bill Courtney (star of the 2012 Academy Award winning documentary "Undefeated") spoke to us on Wednesday afternoon about a number of provocative issues such as personal and professional  leadership, giving back to your community (by getting out of your comfort zone) and creating a legacy. Really great stuff that gave all of us on the ISI management team a lot of food for thought for 2015 and beyond.

Posted by Jay Myers at Tuesday, January 20, 2015 | 1 comments

Strategic Planning in a Small Business?

As I reflect back on 2014, I must say that it was definitely one of the most interesting years I (we) have experienced at ISI since I started the business in 1996. The best news of the year is we rebounded from a tough 2013 and grew company revenue over 16% despite numerous industry and competitive challenges throughout the year. Very proud of the ISI sales and support team for their hard work in making that happen! Some more good news is that we got serious about new products in 2014 and now have new EMR telemedicine software (KrixiCare), We now have 24x7 nationwide network management support (ISI NET) and new ISI MD carts are now working in numerous high profile corporations throughout the country. We also grew company business in the Nashville area in 2014 with new clients like Corizon Health, Blue Cross, etc and will be looking for even more success in 2015.

Yet with the success of 2014, there are still numerous challenges and obstacles that ISI will have to deal with in order to have continued success in 2015. Eroding hardware margins, technology spending cutbacks and increased labor costs are just some of the provocative issues that we plan on discussing a few weeks from now in the ISI Strategic Planning Meeting. This is a change from our annual Kick Off Meeting which is mainly an overview of the past year. Why the sudden change? The answer is simple. The business has CHANGED and ISI has got to change and be better than we've ever been to be successful in the future.

Strategic planning sound a little corporate, right? Maybe a little heady for small business? I don't think so and frankly, I think it's vital for any size business to be successful in the future. The business world has gotten difficult to deal with in the past few years and small business in particular cannot get away with running it "off the seat of our pants." From a practical standpoint, how can a business expect success if you don't plan for it? 

Another value of strategic planning is that it's a perfect time for you and your team to make an honest assessment of the business and determine what's working, what's not and fix the problems in advance. I know at ISI one issue we are really going to work on is "our process" where we really feel the we can improve our profitability by increasing overall company efficiency. It's amazing what improving margins 1 or 2% can do for a $16m company! 

ISI is also honored to have my good friend Bill Courtney as a guest speaker at our meeting this year. Bill is Founder/CEO of Classic American Hardwoods and the author of a new book "Against the Grain." He is also the subject of the 2012 Academy Award winning documentary "Undefeated" that chronicles the inspiring turnaround of a inner city (Manassas) football team. Really looking forward to Bill's presentation!

Posted by Jay Myers at Tuesday, January 6, 2015 | 0 comments

CI Summit 2014: Networking and Education for Commercial Integrators

This week I got the chance to join 50 of my fellow integrators in Orlando, Fla. for the prestigious CI Summit which is sponsored by Commercial Integrator magazine. This is the third year for this unique “invitation only” event  that brings together the top-ranked commercial integration firms  in the country where profit-boosting secrets are shared and critical new products and services are spotlighted by industry leading vendors. 

The conference featured a number of educational sessions that were highly informative starting with "Best Practices for Digital Marketing" from Netsertive as part of the "Cookies, Milk and Marketing" kickoff session (no joke) Concepts covered (from Netsertive) included paid and organic search optimization, driving web traffic and turning traffic into inquiries and digital marketing channeled through mobile devices. A lot to think about and the conference just started!   

My favorite part of the conference was Thursday’s lunchtime presentation by Roy Spence, Chairman and Co-Founder of GSD&M.  In this talk, Roy shared his remarkable and entertaining personal story, insights from purpose-driven business leaders he’s worked with over the years (like Sam Walton from Walmart and Herb Kelleher from Southwest Airlines). He gave fresh thoughts and advice on how purpose and love can power success and satisfaction within companies. Its corny to say but I really did leave Roy’s  session not only proud to be an entrepreneur but inspired to improve the heart and soul of both ISI and myself. 

Another presentation that caught my attention was titled “How to Hit a Curveball” which focused on best practices in project management and was sponsored by Kramer Electronics. Lots of great ideas were shared about how to keep projects on track, implement customer change orders etc. And the secret to increase profit margins on projects? We all agreed it was the little things left out of a job that lead to big $$ margin erosion reinforcing that “the devil really is in the details”! Also I  must say I did get a kick out of Kent Cawthorne (Kramer VP of Sales) plugging my book “Hitting the Curveballs” at the start of the session. 

One session covered a topic that is near and dear to my heart, "Hiring Qualified and Trustworthy Employees." The highlight of that session had to be the intense debate about the value of hiring millennials for your business. Amazing how technology business owners had so little success in hiring young people who represent the “technology generation.”  I must also say that my “farm system” model of hiring millennials at ISI got a lot of attention with the group and I think gave several of my fellow integrators something to think about with their hiring strategy. 

In closing, I have to say that of all the industry conferences I attend every year, the CI Summit delivered  the most beneficial information for current business owners in the shortest amount of time.  And for me, it is always nice to bounce ideas off other owners and discuss current strategy. All in all time well spent!


Posted by Jay Myers at Friday, November 21, 2014 | 1 comments

Dorothy Day House in Memphis

As small business owners, it's interesting how all of us can get so caught up in "our world" that we tend to lose sight of what other people's world may look like. Certainly issues like managing cash flow, payroll, battling with competition and dealing with lines of credit can be all consuming and challenging. But aren't there also much bigger issues out there for some people? Could there be anything worse than for a family to be homeless and for a child to not know where their next meal is coming from? 

In 2014, it's hard to imagine but it's a big problem not only in Memphis but nationwide. This week, ISI hosted Sister Maureen Griner from the Dorothy Day House, a homeless shelter in Memphis focused on keeping families together. Unlike traditional homeless shelters which typically only allow residents of a single sex, the Dorothy Day House allows whole families (husband/wife, brothers, and sisters) to stay there together so as not to split up the family. As Sister Maureen told the ISI employees, there are over 150 families in the Memphis area who are dealing with this very issue every day. Some have been recently laid off from their jobs, coping with some kind of family trauma and are literally living out of their cars, in the woods or wherever they can find a meal. 

Certainly this is not a uniquely local problem and like most cities there doesn't seem to be any easy answer to the homeless problem in Memphis. But Sister Maureen and the Dorothy Day House are doing their part by lending a helping hand providing food and a temporary home for a number of families.  And they do it with no government funding or trained social workers. Definitely a cause all of us at ISI could get behind because as Sister Maureen said, "It's just 'people helping people'". And at the end of the day isn't that what it's really all about anyway? To learn more about the Dorothy Day House, click here to visit their website.


Posted by Jay Myers at Friday, November 7, 2014 | 1 comments

Professional AV and the Move to a Service-Based Model

Recently I got the chance to attend the USAV/APEX Summit which was a 6 day training/professional development event  held in Denver for PRO AV company owners and “next generation leaders.” I must admit that one of my motivations for attending (along with an ISI senior project manager and a  network specialist)was based on the theme: Innovate, Integrate and Motivate. 

Candidly, I wasn't really sure that any of us had the time to attend a 6 day event which is a long time to be out of the office. And during our busiest time of the year. But...could we afford not to?  And what about our next generation leaders? Don’t they need to have a “say in our future"? The more I thought about it, it kept hitting me that those words really are the keys to the future of the AV/VTC industry. All of us at ISI need to get a better handle on what it will take to be successful in the future. 

Once we got to the APEX Summit, it seemed like every speaker talked about how we will have to motivate our employees to not only embrace innovation but to successfully integrate it within our organizations to survive and hopefully thrive in the future. Throughout the week, there were a number of really good presentations that we sat in on that included  issues like understanding cloud based services, remote monitoring, customizing service level agreements (SLA’s) and transitioning to new services based business models. Heady stuff for sure! I can’t speak for everyone at the event but It seemed to me by the end of the week, there were more questions than answers. 

And maybe that’s the way it is going to be for the foreseeable future. No quick fixes but a general migration to a much different way to make money in the PRO AV space. At one point in a session on services-based revenue models, I did stand up and make the point that it is my belief that the future of the industry will likely create a new definition of success and we all better get used to it. 

In my opinion, it will be more about the bottom line net profit that will define company success as opposed to top line revenue. The PRO AV companies of the future that successfully embrace innovation and integrate a services-based model  into their business will produce far less revenue dollars (bad news) but generate far greater profit margins (good news). It doesn’t take a genius to figure that one out.  But in the long run, that should be a good scenario not only for company owners but for our next generation leaders as well.


Posted by Jay Myers at Thursday, October 23, 2014 | 0 comments

Proud to be a Small Business Owner

This past week I had the good fortune to have my friend Jim Blasingame stop by the office for a visit and tour of ISI etc. Jim and I have been business associates/friends since 2007 when I first got the opportunity to be a guest on his award winning Small Business Advocate Radio Show promoting my book "Keep Swinging."

Through the years I've been honored to be a part of Jim's "brain trust" and been invited back as a guest on his show over a dozen times. And I must say, I've enjoyed each and every interview, even the VERY EARLY ones that started at 6am. I've told Jim many times that there are very few people I'll get up that early for but he's one of them!

After giving him a tour of the facilities and showing him all the cool technology equipment we have around ISI (telemedicine carts, ISI net remote access equipment, etc) we got a chance to have a conversation about the current state of small business, future challenges, etc. It was a priceless opportunity to talk to someone who truly understands and appreciates "my world" and the ongoing challenges we all face in the continuing difficult economy.

Jim and I both agreed that most small business owners are still very cautious about hiring and implementing a growth strategy in today's economy. Why? It is Jim's belief that there is a lack of trust in the overall economy lingering since 2008 when the market took a major dive and turned everything upside down.

As for the future, Jim and I both think it's going to be survival of the fittest in the coming years. There doesn't seem to be any "easy street" for any of us to look forward to any time soon. Not exactly the "rosy" picture I was hoping he'd paint for me and ISI but I did feel it was truthful. As we concluded our visit, I must say a feeling came over me that seems to happen each and every time I've had the opportunity to speak to Jim Blasingame. That is, that even with all the challenges, problems and uncertainty, he always leaves me feeling "PROUD TO BE A SMALL BUSINESS OWNER"


Posted by Jay Myers at Friday, October 3, 2014 | 0 comments

Derek Jeter's Farewell: A Tradition of Excellence

This week, I got the chance to be a part of baseball history when I saw Derek Jeter play his last day game at Yankee Stadium against the Orioles. Talk about a once in a lifetime experience! The game itself was pretty ugly (Yankees lost 9-5 and Jeter went 0 for 4) but truthfully for the 50,000 + fans that were there, it didn't seem to matter. Everyone was there to pay tribute to the not only the best baseball player of his generation but one of the classiest people on the planet.

As I was watching Jeter warm up before the game, I started thinking about the first year I watched him play. It was the World Series in 1996- the year I started ISI. Derek was the young star loaded with talent who lead the Yankees to their first world championship in 18 years. Such an exciting player and who, even as a rookie, totally understood the value of integrity, hard work, tradition/legacy and a commitment to excellence.

As I thought about it, it occurred to me that those are the same qualities and attributes I've always held sacred at ISI.  Certainly we've always valued hard work and a commitment to excellence in everything we do. But 18 years later, it has always been about a lot more than just being a successful company and winning business but also doing so with integrity. And we've always said that ISI's reputation is our #1 asset.

Does anyone in professional sports have higher integrity and a better reputation than Derek Jeter? He is truly in a league of his own. And 18 years later he will be remembered for not only his success in playing the game but also for doing it the right way. That's a worthy legacy to leave behind whether you're a famous ball player like Derek Jeter or a small business like ISI 

Posted by Jay Myers at Friday, September 26, 2014 | 0 comments

Nashville Book Signing

This week I was honored to get the chance to do another book signing event to promote my new book "Hitting the Curveballs" at the Barnes & Noble store in Franklin, Tennessee.  Located just south of Nashville, Franklin is one of the fastest growing communities in the United States with a population of over 68,000 people and is home to several major corporations such as Nissan North America, Verizon and Community Health Systems. The ISI Franklin office opened in 2005 and has been a key ingredient in the company's success the past several years.

  

Book signings are always a lot of fun and very flattering and I personally appreciate all the support I have gotten through the years, particularly from the folks at Barnes & Noble. Although most authors don't sell a lot of books at the events (unless you're somebody famous like John Grisham), I'm usually able to get a solid turnout by marketing to my network beforehand. I also personally feel it is a worthwhile experience to be able to engage with my audience.

For the record, I sold out of all the copies of my book that Barnes & Noble had available at the time which made it a big success. That certainly made me happy. But beyond that? Simply being able to do a book signing by itself was a priceless opportunity to not only introduce my new book to the local business community but promote it with the support of the largest bookstore in the country. Huge credibility! No matter what way you look at it, that's a winning combination.


Posted by Jay Myers at Thursday, September 18, 2014 | 1 comments

Sertoma Club of Sarasota

This past week I was honored to be the guest speaker at the Sertoma Club of Greater Sarasota.  Sertoma is an acronym for “SERvice TO MAnkind” and is an international organization that’s been in existence for over 100 years. The Sarasota Club has been in existence since 1956.

Sertoma’s primary service project is assisting the more-than 50 million people with speech, hearing and language disorders.  Sertoma also sponsors community projects to promote freedom and democracy, to assist youth and to benefit a variety of other local community needs, as identified by individual clubs. The Sertoma Club of Sarasota membership includes leaders from a wide range of businesses including local colleges, banks, financial advisors, insurance agencies and CPA firms. It’s a truly impressive group who have done a great job supporting the many needs of the local community particularly with disadvantaged children. 

The theme of my presentation was primarily based on my new book “Hitting the Curveballs” and included strategies for crisis management, creative recruiting, mindset and motivation. The group seemed to really appreciate the stories about how ISI doubled business during the Great Recession after losing 80% of the company’s sales team during the summer of 2007. Tough times for sure but the struggle made us stronger.  

One of the other  strategies that really hit home with the group (in my opinion) was “creating a legacy” where I discussed the variety of ways to give back to the community through mentorship by working with startup businesses in the community and supporting programs like Education that Works (ETW). Since Sertoma is all about service to mankind, their reaction wasn’t a total surprise. As I explained in my presentation, ISI’s sponsorship of ETW includes paying the tuition for a financially disadvantaged student to attend Memphis Catholic High School and in return the student works one day a week for ISI. The combination of tuition assistance and work experience provides the student the unique opportunity to not only receive a college prep level education but also get a chance to learn important professional skills (like teamwork, work ethic etc.) 

I concluded my presentation by stating that there are a wide variety of ways to create a legacy for your business (and yourself) and that, in my opinion, having a positive impact on even one person life is worth the time and effort and makes for a much more fulfilling life. And as I thought about it, isn’t that why we’re all here anyway?

Posted by Jay Myers at Tuesday, September 9, 2014 | 0 comments

Knowing Your Brand

Recently I had the opportunity (along with my sales and support team) to meet with a prospective ISI client who was considering us for a multi-million dollar AV/VTC contract. The process for a company to even be considered for this contract started with an RFI (request for information) 4 months ago and then evolved  into various additional steps that ended up with an RFP (request for proposal). After the RFP was submitted there were two additional meetings for Q&A and clarifications and then finally to the RFP contract review meeting. It was exhausting and I must say after 24 years in the industry, this was perhaps the most sophisticated vendor selection process I have ever been a part of. 

At one point in the contact review meeting, things got pretty serious when the discussion turned to cutting prices on various ISI products and services. The client was pretty adamant about our pricing structure and wanted to make sure ISI was offering them the best deal and not picking their pocket. At that point in the conversation, the room got quiet and it felt like we were in trouble. Then I stood  up and made the statement that if they wanted to pencil whip us and do business with a “low cost provider” ISI was definitely not the right choice and we might as well end the meeting. I also stated that ISI was started by an all-American entrepreneur (me) and we don’t price our products and services as a “race to the bottom.” Also, we had no desire or need to buy a high profile corporate client/logo to impress investors, venture capitalists, etc.  My final remark was “if you’re looking for good pricing and even better service/support” then ISI is your best choice. That’s our brand. 

After the meeting, every member of the ISI team congratulated me for saying “what needed to be said." I have to admit. I've had those thoughts about our brand in customer meetings in the past but this was the first time I literally came out and stated them. And it felt good. And isn’t that the point? If the owner of the company can’t effectively communicate your brand, what does that say about the company? Shouldn't everyone in the company know your brand and communicate it? Of course, they should and as the company owner, make sure everyone is communicating the same message. 

And the best part of the story I just mentioned? After the contract review meeting (noted above), ISI got the call that we had been selected for the multi-million dollar project. Why did they pick us? Maybe it had something to do with knowing our brand and communicating the value of it.

Posted by Jay Myers at Tuesday, September 2, 2014 | 1 comments

StartCo "Demo Day" in Memphis

It’s going to be an exciting week for startup businesses in Memphis with the StartCo “Demo Day” this Thursday, August 21st (Orpheum Theatre)This year there are 16 new and exciting companies in the graduating class from 4 different accelerators. 

               

Seed Hatchery – Information Technology Accelerator     

Troopto- Company that provides private crowdfunding for the workplace         

Phase – Schedule multi-player games without the hassle                      

Pickle – Crowdsource any opinion in less than 2 minutes                          

Well Done – Full featured tablet POS for independently-owned restaurants                 ORB - High fashion backpacks designed to protect                            

Upstart – Women-Led Tech Accelerator

Play-Tag – Smart Bluetooth dog tag and LED alert system                          

eDivv – A marketplace for trading excess beauty products                         

Cabsolutely – One cab dispatch API to rule them all                          

Barter Sugar – Bartering platform for small businesses to trade goods & services       

Sparkgap – Logistics Technology Accelerator  

Graph Story – Graph database-as-a-service

Extra Rail – Airbnb for the railroad industry 

Logistadvise – Platform that matches companies with supply-chain transportation     

Sky High – Social Innovation Accelerator  

FuelFilm – An accelerator for the film industry (non-profit)The College Initiative – Prepares students for the application & college experience (non-profit) ·       

Care2Manage – Simplifies organization & management for families caring for aged loved ones.

CoreFire Commandos – an interactive game & web-based portfolio to track the progress of students   

This is my second year as a mentor for Seed Hatchery/StartCo and I must say this year is the most fun I’ve had so far as a mentor. This year’s Start Co. “Summer of Acceleration” got off to a quick start with a “speed dating” session back in May when we (as mentors) got introduced  to all 16 companies and their founders and got a chance to hear their “elevator pitches.” All of which took place  in a few short minutes which was challenging! But admittedly, it also forced all of us (as mentors) to listen carefully, focus on understanding the business model quickly and determine the viability of the business and if we could be of assistance.   

The funny thing is  the company I liked the most coming out of the speed dating session (that I didn’t actually work with) was Play-Tag which sells the smart Bluetooth dog tag and LED alert system. Why did they catch my eye? Ok, I have to admit, I am a crazy dog person (my wife and I  have a 15 year black lab (Casey) and I'm keenly aware of the importance that pet owners place on their dog’s security as well as having a locator system in place in the event that they should they wander off. But also, as a businessman who understands cash flow and profitability, I know that revenues from  pet products, services etc. have grown dramatically through the years. In 2014, pet products now represent  a multi-BILLION industry with enormous opportunity to develop profitable niches. With such a unique product in such a large industry, Play-Tag sure looks like a winner to me.   

Casey stops by my office

Another company I did get a chance to spend some time recently with is Barter Sugar and its founder Layla Tabatabaie. Layla is a native New Yorker, very smart, loads of enthusiasm with a great concept. I really like her idea of small businesses bartering for different items and services and reducing some of the tedious, old fashioned methods we currently use for acquisition. Ironically enough, "bartering" as a means of exchanging goods and services has been around for hundreds, if not thousands, of years and has simply brought into the technology age of the 21st century with Barter Sugar and its platform. I see lots of opportunity developing key niche markets for Barter Sugar in the future (college students, entrepreneurs etc.) and with an initial  low cost of overhead, it would not surprise me if Layla and her company make Barter Sugar into a major StartCo success story in the future.


Posted by Jay Myers at Thursday, August 21, 2014 | 0 comments