Oscar: I would like to welcome to the studio today, Raymond Mobayed, CEO of 4IT. Welcome Raymond
Raymond: Thank you.
Oscar: On behalf of EO South Florida, I’d really like to congratulate you for earning your ranking on the 2014 Inc fastest-growing privately held companies in the United States. Congratulations.
Raymond: Thank you. Very proud of that.
Oscar: Tell us a little bit about 4IT.
Raymond: We’re a 10-year-old managed services provider. We are South Florida’s IT department. We pride ourselves in taking care of customers, technology environments. Our ideal customer has technology requirements that are more complex than the average IT person or a company can handle.
Oscar: Interesting. What made you get into the business?
Raymond: Really enjoyed technology. Love technology. Really passionate about what it does for companies, how it enables them to operate, and doing that as an employee for a company for many years, and then have the opportunity to do it as a business owner. It was just very fulfilling to be able to enable companies to use technology to meet their goals.
Oscar: I would imagine there’s a tremendous amount of competition in the IT world. What makes your company unique?
Raymond: Structured like an IT department. We structured our entire organization like it would be your IT department. You had your help desk where you call. If you can’t print, you can’t send an email, who do you call? You call the help desk. If you need to grow your business and change your accounting system or change an aspect of how to use technology to achieve your business goals, you speak to our CIO, Alexander Freund, my business partner. If you’re wanting to be more proactive or you need to b more proactive as a business who’s using technology, our systems allow the companies to be proactive.
Oscar: Interesting. What’s your long-term vision for your company?
Raymond: Long term, our BHAG of sorts.
Oscar: Sure. Big Hairy Audacious Goal.
Raymond: Yes, yes. To be able to service any client in the State of Florida within 60 minutes to their doorstep.
Oscar: That’s fantastic. When you launched your business, did you have a detailed business plan?
Raymond: No. The concept was to provide help desk style services enterprises class IT services to the small businesses. That was the concept. We started help desk with one person. Our first employee who’s still with us now 10 years later started that help desk and grew it now to what is it today.
Oscar: How were you able to secure as a startup your very first client?
Raymond: Relationships. This is relationship business. You have to be intimate with the business and the business to help design a technology to meet their needs. It’s not a cookie cutter business. It’s through those relationships that you built and the confidence because we deliver that has helped us grow.
Oscar: It’s interesting you talked about relationships, but I’ve heard many people say technology is a little bit cold. It’s not as touchy feely as business used to be. It’s emails and texts. No one calls, no one visits anymore. Is there a conflict when you say the word relationships with technology or not?
Raymond: Well, it’s our job at the executive level to bring the technology to life for the customer, to understand what they’re trying to accomplish as a business, and apply technology to achieve those goals. We try and take that mystery out of the equation and really focus on what the customer is trying to achieve. Not always talky about technology and just about what their goals are.
Oscar: The technology is a tool but you still have to rely on the face to face abilities of securing and retaining clients.
Raymond: Yes, yes.
Oscar: Interesting. Early on how were you able to establish credibility as a startup?
Raymond: Delivering, delivering on what the customer’s business needs were. Credibility is really based upon what achieving the customer’s goals. The first thing we need to do is understand what those are and then design the technology around those goals.
Oscar: Did you have any specific habits that helped you to become a successful as you are?
Raymond: I would say measurement. If you can’t measure, you can’t manage it, you can’t get it to evolve. Our number one challenge initially was how do you measure all of the different components of technology for the customer. You only have 50 computers to have many servers, to have IP phones, to have networks. How do you measure all these with the customer? We’ve implemented tools to help measure their environments and by measuring it, we could refine it and make it better.
Oscar: Interesting. When you launched your business, how were you able to fund it initially?
Raymond: The funding came from sweat, work. We put some money together to get it started, but we mainly was executing the business is how we funded it.
Oscar: Interesting. Were you able to fund your growth internally or did you have to go outside for additional capital?
Raymond: Combination of internal funding and outside capital through credit lines and through some making relationships that we have.
Oscar: Okay. Have you ever turned down a client during a sales process?
Raymond: If the client doesn’t see the value in what we provide and is only focused on strictly cost, sometimes they don’t get it, and they have to understand that the impact the technology has on their environment is huge. Their biggest expense is normally their payroll. Our job is to keep those employees efficient.
Oscar: Have you ever needed to fire a client?
Raymond: Outside of the ones that have payment issues, there’s other clients that again don’t understand the value that we provide and in doing so treat us that way. We’re in the relationship business and what kind of relationship is that.
Oscar: Right. What is the toughest decision you ever had to make while owning your company?
Raymond: One of the toughest decisions we ever had to make as a company was during the down turn of economy with the real estate situation. We actually took on debt as a company to maintain our core staff. It was a hard decision to make, but what we deliver requires our team.
Oscar: If I gave you some magical powers for just a few minutes and you had the opportunity of rolling back the clock from day one of your launch to current and you had the ability of changing any decision that you made, what would that be?
Raymond: I would probably want to learn more about sales and marketing. We’ve done very, very well with the customers that we have relationships with, but building new ones, how do you go out and show a new client in a one hour meeting what makes us different, how we deliver on our promises and how we look at their technology intimately, how do you do that in one hour meeting.
Oscar: Sure. While you still have a little bit of the usage of the magical power as well, looking in your crystal ball, how do you think the business climate will change in the next 5 years and how will that impact your business?
Raymond: Well, the buzzword is cloud, right? Cloud is already affecting our business and it’s going to be around for a long time. The thing about cloud is it still boils down to what the business requirements are and just because it’s in the cloud it still boils down to what the business requirements are. Just because it’s in the cloud, it doesn’t mean it fits the customer’s requirements. It’s very important for us to really help our clients measure what their requirements are and what actually fits into the cloud and who’s the right provider for them.
Oscar: Got it. What one word describes you as an entrepreneur?
Oscar: You must have a tremendous amount of competition and some of that within your space are large corporate companies. Do you feel as an entrepreneur that you have an advantage over Corporate America? If so, why?
Raymond: Well, the clients have direct access to myself and Alex. We are the owners. We touched every customer. You don’t always get that in Corporate America and a lot of the smaller businesses and up just being a number.
Raymond: We do look at every customer systems.
Oscar: In your opinion, are entrepreneurs born or are they made?
Raymond: Both. I think it’s a combination of born and being determined. You have that itch and you have to go after it, so being bold.
Oscar: How do you define success?
Raymond: Achieving goals, setting incremental goals, and achieving them.
Oscar: Can you give us an example of a sacrifice that has bettered your professional career?
Raymond: Well, anybody in a leadership position is going to have to sacrifice. Some of that sacrifice is time. You’ve got to dedicate the right amount of time to achieve the goals. Some of that sacrifice is relationships. Taking that time away from certain people in your life, so that’s another sacrifice. Anybody in a leadership role is going to sacrifice.
Oscar: If you’re looking for guidance or mentoring or you want to problem solve or brainstorm, where do you go now to accomplish that?
Raymond: My form has been fantastic. [Inaudible 00:11:00], it’s been a year and the guys I’m with are great. I have had the opportunity to put some of the challenges on the table and some of the experience sharing has been just spot on. It’s comforting at times to know that people out there are similar positions as you are or as I am.
Oscar: Excellent. Great leaders are always learning. Where do you get your source of knowledge from?
Raymond: A lot of the relationships that I have. My business partner Alex, my brother-in-law Craig. There is just a lot of people in my life that have influenced me greatly that I turn to and I leverage those relationships.
Oscar: Excellent. How does your company make a mark in the community or in your industry?
Raymond: Well community wise, we’ve got some of our favorite charities. We’re a sponsor of FRC, family resource center in South Florida. They take care of children through state agreements. We have the [Victoria Brouwer 00:12:12] event that we sponsor. They use our technology to support their participants and they call in to a number that’s on our phone system. We set up menus that explain the event and they talk to some of my own help desk people and ask them questions. It’s quite transparent to the participant and it’s been a great team building experience and Joe DiMaggio Children’s Center is just amazing. It’s just an amazing facility that I’ve toward myself.
Oscar: That’s great. Can you give me an example of something incredibly fun or super cool that you have done either personally or professionally?
Raymond: Well, getting my 15-year-old son into mountain biking has been just so much fun because he’s not into sports to begin with. Finding one and something that we both enjoy and now my wife is into it, so it’s just turned into a family event and it’s been great.
Oscar: It’s great. That’s great. What do you think is the boldest move that you’ve ever done in your professional life?
Raymond: I was at a crossroads in 2001, do I start my own business or do I continue looking for a job, wife, kids, mortgage, car payments. My wife and I strongly believe in her staying home in their early years and we wanted to maintain that. It is a decision to go out on my own and start my first company which was Innovative E Solutions that was the most difficult decision I had to make.
Oscar: Any regrets?
Raymond: Not at all. Not at all. It’s been fantastic.
Oscar: Good for you. If I say the words trust and respect, what do they mean to you?
Raymond: They mean a lot. I am loyal, fearlessly loyal. With that comes trust and respect. Fearlessly loyal to obviously my family, my business, my clients. I have an immense amount of trust and respect. I try to consider that in every decision I make.
Oscar: Final question. Tomorrow morning you wake up and your company is no longer, what would be the next company you start?
Raymond: Big question. Gave it some thought every now and then about what would I really like to do. I lean towards consulting, continued consulting. I’ve really, really just enjoy working with customers, trying to find that client that is growing to the point where they really need strategic direction build. Running a department is one thing. If it’s already built and the SLPs are already there and you have to continue running it, that’s one thing, but to build it takes a vision. I really, really enjoy building those companies, those IT departments, the structure.
Oscar: That’s great. I wanted to really thank you for coming in to the studio today. It’s been a fantastic experience. Again on behalf of EO South Florida, congratulations for your ranking for being one of the fastest growing companies in the United States and for helping to fuel the entrepreneurial spirit in South Florida. Thank you so much.
Raymond: Well, thank you.