Delight your customers. If you fulfill the customer’s demands and do a good job with that, great things happen.
Geoff Green is co-founder and CEO of Netvious Networks, a leading-edge mobility solutions provider. Netvious specializes in providing secure, high-performance wireless systems that are reliable, easy to maintain, robust and upgradable. Clients have included New Orleans Convention Center, Houston Rockets, Gear Box Software, the University of Texas System, and Fellowship Church, one of the largest churches in America.
Geoff brings to Netvious 20+ years of experience in general management, marketing, private equity and strategy, which he developed working with companies such as American Express, AIG, Citigroup and GE Capital. His business acumen is coupled with a passion for technology. For him, Netvious represents the best of all worlds: a cutting-edge, solutions-based company that helps resolve Wi-Fi capacity issues, not just for today, but for tomorrow and in the future.
Technology is changing so rapidly that few are able to keep up with the increasing demands of constant – and instant – communication. But while some IT Services firms dabble in parts of mobility, at Netvious mobility is the only focus. All they do is wireless – and in this age of laptops, tablets, smart phones and countless other devices that strain your existing wireless infrastructure, that expertise is invaluable.
Geoff has taken this commitment to provide leading solutions and coupled it with a drive to delight the customer. Netvious is about so much more than cutting-edge technology; it’s also about helping companies use that technology. Netvious can optimize your current set-up, supplement your existing wireless, or put in a state-of-the-art system – whatever suits your situation best.
Netvious is changing the mobility landscape, one wireless system at a time.
Where did the idea for Netvious come from?
I’d been on the lookout for the next big thing, and then Apple starting releasing iPhones. Bang – that was it. I suddenly realized just how much was happening in the wireless space. Every month, something new came out, something shifted and changed. It was a little chaotic, but what we saw was an opportunity to really grow in this burgeoning market. And this was before Netflix started streaming movies! Today, there’s something new, something better happening all the time, and we’re right in the middle of it.
The key lesson here is that I was not already an expert in the wireless space. In fact, I knew very little about wireless when I started developing the concept for Netvious. Don’t let a lack of expertise keep you from building a business in a new and exciting field. You can always learn. In fact, my lack of technical experience helped me to see opportunities that others, in the thick of it, maybe couldn’t see.
That’s not to say you shouldn’t do your research. I did a ton of research. I saw the demand, and I educated myself about both the customer’s needs and the state of wireless technology. But I wasn’t a CTO, I was a CEO. I saw the big picture, I researched the market, and I hired great people who were passionate about wireless.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
When you’re running a business, there is never a typical day. Some days I’m working directly with clients, there are marketing activities, meetings with my team, events to go to, calls with vendors… But the one thing at the heart of every day is the customer.
We put the customer in the center of everything we do. What do they need? How can we help them improve their Wi-Fi performance or experience? We are constantly keeping up with changes in the field, talking to vendors and manufacturers, going to trade shows, reading Fast Company, learning about what’s new and what’s different. Again, there is no typical day, but every day is centered primarily on the customer and how we can help them improve their experience.
In terms of productivity, of course I create a master list of things I need to accomplish. What’s critical is learning how to focus on what’s most important. Most people tend to focus on the things they like to do, but to succeed you have to instead focus on the things you need to do, whether you like them or not.
To be successful in a growing business you have to stay on top of the details. It’s no fun, but it has to be done.
How do you bring ideas to life?
I think the bigger issue is deciding which ideas deserve to be brought to life. So many people create things customers don’t need. You can develop a project that you might be passionate about, but it doesn’t solve an urgent problem. Technical people especially will say, “Hey, this is a much better way to do X, everyone should do it this way,” but if it’s counterintuitive to what they’ve already been doing, most people won’t. However elegant your solution, if there isn’t a need for it, it’s not going to work in the marketplace. There’s got to be a need.
So a key part of my job is understanding the need, which doesn’t start with me, it always starts with the customer. What problems are they having? Is there a demand? When you follow up on making the customer’s life easier, good things happen.
What’s one trend that really excites you?
Wireless is becoming ubiquitous. This is really exciting – the Internet of Things. This means that everything with an “On” switch will be connected; wireless is going to be much more involved in your home and your everyday life. It will alert you to things that need your attention, and a lot of times, it’ll just do it for you automatically.
Some of it, we already see: coffee that brews before you wake up, central air that turns itself off when you’re at work and turns back on 20 minutes before you get home. But it’s going to be everything. All sorts of preventative maintenance will be taken care of automatically. Want your kid to start his or her homework at 7 p.m.? You can set the math to pop up on their screen. It’s going to make life easier for everyone.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
Try to move the ball down the field every day. Having a measurable objective is the game-changer. Write it down: this is what I want to achieve today. It’s so easy to get bogged down; you end up working on things that might be really, really interesting but are not the things you need to do at this moment. Just keep moving the ball forward.
What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?
The worst job I ever had was canning tomatoes in Davis, California. I worked outside, washing tomatoes down. It was hot; I worked the night shift… But what I realized was, you can do anything. I made it fun, and I felt a sense of accomplishment every day. I could see I was cleaning everything, I was contributing to the company, and I was moving things forward.
Plus now, I get to think back to that job and realize, no matter how hard things can sometimes be, I’m not sweating in 110° heat, surrounded by tomatoes. After that, anything seems easy.
If you were to start again, what would you do differently?
If I were to start again, I would do a better job of planning. Actually, I did a great job of planning — I just forgot that life never goes according to plan! So many other things come, you need to have contingency plans built into your master plan. In hindsight, I think I could have saved myself a lot of time and money by tacking sooner, giving myself options and trying different approaches. On the other hand, that’s part of learning. You discover what you need to know by jumping in and doing things.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Delight your customers. You don’t just study the customer when you’re developing your business, especially in an industry that’s moving as quickly as wireless. You have to keep talking to the customer, keep researching their needs, keep ahead of what they’ll need as they grow. Nothing is static. If you fulfill the customer’s demands and do a good job with that, great things happen.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
Ongoing education. You have to keep abreast of what’s going on in the marketplace and in your company’s area of expertise. You have to get there ahead of others. I am constantly going to trade shows, talking to our manufacturers and vendors, seeing what’s in development, what the new trends are. Getting out there ahead of others helps us be more successful because we’re talking to people – clients, potential clients, the media – about the latest developments, much earlier than others are. You can’t wait for something to become widely adopted, you have to be cutting-edge. It helps you be ready for that next big thing, it’s good for your customers, and it’s critical for the perception of your brand.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
When you’ve grown as much as we have, you often try to do too much. It was painful, but we’ve realized the importance of really having a cadence, that we can’t overcommit. It’s hard on the team and ultimately it’s your clients who suffer.
Many clients want work done right away. They have emergencies, or they think it’s an emergency, or they’re a big client and this is how they operate – they think you should be able to take care of them right away. But if you do that, often times there’s another client who suffers.
We had to start putting fences around the clients we were working on and stop disrupting that work with other work. It’s hard, but the key is to manage people’s expectations from the beginning. Give them a realistic time frame and don’t ask yourself or your team to take on more than you can handle, or no one — not you, not your team, not the client — wins in the end.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
I would like to create the ultimate “smart home,” where virtually everything has an on/off switch and is powered wirelessly. Standout features would include:
• An abundance of automatic sensors, measuring everything from when to change your razor blade or electric toothbrush head, to when to change your air filter, to a sensor that notifies you when the dishwasher or ice maker will need service shortly
• Premature detection for water leaks on roofs or plumbing
• An interior system capable of tracking keys and cell phones and providing reminders for appointments and routine home maintenance services
• Windows, lighting, locks, security systems and heating and cooling systems all controlled by Wi-Fi
Not many people know that virtually everything in a home can be managed through a Wi-Fi network, but integrating these intelligent wireless systems into a house would greatly increase the owners’ quality of life in countless ways.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
Going to TEDx talks. First of all, I’ve learned so much from the talks themselves. Some are in my field, but others are about emerging fields and thinking outside the lines. It’s important to widen your thinking, to be willing to open yourself up to ideas that are new and different and maybe a little outside your comfort zone.
But going to the TEDx talks in person is a game-changer. You’re not just passively consuming the talks, you are actively meeting and engaging with people who think differently, who make their living thinking differently. And other people who, like you, want to immerse themselves in that world. Nothing is better than making that personal connection.
What software and web services do you use? What do you love about them?
There’s a product called Air Magnet that allows you to simulate things and answer critical questions such as, “How will the Wi-Fi work if there are 100 people in the room? What if there are 300 people?” It helps you understand how to maximize the performance of Wi-Fi, and it also shows what kind of interference you might have, say from a microwave oven or glass. There are so many things that can interfere with the effectiveness of Wi-Fi. Air Magnet is the Swiss Army knife for our industry, so we really use it a lot. It’s incredible.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
Shackleton’s Way: Leadership Lessons from the Great Antarctic Explorer
By Margot Morrell and Stephanie Capparell
As an entrepreneur, sometimes things seem daunting. You have a problem with a client, or you have a cash-flow issue, or you have a marketing challenge, and it gets really difficult. But the problems really start when you see the challenge and you get down on yourself, down on your team. Because then, you stop being a leader.
I learned so much about leadership from the Shackleton expedition, and how the captain of the ship (so to speak) really drives the success of the group. There are five key principles. The first is optimism. Shackleton was stuck in Antarctica, far from help, far from anything, in an impossible situation; he recognized that to survive, he had to be an optimist. If he wasn’t, everyone would give up because the odds were overwhelmingly against surviving. It would be easy to say, what’s the point, we’re all going to die. But he was very optimistic.
Second, he became a remarkable communicator. He made his crew feel like his inner circle and he kept people focused on the task at hand and solving the problem. He also became very flexible. Shackleton was an amazing planner, but he recognized that, “Hey, we’re stuck in Antarctica. Anything could happen.” You had to have plans B, C and D, right on down the alphabet.
Fourth, he set an example. He never asked anyone to do anything that he wouldn’t or couldn’t do himself. He lead by example and kept them focused on doing the things that needed to be done to survive. Finally, he encouraged enjoyment. He kept up everyone’s morale. Those guiding principles allowed him to be successful. When you think that he didn’t lose a man… I mean, Shackleton climbed a mountain with ropes that nobody has ever climbed — ever. He did the impossible, day in and day out.
I use that as my guidebook because when you’re in a business, stuff happens. The same principles will see you through. And no matter how dire the situation, there is opportunity in it, opportunity to succeed.
And at least you’re not in Antarctica.
What people have influenced your thinking and might be of interest to others?
When I worked at American Express, I learned a tremendous amount from the leadership team. Everything there is about the customer and that had profound impact on me. I had terrific role models: Anré Williams, who is now one of the presidents there, and Kenneth Chenault, the CEO. Ken took me out to lunch, and he took the time to explain a lot of things. They helped me understand what I need to do to be successful. It’s thanks to them that I’m so focused on the customer.
Other companies that I continue to follow with interest are Twitter and Apple — Steve Jobs was phenomenal. I read Fast Company and Inc. Magazine because there is always something new to learn. Uber and Airbnb are driving a new business model. It’s automobiles or hotel rooms, but really it’s all done through technology. It’s an amazing and exciting time.
And then there are the TED talks, challenging you to try different perspectives in solving problems.
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Mario Schulzke is the Founder of ideamensch, which he started a decade ago to learn from entrepreneurs and give them a platform for their ideas.