[quote style=”boxed”] When you are looking at building a business, don’t build it to make a million or five million in revenue. Build it to make 50 – 100 million in revenue. Otherwise once it continues growing, it will outgrow you and you will find yourself slowing it down rather than allowing the business to continually grow on its own.[/quote]
Dave Smith is president and CEO of TekScape IT, a leader in networking, unified collaboration, and cloud managed services. Dave was born and raised in Connecticut and spent the early stages of his businesses in Boston. He established TekScape in January 2007 and has since then grown the company over 5,000%.
Smith has been praised by Entrepreneurial leaders and honored in the INC.com business owners’ council for top 100 privately held companies and for his visionary strategy and ability to drive an entrepreneurial culture. TekScape was two consecutive years on the Inc. 500|5000 list for fastest growth companies, #72 in 2011 and #589 in 2012. Dave is frequently featured in panels and roundtable discussions with Inc. Magazine as well as Forbes Entrepreneur, most recently noted in Forbes’s online Cracking the code of Social Media.
In 2011, Smith was honored at #5 as one of the top ten global business companies in INC.com as well as fastest growing reseller in NYC. This recognition was due to the niche opportunity he discovered working with the United Nations in the Democratic Republic of Congo in Africa. In providing services to the U.N. TekScape expanded its global reach and presence in international business.
Smith started TekScape in 2007 after achieving the CCIE (Cisco Certified Intranetworking Expert), a globally recognized networking Doctorate Certification adding to his 28 other technology specific certifications. With his technical expertise, he found an area of opportunity in the IT market to establish a boutique engineering firm focusing on advanced technologies such as Datacenter, VOIP, Network, Cloud and Managed Services.
Dave is an active runner and DJs parties and events as a hobby. He enjoys Broadway shows and dinners out in the West Village with close friends and frequent visitors. He is always looking out to make sure people are having a good time. As a young entrepreneur, he is focused not only on growing his business but also on maintaining a social and healthy personal life.
What are you working on right now?
Right now I am working on perfecting a business model and a marketing plan prior to launching a new service. It is innovative and will prove to be extremely useful to any type of company in the coming years with the evolution of technology. As a current business holder with the experience of growing and organizing a business I realize the importance of a coherent and strong start to a product launch for the benefit of the long-term of the company.
Where did the idea for TekScape come from?
I began taking Cisco Certifications and eventually accumulated a total of 28 including the CCIE which is an expert level certification in intranetworking, the equivalent to a doctorate in technology engineering. The best parallel for this field to anything else is architecture because of the unique ability that I have as an expert in intranetworking to engineer IT solutions for businesses. The name TekScape is directly relevant to what we do at this – technology landscaping.
How do you make money?
We make money by designing a complex ITVOIP solution, implementing the solution and providing an ongoing contract or managed agreement to support it after installation. We also provide disaster recovery options for clients. This has been a really hot topic over the last few months due to the Hurricanes.
What does your typical day look like?
Each day is different. I’m usually in the office around 8:30 reviewing e-mails or taking calls to manage client issues or to develop future business and partnership prospects. I usually eat a banana or an egg white sandwich for breakfast and I always have a Starbucks venti iced coffee with skim milk and three Splenda. I didn’t drink coffee until about a year ago and now since it’s become such a staple in life, I don’t know how I used to function without it. Each day is different in terms of meetings but I am always going back and forth between the 14th and 15th floors of my office to talk with different people in the organization about where we stand on certain projects or to discuss finance and accounting issues. I mainly participate in sales and am constantly involved in the client lead-generation as well as project initiation and follow-up. I eat lunch between 12 and 1pm, usually a sandwich and fruit from Fresh Co, which is right around the block from my office. I’m out of the office between five or six and try to get to the gym as often as I can.
How do you bring ideas to life?
I am constantly coming up with new business ideas. I am a believer in talking them over with my closest colleagues and researching viable paths to execution. I create a plan, and once I consider that plan a solid foundation for the ideas to materialize successfully, then I begin to implement. Having competent and driven people around me is also vital in bringing an idea to life.
What’s one trend that really excites you?
Cloud computing. Could is going to revolutionize the IT services industry. It is one of the largest disruptions we have seen in a while. Personal computing will be changed once the industry adopts the technology.
What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?
I used to sell cell phone plans in a mall. I would stand at a cart every day and have to solicit to the patrons walking through the mall to switch cell phone service providers. I hated it so much because I was on my feet all day talking to people I didn’t know. This was the first place I learned how to sell and it allowed me to learn some of the many human behaviors related to selling techniques.
If you were to start again, what would you do differently?
I might have done a capital raise or invested more money in the internal infrastructure and policies/procedures from the beginning.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
When you are looking at building a business, don’t build it to make a million or five million in revenue. Build it to make 50 – 100 million in revenue. Otherwise once it continues growing, it will outgrow you and you will find yourself slowing it down rather than allowing the business to continually grow on its own.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
Hiring some of my friends was a stumbling block. I wrestled with holding them accountable at a certain point and it took longer to get from point A to point B because of it. I wasted a lot of cycles because I couldn’t approach my friends or discipline them in the same manner.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
I wanted to start a franchised DJ business where companies know they are getting the best DJ’s with the best music; essentially, a brand name DJ service known across the globe.
If you could change one thing in the world, what would it be and how would you go about it?
There would be universal free healthcare like Canada. I believe there shouldn’t be a business component to healthcare but rather, a basic human element. Everyone needs health care and should have the availability to utilize it.
Tell us a secret.
I was in boy scouts as a kid. I hide it from a lot of people as I got criticized when I was a kid. (This is actually true. I was really a boy scout when I was a kid)
What are your three favorite online tools or resources and what do you love about them?
ConnectWise. It helps me organize my business and keep things straight. Uber for getting cabs around NYC. It’s more expensive, but worth the convenience. Seemless.com, it is the easiest way to order food in NYC.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
Good to Great by Jim Collins. It shows you achievable steps to business success.
Three people we should follow on Twitter and why?
We post a lot of interesting information in and around our industry. It is very thought provoking which I think anyone could value from not just IT professionals.
When was the last time you laughed out loud? What caused it?
Today. A dragon kid video on YouTube.
Who is your hero?
Although he’s no longer around, he continues to be inspirational. I believe someone inspires you every day and no single person can be a direct hero. I recently read about someone in Mystic CT who learned how to read at 79 years old and wrote a book about it 2 year later. This was an inspiring story of overcoming odds which makes him the most recent hero.
How do you redefine your business as it continues to grow in a hyper way?
You have to be prepared to make tough choices about spending and staff along the way with the first priority being the safety and success of the business. Unfortunately you hurt a lot of feelings along the way by trying to maintain the growth and protect as many as you can as well.
How can you go from being arrested and failing in school to building a successful business?
I failed at school because I did not enjoy the subjects being delivered in the context of education. I work best under pressure. When I finished school I had to make it on my own and that is what drove me.
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