Jay B. Myers is the Founder/CEO of Interactive Solutions, Inc. (ISI), a Memphis-based firm that specializes in video conferencing, distance learning, tele-medicine and audio-visual sales and support. Myers started ISI in 1996 and over the last 20 years has built it into a $18 million company with 49 employees and offices in Memphis, Nashville, Tenn. and Little Rock, AR.
ISI was included in INC. magazine’s list of the fastest growing private companies in the United States 7 times over the last 11 years!
In 2007, Myers published his first book "Keep Swinging: An Entrepreneurs Story of Overcoming Adversity and Achieving Small Business Success" and was presented the 2010 Ethan Award for success as an entrepreneurial author. His second book “Hitting the Curveballs: How Crisis can Strengthen and Grow Your Business" was released in January 2014. Myers lives in Collierville, Tenn. and Holmes Beach, Fla. with his wife Maureen and has 2 children (son Jordan and daughter Kaitlin).
In this interview, Jay shares key points about why he wrote his first book and what helps him succeed and thrive as a veteran business owner. For example, in order to thrive during the difficult times, choose not to dwell in the problems but rather look at them as opportunities.
His advice for entrepreneurs starting a business:
I would encourage all your readers and young entrepreneurs to “do their homework” before starting their businesses. My other advice is to make sure to NETWORK, NETWORK, NETWORK and tell anyone and everyone about their business to generate interest.
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself, Jay and what else do you do as an entrepreneur?
Besides owning a fast-paced technology business, I'm also involved with the local community as a board member of the Better Business Bureau of the Mid-South, Chickasaw Council (Boy Scouts) as well as Bancorp South.
I'm also a frequent guest lecturer/keynote speaker at the Fogelman College of Business and Economics (University of Memphis), as well as Christian Brothers University. In addition, I'm a lifelong New York Yankee fan and have played in numerous Yankee Fantasy Camps in Tampa and New York City in the past 10 years.
So far you've authored 2 Books, Can you tell us in-brief what they're all about?
My first book “Keep Swinging” is a collection of stories of how I started my company (ISI) and the numerous obstacles that we had to overcome to achieve small business success. Those obstacles included (but are not limited to) dealing with numerous startup financing challenges, a cancer scare (melanoma), business divorce, as well as a $250,000 employee embezzlement (accounting manager).
“Hitting the Curveballs” details how we were able to more than double company business ($11m to $25m) during the Great Recession despite losing 80% of the company’s sales team (turnover) and dealing with numerous personal crisis (death of an employee, wife breast cancer). In both books, the purpose is to encourage and inspire readers to face obstacles head on and not only survive... but thrive!
Who or what inspired you to write your new book, ‘Hitting the Curve Balls’?
The inspiration to write my second book was based on my desire to share various strategies that helped us grow a company business in the most difficult of times including developing an employee farm system, hiring millennials, embracing a growth mindset and choosing to “not participate in the recession.” I also thought that doubling business amidst the worst economy in 80 years (with inexperienced millennials) was a story worth telling.
“Hitting the Curveballs” isn't your normal business book (nor is it a textbook) in that the stories and advice are based on “real life experiences” being told by a veteran entrepreneur who still runs his business day to day.
How can ‘Hitting the Curve Balls’ help start-up businesses and new entrepreneurs?
In my book, I offer readers plenty of solid tips and practical advice that any entrepreneur and small business owner can appreciate and apply. But I also challenge these same entrepreneurs and small business owners to get “out of their comfort zone” and embrace creative new strategies such as building an employee “farm system” accountability, niche marketing, and embracing a growth mindset.
In my book, I show small business owners and entrepreneurs how to not only hit the curveballs that are thrown their way, but actually use them to grow their business like never before.
Can you share with us some interesting parts of this book that could help entrepreneurs overcome failures and achieve success?
In “The Summer from Hell” (Chapter1), I describe what it felt like to lose 80% of the company’s sales team (turnover), coping with the death of an employee and close friend and my wife’s breast cancer diagnosis.
All of this happened in a little over 30 days! I remember being so traumatized by all of these issues that I was afraid to turn the lights out in my bedroom (scared about what the next day would look like). Yet as bad as things were, I chose not to dwell on all the problems but rather to look at them as an opportunity to “wipe the slate clean” and grow my company bigger and better than ever before.
Some of the ways we did that was by focusing on not growing broke, providing second chances for employees and enforcing accountability company- wide. Real life solutions to real life problems!
What are the advantages of knowing the practical strategies you mentioned in the book? How would it shape business success?
I think the combination of telling personal stories that provide practical advice along with chapter summaries (Stepping Up to the Plate) makes this book different from most business books. Whether it be making a decision to Plateau or Grow, Creating a Legacy for your business or Setting Goals/Aiming High my book is loaded with advice that can help small business owners grow their businesses in any economy (good or bad).
What does your day-in, day-out look like as an entrepreneur and author?
I lead a pretty fast-paced lifestyle having responsibility for running a 20 year old technology company with 49 employees that's constantly having to reinvent itself to stay relevant in a challenging industry. Never a dull moment!
As an author, I try to do at least one thing a day to promote my book whether it's through writing blogs, sending books to key clients/contacts, booking radio interviews and/or speaking engagements etc. Also, I recognized several years ago that if my books were going to sell, I WOULD BE THE ONE THAT HAD TO DO IT! In addition, I also have to constantly remind myself that I do have a “day job” and that I can only devote a certain amount of time to my book marketing, promotion etc.
What is the most exciting moment of your entrepreneurial journey?
There have been so many exciting moments but I would say that when ISI made the INC 500 list of fastest growing private companies in the United States (#182) that was a big moment! At that time, my business was barely 5 years old and it was so exciting to have the recognition from such a prestigious magazine.
On my journey as an entrepreneurial author, I have to say hands down the most exciting moment was having my book “Keep Swinging” and the ISI logo displayed on the NASDAQ board in Times Square (New York City) in October 2010.
Have you encountered troubles or mishaps when starting a business? How did you fix them?
I started my business after getting fired (on my 39th birthday) and had to overcome numerous obstacles in the first year including having our original investors back out (after 90 days) dealing with a cancer (melanoma) as well as a $15,000 embezzlement (supplier). And it didn’t get any easier in year 2 when I had to buy out my business partner which almost destroyed the company.
Several years later, we had to deal with a $250,000 employee embezzlement (accounting manager) on the “Day My Business Almost Died”. Some of the ways that I fixed these problems was to not to dwell on them and keep pushing forward. I also was fortunate in hiring some really good people through the years who have been by my side through the difficult times. Since those days, I also adopted the mantra that “if it doesn’t destroy you it will make you stronger”.
What advice would you give to our readers or young entrepreneurs who want to start a business in Tennessee today?
Where should they start? Initially, I would encourage all your readers and young entrepreneurs to “do their homework” before starting their businesses. That means putting together a detailed business plan that identifies issues such as cash flow projections, product differentiation, competitive threats, marketing, staffing, industry forecasts, etc.
The failure rate of startups is very high but by producing a high-quality business plan, the odds of being successful are greatly increased. My other advice for your readers and young entrepreneurs is to make sure to NETWORK, NETWORK, NETWORK and tell anyone and everyone about their business to generate interest. You never know who might supply you with a sales prospect, offer good advice, etc!
Follow Jay Myers on Twitter to get inspiring thoughts about thriving and surviving as an entrepreneur. If you want to order his books, “Hitting the Curveballs” is available on Amazon. “Keep Swinging” is available at Barnesandnoble.com.