Chief Operating Officer
Sometimes when opportunity knocks you have to recognize the opportunity and have the guts to do something about it.
A team of engineering and operations personnel who built the technology infrastructure for the original Perimeter Technology Center facility recognized a huge opportunity, did their research, and in 2002 turned the Williams Companies disaster into a major entrepreneurial success. When Williams Communications left the video streaming market, the Perimeter team couldn't bear the thought of turning a multi-million dollar investment into traditional office space. So they developed a business plan to transition the facility into a full range of data center services, including co-location, application hosting, disaster recovery and a range of other professional networking services. Their hard work has paid off. In addition to opening a new facility in Tulsa, Perimeter Technology assists new companies through their Data Center Business Accelerator model, the first of it kind in the region. They foster new Oklahoma-based technology businesses and work to bring new tech companies into the state.
Please describe your company's mission and goals.
Our mission is to allow our customers to use Perimeter's unique skills and facilities to leverage technology for their business gain. Our goal is to capture Oklahoma's data center market. Right now there is no other dominant player that offers services on our scale. Basically, we want to dominate this landscape.
Where did the idea for your company originate?
We were part of the team that built the facility originally. The company started collectively when we found out the facility (that used to be a streaming media center) was going to be converted to office space. We saw an opportunity to take it to the next level. To build a facility like Perimeter's from the ground up would take millions of dollars. Basically, we saw an opportunity and took a valuable asset to market. And it worked. That's the most exciting thing.
What made you decide to start your own company?
There is a core group of engineering and operations people who have been together as a team for about 10 years. We did not feel it was time to quit working together. We did our homework and found out there weren't any Tier 1 data centers in the area. Because of timing, we literally worked day and night to be ready to take on customers from the start. We had to paint the airplane while we were flying! John Parsons, our CEO, came on as a partner and has now been with us more than three years.
What advice would you give to an aspiring entrepreneur?
Creating an idea is great. Creating a great idea is even better. The problem is that people think having a great idea will get you funded. In fact, it is developing a plan to execute the great idea that separates the successful entrepreneurs who get their products to market and their companies off the ground. Have a well-devised plan of execution (a business plan) showing that the research has been done. That's how a great idea becomes profitable. People invest in a company for a return on their investment.
I talk to a couple of people a week with great ideas. I tell them to put a business plan together and we'll talk. Many of them never come back because they don't do the hard work of research and planning.
What makes the Greater OKC area a good place to start and grow a business?
The Oklahoma City area has a vast amount of talent. Just think about all of the quality universities and colleges in the area that are turning out talented graduates every year. This area has a low cost of entry: land, utilities and other resources. There is also a great work ethic in Oklahoma. The state is made up of hardworking people who are proud of what they do. Also, Oklahoma companies want to do work with Oklahoma companies.
What do you find personally rewarding about being an entrepreneur and growing your own company?
It is great fun, frustrating and exciting. I have a lot of passion for what we do and I find that personally rewarding. I enjoy having the ability to make decisions quickly and execute on those decisions. I can also change a decision if necessary. Being in a bureaucracy or big corporate environment has its benefits, but you really aren't in control of your own destiny. We live and die by our decisions. I don't work in technology just because it is cool. We are in business to help companies meet their business objectives.
What is your "If I'd only known then what I know now...?"
Line up as much capital as you can. You can never have enough. Scope out the market to the best of your ability, understand what's in front of you, build a business model that shows a certain level of performance for your company, and then cut it in half. Someone once gave me this advice: "Your job is to buy time." Do whatever you have to do to be able to buy time.
What are some of the challenges that keep you awake at night?
Making sure that I'm looking forward enough ahead to anticipate what our next move should be. Knowing what's out there that could bring us down is one thing, but it's the things we don't know that I worry about most. Our entire group keeps our eyes open to watch for changes in the market. The thought of another technology/dot com crash is frightening, although in reality the business climate is different now. During that time people weren't even developing business plans.
How did you initially finance your company?
Through our own start-up capital, friends, family and traditional bank financing that included personal guarantees.
What are you most proud of?
I am proud of our team, our people and our ability to deliver. We set the right expectation and then we deliver. No excuses.
We call clients and ask "What do you like about working with us?" Their answer is always about our people, our accessibility and our ability to deliver. We stay focused on what we know we can control. We are trying to manage our growth based on our ability to deliver. So many companies outgrow their ability to deliver and fail miserably.
How has your position with the company changed?
In the beginning we were all day-to-day. We had to be. Everyone was involved in every aspect of the business. Now I am looking outside the company at strategies for staying competitive in the future rather than focusing internally on day-to-day issues. I'm beginning to think about what 2007 will look like.
Sidebar: The Best Advice
- Set out to dominate the landscape.
- Take advantage of unexpected opportunities.
- Do your research and have a business plan.
- Line up as much capital as you can and cut your expected outcomes in half.
- Work tirelessly.
- Focus on return on investment and meeting customer needs.
- Work as a committed team toward goals you feel passionate about.
- Stay focused on what you are certain you can deliver.
- Think about what you may not know.
- Be passionate about the business you're in.