Will Nobles – Vector Choice

Listen to the Confessions of an IT Business Owner Podcast! - ConnectBooster

Will Nobles – Vector Choice

Welcome to the Confessions of an IT Business Owner podcast. In this episode, you’ll learn about some profound struggles related to owning and growing an IT business from the perspective of Will Nobles, CEO of Vector Choice.

You can now watch the podcast on YouTube! Subscribe to get notified when new episodes are available!

Read Transcript

Ryan Goodman:
Welcome to the Confessions of an IT Business Owner podcast where we believe that healthy cashflow is critical for your IT business. Automation is paramount and building trust with your clients by looking professional will help grow your business. I’m your host, Ryan Goodman. Today, you’ll learn about some profound struggles related to owning and growing an IT business and how Will Nobles from Vector Choice overcame them.
Will Nobles:
Be honest to your clients. Be honest to your vendors. There is going to be times in your business career that, “Oh, I don’t know if I can make that payment.” Don’t stick your head in the sand. Talk to them, because if you talk to a vendor, they’re understanding. If you put your head in the sand and not return emails and not return phone calls, they’re going to have a problem with you.
Ryan Goodman:
Here’s the podcast with Will. Well Will, thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to join us here today on the Confessions of an IT Business Owners Podcast. Really looking forward to digging in, learning more about you, learning more about your experience and your business how you serve your customers today, and all of it. The good, bad, the ugly, that’s what we’re going to dig into today, Man.
Will Nobles:
Good, thanks for having me.
Ryan Goodman:
Well, to kick things off, let’s get some of the basics out of the way.
Will Nobles:
Sure.
Ryan Goodman:
Tell us just about your business from a hundred thousand foot view and then where people can find you online.
Will Nobles:
Sure. My name is Will Nobles. I’m the founder, CEO of Vector Choice Technology Solutions. We are actually based out of Atlanta, Georgia. We have four offices. We have Baton Rouge, Louisiana, eastern North Carolina, and DC. We have four offices. We have clients in about 17 states and two other countries. Our journey started in 2008 where I started as an MSP at that point and grew the business. I was a single man shop.
Will Nobles:
My background, I actually was doing a lot of large consulting for fortune 500 companies and stuff, and decided I saw a need for the meeting of small business world, and figured to jump in and join the MSP community. I didn’t start out break fix. I started out straight as MSP, and grew from there.
Ryan Goodman:
Wow, nice. Very cool, very cool. You had mentioned a little bit about you doing consulting for large firms. Was there a point beyond that background where you said, “I’m spinning up my own gig. I’m starting my own company?”
Will Nobles:
I think every story of any business owner, sometimes it’s not ideal. “When am I going to start a company?” I actually was doing the consulting, left the consulting, actually take a VP of technology job at a mortgage company. We had about 900 employees. We had three locations across the U.S. I did that for about two and a half years. Then in 2007 when the mortgages industry blew up, I saw myself laying off a whole bunch of engineers and technicians, and eventually, we shut the doors and I ended up with one… Besides the CFO and CEO, I was one of the last ones out the door.
Will Nobles:
In 2007, I said, “You know what? I already had a business plan written. I knew what I wanted to do.” I wanted the management experience, so I went from consulting to management. I said, “You know what? It’s not the best time in the world to do it, but I’m going to go do it.” It ended up being a great time even though the economy was bad. It was great because everybody was trying to outsource, get rid of their staff, get rid of… It was actually good for me to get started. I didn’t have any debt, anything to get started with, and so we got started 2007, incorporated in 2008.
Ryan Goodman:
Sure. Cool. Now, the catalyst for getting into your business sounds like it was pretty pointed, right? You knew what you wanted to do and timing was perfect within your career to make that happen. What are they whys today? Obviously, it’s 11 going on 12 years later. What are the passions inside of yourself and inside of the business that keep you going and growing? Have there been any major paradigm shifts for you as a business owner in terms of business passion?
Will Nobles:
Sure, absolutely. We started out as the company being a vapor services corporation, like, vaping e-cigarettes. My concept in my mind was, “Oh, I’m going to cloud computing. That’s what I was going to focus on. That’s when cloud computing was really getting really hot. I said, “Vapor makes sense. Cloud. Yep, that was bad when a e-cigarettes and vaping came along.” About three and a half years, four years ago now, we changed the name to Vector Choice. That was a big change and not just starting a company but in midstream trying to rebrand at the same time.
Will Nobles:
That was a whole learning experience in itself. Owning a business or starting a business, it’s not the glamor everybody thinks. A lot of people think, “Oh, I can make my own schedule. I can go on vacation when I want.” Not for the first five years, no. You are working for the man and still in a way. If you bust your butt and work hard to do it, yes you can start taking vacations. In three weeks, me and my wife is going to Aruba for seven days. I’ve got a team now that takes care of everything for me while I’m gone so I won’t get any phone calls.
Will Nobles:
It’s not the glamor, and it’s a lot of stress. That’s where all the gray hair comes from, that and kids. It’s a great experience but it’s not for the lighter heart by no means.
Ryan Goodman:
We end up doing a lot of speaking to students, whether it’s the colleges in the area or even high school students coming into our facility. The concept that a lot of times I think the young people don’t understand is there are times when you start your business, you’re actually paying to do a job. You’re not getting paid. You are actually paying to work. You’re not getting paid to work. Wrapping their mind around that concept can be interesting.
Will Nobles:
That first year and sometimes the first two years, you look at your paycheck, and it’s like, “Why am I doing it? I can go work for someone and make triple as what I’m paying myself.” It’s not a get rich quick. Owning a business is not a get rich quick scheme by no means. It is hard work, dedication, and you have to look in the future, what benefit it’s going to give you in the future as a business owner.
Ryan Goodman:
Well, I think that’s really good encouragement. For those individuals that are just starting out, that are listening to this podcast and watching with us, the pain is normal. Stay the course. It gets better. That really leads me into a couple… What are some of the any specific struggles that question or that conversation brings you back to that were a make or break point inside of your business that you can share with us?
Will Nobles:
Running a business and starting a business, you think everything has to be perfect. It doesn’t have to be. Get a business card. Get a website up. Do the basics. The lease get started. Don’t go blow a lot of money. In my mind when I start a business, “Oh, I’ve got to have a nice car because I’m going to be driving clients around,” and I went and bought a Mercedes. I never drove a client around. I have to have a big night office, flashy office. As a managed services company, people will really never come to your office. You’re going to their office.
Will Nobles:
There’s a lot of mistakes along the way that we made that if I had to go do it again, I would not make, or if I started another company and I have, I don’t make those mistakes. Don’t have all your eggs in one basket. From a standpoint, it was probably 2010 or 11 area, I believe, we had a lot of our clients, large clients, but not a lot of medium and small clients. Well, I lost 60% of my business that year. It wasn’t anything we did wrong. It was [inaudible 00:08:30]. When I say 60% of my business, that was revenue and it was three clients.
Will Nobles:
One of them went out of business. One of them merged with another company, and one of them sold to another company. We ended up getting pushed out with that. Diversify your clients from medium, small, big. Then we have mega clients, what we consider mega. When we’re going after a clientele, balance that out. When you’re in your sales process, make sure you have a good pipeline of different sized clients because you don’t want one client to take you by no means.
Ryan Goodman:
That’s great advice. How about some of the wins? Any big milestones where you’d crossed the threshold in terms of client count, revenue count? What are the things that you can say help put your flag in the sand and stabilized your business on your entrepreneurial path?
Will Nobles:
I think one of the hardest things was to get past a million dollars as MSP in a year. Once you get past that, you’re like, “Okay great, I’m getting established.” Then you hit that, and then it’s hard to get it to two million. Then at two million, it’s like, “Okay, now, things are starting to run on its own and I got managers to take care of stuff, and I don’t feel like I’m in the grind every day.” We look at the three million, five million, 10 million mark as you grow your MSP. We’re not at the 10 million by no means, but getting there, there’s key markers that I’ve seen of other MSPs where they get that three million, then also boom, getting the five million is easy.
Will Nobles:
They get to five, and then getting to 10 million is easy. There’s always a stop, and it’s always changed. Don’t think that the same thing that you did when you started the company at a million that you’re going to do at three million. The processes are different. The staff might have to change. You have to find the right people to lead your company. Now, you start leading a company and not working in the business. You’re actually working on the business. I spent most of my time today working on the business. I’ll probably do 10% of my time if that working into business at this point.
Ryan Goodman:
Was that a tough transition for you, or is that something that you learned well in the corporate world.
Will Nobles:
It was a tough transition because it’s your baby, and you don’t want to let go. I mean, my managers say, “Will, I got this.”
Ryan Goodman:
Get out.
Will Nobles:
“Get out. Leave me alone.” I still struggle with it and I think any business owner is going to, but it is a transition, and it’s setting back getting the right team and trusting that they’re going to take care of your business like you do. If they don’t, you’ve got to replace them. You got to find someone that’s got the best interest in the company at heart, and find a good team. Building a good team is probably the biggest in being an owner or learning financials or dealing with clients. Building the right team around you is key.
Ryan Goodman:
That is obviously critical. Leverage is really the only way you grow the business. Whether that’s insource, outsource, it’s great advice. A question for you, this is more on the personal side. Did you have a family when you made that transition?
Will Nobles:
I was getting married, so the mortgage company went out of business. Friday the 13th, April, Friday the 13th [inaudible 00:12:09].
Ryan Goodman:
You don’t say.
Will Nobles:
What a nightmare. I was getting married, and I hate to say it, I don’t remember either June or July. We’ll say June or July that year. I was getting married, so I was going into… I’m losing my job perse. I’m starting a business, and I’m starting a new marriage all at once. It costs me my first marriage. It costs that marriage. I am remarried. I’ve got three kids, a two-and-a-half, three-and-a-half, and nine.
Will Nobles:
It can take a toll on you personally, in your personal life.
Ryan Goodman:
Absolutely.
Will Nobles:
Even with your friends, with your family because you start running out of having that… When people talk about a balanced life, you don’t have a balanced life the first couple years of business. It’s until later. Really after five years, you start getting that balance back. Personally, you burned some bridges and not intentionally for the first five years. It’s because people don’t understand why you do it. When I lost those clients that year, people were like, “You need to get your resume ready. You need to go and get a job. You got a family to support.”
Will Nobles:
At the same time, I’m like, “Yeah, you’re right, probably so,” but the hunger in me said, “I can do this.” Every day that I wake up, there’s challenges. No matter how big you are or where you get in life, there’s a challenge. It’s getting past that challenge every single day and fighting through that. It doesn’t get easier. It’s not easier. I think you just handled it better.
Ryan Goodman:
The problems change, right, and you have more people to help elevate them.
Will Nobles:
Yeah. Before, it’s like, “Am I going to get a paycheck?” Then it’s, “Oh, now, I’ve got a whole bunch of employees and I’ve got personalities and I’ve got HR. Oh, I’m gonna make payroll every two weeks.” When you’re an employee, two weeks don’t come fast enough. When you’re an employer, two weeks come very fast.
Ryan Goodman:
I hear you. One thing that you hit on there, which I think I’m completely going off script now. You’ve given me so much great information. I’m just asking questions being just super interested-
Will Nobles:
Not a problem.
Ryan Goodman:
… because I think it’s stuff that I hear all the time. This is specifically related to HR. At what point inside of your organization did you say, “This needs to be…” Do you have an official person in the business? Do you outsource it? How do you guys deal with HR personally, and at what point did it become mission critical for your organization?
Will Nobles:
It’s always been a joke in our company, “We don’t need HR,” and now we’re probably would be one of the first ones fired if we had HR. All kidding aside, we actually put a handbook in place probably four years in. Again, it depends on how fast you grow and how many employees you have. It’s live and learn, right? You hire an employee that for some reason he thinks getting a beer out of the refrigerator at 11:00 is okay, where we’re only supposed to have beer Friday after 4:00 on Fridays.
Will Nobles:
It’s those things that hit you like common sense. You start having a question of some of the common sense of some employees, and that employee is not with us anymore, but it happens. When you start seeing things happen, it’s like, “Oh, I need this. Oh, I need this.” I would say it depends on how fast you grow and how many employees you have and when you really need HR. We outsource our HR still, so we have a outsource payroll. We do outsource HR.
Will Nobles:
We have an internal person that handles new hire packet and all of the forms that fill out, but if we have an HR issue, they help us with our handbook each year. If we have to let someone go, they help us do that process. It all depends on the employee size really. We still outsource. I don’t know if I’ll ever bring HR in house.
Ryan Goodman:
No, that makes a lot of sense.
Ryan Goodman:
Hey guys, Ryan Goodman here, president at ConnectBooster and your host for this fine podcast. We want to take a quick break from our episode and thank you for listening. We wouldn’t do this if it weren’t for you, so thank you for sticking with us on this adventure. We also want to thank Will for joining us on today’s episode. You can find out more about Will and Vector Choice at vectorchoice.com. Will has given us a lot of fantastic information about his struggles and successes with owning an IT business. There’s a lot more coming after this break.
Ryan Goodman:
If you want to learn more about Vector Choice and their services, give them a call, send an email, throw a carrier pigeon if you have to. They want to help you out. Before we get back to the episode, we want to let you know all of the ways that you can find us online starting with connectbooster.com/podcast. That’s where all our new episodes go up first, so if you want to listen right away, check out connectbooster.com/podcast and sign up for our podcast email list. Episodes are available on iTunes, Spotify, and Google as well.
Ryan Goodman:
Subscribe to our channel or find us on your favorite podcast platform, and they’ll let you know when new episodes are ready to listen to. If you want to connect with us or be a guest on this podcast, email us at podcast@connectbooster.com, or send us a message on Facebook or Twitter, and we’ll point you in the right direction. Lastly, if you liked the podcast, tweet about it using the Hashtag IT confessions. We don’t pay to promote the show, so sharing the show is the best way you can let us know how you like it.
Ryan Goodman:
Thanks again for listening to the Confessions of an IT Business Owner. We’ll get back to the podcast and talk to you soon.
Ryan Goodman:
Seeing where you’re at now and what you’ve accomplished, what are a couple of things that you would tell your younger self in addition to, “I don’t need to buy the Mercedes right away, and I don’t need to have the glamorous office?” Any specific bits of business advice that you would you relay back to yourself outside of those couple of items?
Will Nobles:
Work hard. Be honest. Be honest to yourself. Be honest to your clients. Be honest to your vendors. There is going to be times in your business career that, “Oh, I don’t know if I can make that payment.” Don’t stick your head in the sand. Talk to them, because if you talk to a vendor, they are understanding. If you put your head in the sand and not return emails and not return phone calls, they’re going to have a problem with you. Again, hire the right employees at the right time. Get out of working on the business as fast as you can.
Will Nobles:
Hire people that can replace you. Don’t be scared to hire someone who’s smarter than you. Know your weaknesses. Make sure that if you’re not good at QuickBooks and invoicing, outsource it or bring someone else to do it. Don’t tank your business. I say that because when I started out, I hate money. I love money, but I hate money at the same time. I hate asking for money.
Ryan Goodman:
Sure.
Will Nobles:
I hated invoicing. Literally, nothing in business terrifies me more than sitting down and looking at QuickBooks and invoicing. Immediately, that’s the first thing I did. It’s like, “Here, take it.” I don’t want anything to do with it. Besides, I want to look at the P&L and balance sheet and everything. That collection stuff, not me. I knew that wasn’t me, so I hired for it, and we have very little collection issues within our company.
Ryan Goodman:
Sure. That’s awesome. Anything that as a primary message you’d want to get across to peers listening today? Anything that you feel like if there’s one thing they take away from this that’s going to help them in their business, what’s a piece of advice that you want to impart to others that are listening today?
Will Nobles:
Get out and communicate your message. Don’t be scared. I could easily talk to you now. I do a lot of TV, movies, speeches, and stuff like that.
Ryan Goodman:
That’s awesome.
Will Nobles:
That’s helped me. I’m not perfect. I’m an engineer. I’m a network engineer. My two degrees are engineering. I should not be on podcast and doing TV segments and stuff like that. I’m supposed to be the guy in the dark room, right? Get out of your comfort zone. Do things that you’re not comfortable with, and tell your message because you’re not going to grow your business by being in the back room and scared to be out in front of a client. At the same time, sometimes, scared to tell the client what they should be doing and not what they want to do.
Will Nobles:
That’s the biggest challenge even we have today is people are scared to lose a client because they want to do something that is not security related or whatever. It might not cost them anything, but it might just be something they’re not educated in and they’re scared to make a decision. You have to educate and you have to stand your ground, because as the MSP, you’re on the line when it comes to your client’s technology.
Ryan Goodman:
I’d like to unbox a little bit on… You had mentioned you’d be the last person however long ago that would be on TV, public speaking, being on a video podcast. Are there any specific things that you had done to break out of that shell and be more intentional with being public with your brand and with your company?
Will Nobles:
I think it goes back from doing things that you’re not comfortable with. I started with a speech coach. I started with a training on things that are not IT related. Then getting the opportunity, speaking in front of your BNI group or your chamber, speaking in front of those guys most times five, 10 minutes. Perfecting that, cutting out the things like ums and ands. I’m still not perfect with that, but it happens. No one is. I’m not a big, giant public speaker either.
Will Nobles:
It went from there to I’ve done Nasdaq. Last week, I was at West Point speaking about cybersecurity at West Point. I had me and some of other MSPs, we were in a cybersecurity movie called Cyber Crime, not a question of if but when. It will premiere. We were in Hollywood for the big red carpet premiere last week. From there, it’ll hit Amazon prime probably July.
Ryan Goodman:
Very cool.
Will Nobles:
They’re all local premiers in our local areas and stuff. For me to be in a movie, and one of the cool things, and this is where you finally made it. I wouldn’t say I’ve made it, but you finally say, “Hmm, this is pretty cool.” Went to Hollywood and me and my wife rented a Lamborghini for 24 hours.
Ryan Goodman:
That’s awesome.
Will Nobles:
We drove it to the premiere and everything. A $310,000 car was always my dream to own. I still don’t own one, but just to drive it and have it for 24 hours, a dream come true. That’s something I couldn’t fathom 11 years ago, even renting one, more or less owning it. Those things like that don’t come overnight, and you have to work on it, work on it, work on it. You’ll get in front of people. You’ll freeze up. You’ll [inaudible 00:24:11] death. You will forget your speech, and you’ll get off topic.
Will Nobles:
It’s repetitively doing it. Just like when you’re on the computer and you’re programming a firewall or a router or whatever, it’s that constantly doing over and over again where you become better at it.
Ryan Goodman:
Just get out and start. It doesn’t have to be perfect. Is that good advice to tell those that are in their shell right now? Just go and start to do and make mistakes.
Will Nobles:
Oh yes. Yes. You’re going to make mistakes. It’s just like when you’re working on technology, you’re gonna make a mistake until you figure it out. Get out. Do it. It’s going to be out of your comfort zone. You’re going to be pouring down sweat. You’re going to be scared to death. Coming out, your voice is going to be all crackly. It’s fine. Just do it. More you do it, the better you’re going to get.
Ryan Goodman:
That’s awesome. It’s true. It’s true. Just be ready for the pressure. Work through it. It gets better after that, right? It gets better.
Will Nobles:
Yup.
Ryan Goodman:
That’s great. I spent a chunk of time on your site. I’m just wanting to get the lay of the land of your organization. I noticed, you spent a significant amount of time on core values, mission and vision, which I myself personally, I’m a huge fan as it helps direct the company. Was that something that you had taken direction on right away in that initial business plan, 2007, 2008, or is that something that came in the mix of growing the business? How does that affect how you run your business?
Will Nobles:
Yes. When I started a company, I’m a visionary type person, and so I went ahead and put a mission, vision, and core values. Now, those have been tweaked since then. Probably about two years ago, my management team came together and said, “Okay, how do we perceive ourself and how has our client perceive ourselves in the marketplace, and what do we want to represent, and how do we represent the day?” We actually join EOS if you’ve ever read about traction.
Ryan Goodman:
I love it.
Will Nobles:
We do EOS. We actually changed a lot of that. It wasn’t that we changed it. It was tweaking our core values and our core mission, and to where really aligns with where we want to be and where we want to go. To me, I mean, our core values are so important is every ticket that we do, we use [inaudible 00:26:50] for a survey tool. When they click on it, did this tech meet the core values on this ticket? Our five core value is up there every single time. When we’re in meetings or when we get challenged by a client for something or a vendor, are we doing this based on our core value? It’s a very big topic constantly within our company.
Ryan Goodman:
That’s awesome. I think it just helps to reduce complexity and decisions. There’s plenty of things to worry about in business, and if you have that core foundation to rally around, it does help simplify decisions inside of the organization.
Will Nobles:
It does.
Ryan Goodman:
Excellent. Well, Will, anything else that you’d like to share with us as we wind down our interview?
Will Nobles:
No, I don’t think so. Hopefully, I answered all your questions the way you needed and everything.
Ryan Goodman:
I’ll tell you what, it’s hilarious because I always come into these things with this laid out agenda. I didn’t even ask you half this stuff because number one, you covered so much of it really well, but I love to just dig in and flex and flow with where the answers are going. This was a lot of fun. I, again, appreciate the time. Thanks for taking time out of your schedule to spend with us and adding value to the overall channel and [inaudible 00:28:17]. I appreciate that and I know all of our listeners appreciate that as well.
Will Nobles:
No, I appreciate it. You can cut this part out, but one of the things, we’re part of Robin Robins. I do Robin Robins. I’m actually a coach for Robin Robins as well. I got 10 MSPs that are under me that I coach on a weekly basis. To me, everybody’s like, “Why do you want to share all your secrets with your competitors?” I’m okay with that because I believe in myself, and either those competitors are going to take my knowledge and what I can teach them and run with it and be successful their self or they’re not.
Will Nobles:
I might as well influence as much as I can and give back, because I’ve had a lot of people give to me, so I want to give back and help people out as well.
Ryan Goodman:
No, that’s awesome. Obviously, a winning philosophy help others get what they want. Ultimately, you end up getting what you wanted. Life certainly seems to work like that for me anyway. I don’t think anyone’s gonna argue that advice.
Will Nobles:
That’s very true. Very true.
Ryan Goodman:
Cool. Well, thank you very much. That was awesome, man. I hope you enjoyed yourself.
Will Nobles:
No. As you tell, I’m doing this stuff a lot already. Check that movie out. It’s cybercrimemovies.com. It will hit Amazon prime I think in July, August. We did the premiere in Hollywood. I know one of the guys is doing his premiere in Connecticut. I’m doing four premieres, one in each of my locations of clients and everything, and so we’re doing that, but I think it’s going to be July or August, it will hit Amazon prime. It’s actually pretty good. I was surprised you got nine tech guys like me own it. The producer actually made us look good.
Ryan Goodman:
That’s awesome. Let us know when that comes out, because from a ConnectBooster social perspective, we’d love to help just promote that out to the world, if there’s anything that we can do to help. From the podcast perspective, we will also let you know when we release that and get it public. A lot of times, our MSPs that come on like to use that for their own promotion as well, prospects and on their social network.
Will Nobles:
Definitely. Let me know on that.
Ryan Goodman:
We’ll keep you in the loop.
Will Nobles:
Okay. Aaron appreciate it in the back.
Ryan Goodman:
Aaron’s the man. He’s the one that’s going to make this all work. He’s like, “Brian, stay on the script.” Absolutely not. I’m not staying on the script.
Will Nobles:
Not at all. Not at all. Well, I appreciate it. You guys have a good one.
Ryan Goodman:
All right. Will, take care.

Tags: