Oscar: I’d like to welcome today, to the studio, Jarrett Paveo, CEO of iPower Technologies. Welcome.
Jarrett: Thank you, sir. Thank you, for having me.
Oscar: Jarrett, on behalf of EO South Florida, I’d like to congratulate you, for earning your prestigious ranking on the Inc. 2014 fastest growing privately held companies in the United States. Congratulations.
Jarrett: Thank you, very much.
Oscar: Tell me, what does iPower Technologies do and how did you grow it so aggressively?
Jarrett: We are a four year old organization, located here in South Florida. We are a managed IT services provider. We offer the full gamete of support options to any business in South Florida that has a computer system. We manage everything from the servers to the PCs, to the storage to the security.
Oscar: What motivated you to start this company?
Jarrett: Well, I was a geek by trade. I grew up playing a lot of video games. When I realized it could pay and get me girls, I obviously pursued that career path because I needed a way to make money.
Oscar: What makes your company unique?
Jarrett: I think the people that work for me. At the end of the day, we’re a service company.
Jarrett: Whether you’re servicing computers or refrigerators, you want that close personal touch. You want someone that’s going to be there when they say they’re going to be there. You want someone that exceeds their promises. That’s what we really try to do. We don’t try to be experts in everything. The things that we do focus on, we’re very, very good at. We try to live up to and exceed expectations for our customer. I think that’s what’s made us successful.
Oscar: Super! What’s your long-term vision for the company?
Jarrett: Well, we’re growing. It’s been a fun and a little bit of a bumpy ride over the last 4 years. We want to keep continuing to expand. We started with 5 people. We are up to 15, now. We’ve now got customers outside of Florida. We have customers in Atlanta, South Carolina, New York and Denver. We’d like to continue on that kind of exponential growth and continue to support companies. Because what we can do, we can do it anywhere. With the advent of the internet and the ability to remote support organizations, we can do our job anywhere. We want to continue to do so.
Oscar: When you were thinking about launching this company, did you prepare a business plan?
Jarrett: Yes, we did prepare a business plan. I was forced to do so. The previous job that I had, it was very comfortable. Kind of doing exactly what I did but under another company’s umbrella. I was living a great life. Because they had all the responsibility, I was getting paid very well to kind of just lead a group within the company to do exactly what I’m doing now. Then, the economy fell out. I had a very, very expensive mortgage that I was paying. All of a sudden, I stopped getting a paycheck. It was kind of sink or swim. I sold my house, took that money. Rolled it into the new company and took a couple people and here we go.
Oscar: You risked everything?
Jarrett: Yeah, I believe so. I don’t look at it so much as a risk because I kind of knew deep down within me that I was going to succeed. I didn’t know how I was going to do it so much but I never really had that fear. I felt pretty confident in myself that I could continue to do a good job. Get those around me to do the same type of job.
Oscar: Once you launched your business, how close was the actual performance, the day-to-day performance of your company versus what you projected in your business plan?
Jarrett: We actually exceeded what I projected in the business plan, very quickly. I was a little bit conservative in my figures and estimates. I was very fortunate that the clients that we got in the beginning, they appreciated our services and they told other people about it. We got to the point where we are today, we are looking to do hopefully, knock on wood, I know you said not to touch the desk. We are looking to do three million dollars in our fourth year.; that was all pretty much through word of mouth. Just recently, we’ve added a sales manager. We are going to kind of go on the aggressive hunt, I guess for business and try to get some on our own. Everything is kind of been word of mouth because we’ve done a pretty solid job.
Oscar: Sure. What habits do you possess that help make you as successful of an entrepreneur as you are?
Jarrett: I think just outwork the competition. There’s a lot of companies that do what we do. There’s a lot of bright and talented people in South Florida. I think what I’ve seen compared to some of my competition and the reason we’ve won business away from similar companies, is because we work late into the late hours. We’re always answering the phone. That’s my biggest thing, is if a customer calls you, they’re calling for help. Make sure you answer that phone. If you can’t, call them back very quickly. I think that’s, in any service industry, that response, getting to someone quickly, because when they call you, they’re panicking.
Oscar: Sure. You’ve financed a launch of your business by selling your house and using the proceeds, at least in part. How do you anticipate funding the growth of your company.
Jarrett: Well, we have cash in the bank, right now. We’re trying some different things. Like I said, I was a geek by trade. Building a sales organization is definitely a challenge for me. It’s something that I’m learning. Sales people, kind of be all over the place. It’s hard because IT becomes a very trust-oriented relationship with the customer. You have access to all their sensitive data and financial information. They want to trust that company that they partner with, will do a good job at taking care of them. To be an outgoing salesperson and just chase down business, I can definitely see as a challenging thing to do but that’s what we have to do. We have to take on the challenge and get a sales force built.
The other thing that we’re putting any excess cash that we have into right now is cloud computing. It’s a big, popular buzzword today in the media and in businesses. What we’ve done is we’ve built our own private cloud. There’s a lot of competitors out there. They are big names, like Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure platform. Great platforms but they are very big. With that, comes that lack of personal service. I feel there’s a tremendous need for a smaller, more customizable platform. Every dollar that we earn, we are putting some of that back into our own technology. Eventually, we don’t see any customers having infrastructure in their office. Eventually, they’ll come to a provider like me or Microsoft or Amazon to rent space to get their applications running.
Oscar: Have you ever deployed an unusual or creative sales tactic to land a new customer?
Jarrett: I think the creativity process is in the engineering and in the architecture of the solution for the customer. I mean, aside from, I’ve had a customer ask me to, he was signing a deal and he wanted to do a shot of tequila, as signed it. That was entertaining and I definitely enjoyed it. I think kind of what separates us is a lot of IT companies want to push a specific product that they might be getting an incentive from the vendor from a Dell or HP or Cisco to push that product. We use a best of breed technology. We don’t recommend anyone in particular. There’s some things that we like and we obviously favor towards. At the end of the day, we like to sit down with the customer, hear what they’re looking to do and build a network that works for them.
Oscar: What was the toughest decision you ever had to make in your business life?
Jarrett: Just to get off my ass and do it. I’d always thought about it. My grandfather was a very successful entrepreneur. He was your traditional American that came over from Portugal, in the 1930s. He just recently passed away. Till the day, he couldn’t read or write English. Him and 3 other guys together and started one of the largest construction companies in New Jersey. They had over 400 employees and multi, multi, multi millionaire. He worked from the ground up from a janitor and just busted his butt and made it happen. I always looked up to my grandfather and saw that if he could do it, there’s no reason I couldn’t do it. It was just time. When I stopped getting paid at my previous employer, it was just a matter of putting the house on the market, getting the cash and doing it.
Oscar: Do you think if you didn’t have your grandfather as a role model, then maybe you wouldn’t have taken the entrepreneurial direction in your life?
Jarrett: I’m a big believer that if you want to associate yourself around successful people, I know that’s in a lot of self-help books and stuff like that. I’ve got to say, he is probably the primary reason I did it. Is because I watched this man that just accumulated tons of wealth but was still a very regular guy. He liked to have his Absolut, on the rocks every night when he came home. He didn’t have expensive clothes or cars or anything like that. He was married to my grandmother for I think, 60 some odd years. Just a very regular guy. He, everyday, got up and went to work.
Oscar: Jarrett, did you ultimately become an entrepreneur because you watched your grandfather came from nothing and became an unbelievably successful entrepreneur, was he your role model that gave you that extra boost?
Jarrett: Yeah, absolutely. I truly believe to be successful, you have to learn it from somebody. You have to have some sort of role model. They say, surround yourself around successful people. From a very young age, he was always the matriarch of the family. He was always the leader. From nothing, he turned himself into something. The way he did it was just getting up and going to work everyday and outworking everybody. He instilled a pretty solid work ethic in myself and my brothers, my family. When it came time to make that decision and go out on my own, I felt very confident because I’d seen him do it. I had that faith. At the time, he was still alive so he supported me, 100%. When you have that type of support and love from somebody that close to you, like I said, I wasn’t afraid of failure at that point. It was just a matter of doing it.
Oscar: Great, awesome! You’re obviously a very successful entrepreneur. Very passionate. If I made a one million dollar investment into your company, how would you deploy those funds?
Jarrett: Sure. Since we’re a technology company, obviously, a majority of that would go into investing in our infrastructure. Making it more reliable, more secure, more scalable. Building out our platform to make it easier to use for our customers. Then, with the leftover money, definitely putting it into the people. My previous employer was also another role model of mine. He had a pretty simple saying, “Take care of your customers, take care of your employees, business will take care of itself.” I firmly believe that. We have incredibly solid employee retention at iPower. Some of the employees there have been with me for close to 10 years now, even from the other company that work for me. Anything that we can do to help them out, whether it’s personal related, whether it’s education, improving their knowledge, we try to do it for our employees. Because at the end of the day, they’re the ones that interact with the customers.
Jarrett: They’re the ones carrying your name out into the street so you got to take care of them.
Oscar: That’s a real testament to your leadership, to have that type of retention.
Jarrett: Thank you.
Oscar: What one word describes you, as an entrepreneur?
Oscar: Do you think entrepreneurs are born or are they made?
Jarrett: A little of both. You have to have some pretty basic things but at the end of the day, it’s got to be something that you want and that you go after. You use your life experiences and the gifts that God has given you and you go after it. It’s got to be something you’re passionate for. That’s a great thing about where we live is we kind of have that freedom to, whether you want to start a landscaping business or an IT company or you want to be a TV host, you have the ability to do that. As long as you work hard, I feel like you can do that.
Oscar: Great. I’m a little bit spoiled. I’ve been a member of the Entrepreneurs’ Organization for 14 years. I’ve relied on my forum to act as my external board of directors for everything for business, for personal issues, for family issues. It’s changed my life. Who do you go to when you want to brainstorm or problem solve?
Jarrett: Believe it or not, I sit down with my employees. They have as much invested in this company as I do. They have families to take of and feed. If it’s not something I’m 100% on and most of the time I am, but if there’s something that we have to figure out how to do, I will give you an example. When we first started out doing this, we didn’t have a whole lot of customers that were 24 by 7. We had pretty standard office hours. As we grew, we took on hotels, hospitals, organizations that run 24 by 7. We needed to provide support. I didn’t want to force anybody to work hours they didn’t want to. We sat down in a meeting and everybody got together. We basically figured out a schedule that was convenient for everybody to make it work.
Oscar: Great. As a business leader, how do you make a mark within your business or within your community?
Jarrett: You have to first make the mark in the business. you have to have the money to help the community.
Jarrett: Once your business is stable, going back to the situation with my grandfather and my previous business mentors, everybody was a big fan of giving back. Whether it’s getting involved with a charity or even a kids sports team or something like that. I’m a big sports fan so I could definitely see myself getting involved in that avenue.
Oscar: Great. What’s the coolest thing or the most fun you’ve ever had, either personally or within your business?
Jarrett: I think the most exciting thing that I’ve done, is I took all the guys that work for me, down to the Keys and we chartered 2 big fishing boats. We spent a Saturday fishing. I think that trip, we caught 102 fish.
Oscar: Oh, my god!
Jarrett: It was one of those things. We got back to the dock and there was people lining up like we were celebrities, just watching us toss all the fish out on the dock. I think there was something like 80 some odd dolphin caught. We caught a handful of tuna. We caught a swordfish. It was one of those miracle days that you could never ever do again. Everybody, they had fish to bring home to their families. It was a really, really cool experience.
Oscar: That’s amazing. I must tell you, I did the very same thing. The difference is, I don’t remember my trip.
Jarrett: We got all the drinking out of the way, the night before.
Oscar: Okay, good. If I say the words, trust and respect, what do they mean to you?
Jarrett: Trust I think has the meaning, depend on someone or something. You have to count on them. I think that’s the simplest way to break it down. You can’t depend on that person, you can’t trust them. The other was?
Jarrett: Respect. There’s an order of things. I think most of us for the most part are raised knowing what the right or wrong thing to do is. As long as you try to do your best to follow it, you’re not going to follow it every time. As long as you do your best to follow that path of respect, I think you got to go with your gut. Most people, like I said, know the difference between right or wrong.
Oscar: Sure. Final question. Let’s pretend, tomorrow morning, when you wake up, your company no longer exists. What will be the next company you look to launch?
Jarrett: The IT world is a little stressful. I love it. I love what I do. The reason I love it is because there’s never a dull moment. Something’s always breaking that I have to go throw my problem solving skills at. I think the next one would be a little bit more relaxed. Maybe I’ll open up a jet-ski rental company in Key West. Something like that.
Oscar: Very nice. Discounts for the host?
Jarrett: Of course.
Oscar: Excellent! Jarrett, again, I want to congratulate you on behalf of EO South Florida, again, for having such an amazing and dynamic company and earning your rank on the Inc. 2014 list. Thank you, so much, for helping to spur the entrepreneurial spirit in South Florida. It’s been a fantastic pleasure, having you in our studio today.
Jarrett: Thank you, sir.
Oscar: Thank you, so much.
Jarrett: Thanks, for having me.