Monty Hamilton is CEO of Rural Sourcing Inc. (RSI) and is responsible for the company’s strategic direction and growth, including the launch of 10 new development centers with 2,000 colleagues across low cost of living, high quality of life locations in the United States. This is his second entrepreneurial startup venture after leaving Accenture in 1995.
Monty is on the advisory boards for the Mobile Chamber of Commerce and The Bond Group; and he chairs the IAOP’s Domestic Sourcing Chapter. He holds an M.B.A. from the Cox School of Business at Southern Methodist University and a B.B.A. in business from Millsaps College.
In this Startup Savant interview, Monty shares his 'Aha' moment, what makes Rural Sourcing unique, how they operate and how his personal mindset affects his life and business. Enjoy!
So, Monty what’s your favorite part of being an entrepreneur and why?
The control over your own destiny and being able to see the impact of your work. Early in my career, I consulted with large Fortune 500 companies and we still work with many of those companies. However, I realized that being employed by the large enterprises wasn't what I wanted out of a career.
My interest level and enthusiasm tends to be inversely related to the structure and bureaucracy of an organization. As I’m fond of saying I prefer to see the ripples I make in my pond than to be pounded by the waves of the ocean.
How did you get started? Was there an ‘aha moment’?
Yes. I vividly recall meeting with my managing partner to tell him I would be leaving Accenture and going out with a few other colleagues to do my own thing. We had a great conversation and then at the end he said “Monty, if it doesn’t work out for some reason, you can always come back.”
Once I heard that it struck me that I really didn’t need to worry about failure. I had more to offer at that point than I did when they first hired me. And I’d probably have even more to offer a future employer by having this entrepreneurial experience. Good news is, it all worked out.
How did Rural Sourcing Inc. (RSI) get off the ground? Did you bootstrap it?
Yes, it has been bootstrapped. We had an initial loan that sustained us in the first year. In the second year, we were break even and we’ve been self-funded ever since. The beauty of taking over a business that was losing money is that everyone buys into what you're trying to do to right the ship and put it onto a growth path.
The other benefit is that you instill in those early colleagues the importance of frugality and it soon becomes a part of the culture. Even though we’ve grown exponentially, I believe that each individual takes responsibility for how the firm’s resources are used.
What roadblocks did Rural Sourcing Inc. face initially and how did you overcome them?
The interesting thing about living in a country as large as the US is that you come to understand that we have a lot of stereotypes and inherent geographic biases when it comes to sections of our country. Being headquartered in the South and with our first three centers located in the Southeast, we had to initially overcome the preconceived notions that the talent in our smaller cities wouldn't match the talent found in the larger metro areas.
What we found and what we've proven for our Fortune 1000 clients located in those metropolitan areas is that there is exceptional talent spread all across our country. I do occasionally have to remind our clients and prospects that Bill Gates got started in Albuquerque, New Mexico, home of our 4th software development center.
Many of our colleagues have worked in large metro areas and for some of the world’s most recognized brands. Yet they have decided that they prefer the quality of life offered by these smaller cities. Consequently, at RSI they get the best of both worlds – an exciting career in software development working with the latest technologies and the quality of life afforded by living near the Gulf Coast, the Sandia Mountains, or wherever they grew up.
What’s been your most epic moment so far as an entrepreneur?
I think I’m still waiting for it. I try to maintain a pretty even keel. It’s certainly a shortcoming of mine in that I don’t celebrate the wins and big moments enough. I recognize that and fortunately have a great group of people who tend to both remind me and help me in that area.
I will say that the inspiring moments are those when colleagues come up and say how much they appreciate the opportunity to work here because it allows them to have the family life they wanted and the career they may not have thought possible. Also knowing that you provided the first entry level opportunity to the former policeman who wanted to switch careers, or the military veteran who put himself through a coding academy is super-rewarding. Those moments make the hairs on the back of my neck stand up.
What makes Rural Sourcing Inc. unique and how did you find your niche?
The entire business model of establishing software development centers in smaller low cost of living; high quality of life US cities to compete against offshore and local metro talent makes us unique. The technologies that we work with will be fluid and change. In fact, that’s a core value to “constantly innovate our skills and practices.”
But being committed to creating exciting software career opportunities in smaller cities where no one else is doing it is unique. Democratizing software development by not forcing individuals to make a trade-off between locations where they want to live or having a vocation that they get excited about is our mission.
We’ve learned a lot over the past 6 or 7 years by scraping our knees every now and then. But now we have a pretty good playbook for where, when and how to create the next RSI development center. Because remote, onshore delivery is how we work with our clients, we have to be the best at it. We’ve developed the best practices, rules and tools to make us successful.
This is a big one, how do you balance your personal/professional time?
It’s certainly a lot easier now with a great team of people who are every bit as committed to our vision and mission as I am. Knowing that you have colleagues that you can count on and that are all rowing in the same direction at the same speed makes it achievable. Between these colleagues and a very, very understanding wife the balance is pretty good.
I’m crazy about sports and I try to be as involved with my three son’s sports activities as possible. I’ve never missed a major sporting event. Sometimes I’m the fan and many, many other times I’ve been the coach on the sidelines. Two of my sons are very active year round participants in Special Olympics where I’ve coached for a number of years.
The other will be going off to college next year to play lacrosse, and I have had the privilege to coach and manage some of his teams.
What’s your greatest fear as a brand owner?
I won’t say “fear” but greatest concern is that our name may mislead some people about the details of our model. The name is a great name that has been beneficial in our growth and market recognition, especially as the term of industry for this movement is often referred to as “rural sourcing”.
However, our software development centers are not in rural areas. The development centers that are successful for us are in small cities where there is a significant population of at least a half a million, infrastructure, secondary schools, etc. that allow us to scale our centers to 100 – 200 people.
In these cities, we know that we can attract and develop top echelon talent that's every bit as good as the talent in the larger offshore or onshore metro areas.
Can you explain how your personal mindset influences your life and business?
Probably the two biggest influences on my business career have been my faith and playing competitive team sports both in high school and college. The things I learned on the football field have no doubt shaped my approach to growing a company.
Being in full pads in the August heat of a Mississippi sun instills a lot of commitment, perseverance and grit in anyone who’s had the pleasure. Further in football, I learned the importance of teamwork, trust and carrying out your own assignment. Football is the only sport I can think of where only one or two people on any given play are supposed to touch the ball and have the ability to get the glory. All the others are supposed to be supporting cast enabling the success of the team.
It is interesting that the team members I work with on a daily basis all played competitive college sports. From rowing to rugby, we have all shared that experience of being a contributing player to something much larger than yourself. This type of servant-leadership and selfless focus on the team goals makes it a fun place to work. Not to mention the competitive nature of everyone helps drive and set high expectations across the organization.
What are your top 3 bits of advice for starting a business in Georgia?
- Don’t let perfection get in the way of progress. If you continue to tweak your product/service “in the lab” you’ll never sell it. Unless you’re making pharmaceuticals you need to launch and get the market feedback. There's nothing more valuable than a paying customer who will give you feedback.
- There's a rich pool of experienced, semi-retired talent here to help you. The state has had a lot of successful people both in the corporate and entrepreneurial world who are looking for exciting, challenging ways to spend their days giving back and helping other businesses. Just ask around.
- If you are passionate about something, it’s not work; it’s a mission. If you can get others passionate about it, it’s a purpose driven business.