An interview with Kyle Wentworth founder/owner of Fusion IT
Kyle Wentworth, founder of Fusion IT, is a progress oriented perfectionist. He's been working with computers since before most of us knew computers existed. It's a passion and discipline for Kyle as he considers himself a puzzle creator. One of the first things I noticed about Kyle is that he is a hugger. Kyle believes that relationships are not handshakes, they’re hugs. As you get to know Kyle, you will find that he is very sincere, gentle, confident and humorous. These qualities have allowed him to create and grow a thriving computer service and support business. This is also one of the reasons for its continued growth and success for all these years. Kyle recently sat down with us for an exclusive interview where he shared his thoughts on life, business lessons and leadership. Our interview takes us from his auspicious beginning to some hard lessons learned.
Getting to know Kyle as a Leader
How did you become the leader of Fusion IT?
I founded it. I’ve been working with computers since 1976, but in 1991 while I was in the military, my next door neighbor asked for help with his computer issue. After solving it, he came back to me that night with an advertisement in the newspaper from someone asking for computer support. He said “You should develop yourself a business called Consultations Plus and go do computer work for other people.” I was like, “Really?” He said “Yeah, just call it Consultations Plus. That'd be great.” So I did, and that’s what kicked it all off.
I called on my first customer the next day, the man from the advertisement. He paid me $35/hr. to help him solve a problem that 13 other people couldn’t solve. I fixed it in about 7 minutes. I spent the rest of the day helping him solve about 30 other problems. He was very impressed and referred a lot of people to me.
In 2000 Jim Spaak joined me as sales and we took a run at growing Consultations Plus. By 2006 we had 263 clients. In October of 2007, Curt Irwin, owner of Service Technology and I merged to become Fusion IT and we’ve grown to what we are today.
What is your purpose? Why are you able to succeed in business?:
I build puzzles. I solve puzzles that already exist and build pieces where they haven’t been put together yet. So I build and solve puzzles. I solve other people’s puzzles and eliminate their Technology pain.
Why do you do what you do?
I don’t like other people not liking the results they have to deal with. I’m a puzzle solver and puzzle builder. It’s because I love being able to do things that other people can’t. It creates a need of me.
What do you think makes you a leader?
I have a desire to teach. I get my kicks out of seeing your light bulb turn on. When I’m in a room with other techs, they might know how the things work, but the light bulb turns on when they figure out and understand why things work. When that happens, a whole bunch of other things synoptically connect to each other and the light bulb gets brighter and their knowledge grows and they become amazing at that thing. You can’t become amazing if you don’t know the why. I love to pass information downstream.
Another facet is that I’m very, very stern with standards. Because of this, it’s very clear to everyone on staff where I stand and what I tell them when they come to me with a problem. I’m not going to give them a “well you could do this or that.” I’m going to give them the standard on how it should be done.
The key to my leadership is my relationship to Christ. I mean, he’s the key. I think knowing my DiSC assessment and keeping it on my desk where I can constantly see it reminds me to be more Christ like.
What did you learn about leadership the hard way?
I learned that not being there when your staff needed you most because you were too busy or didn’t take the time to find a resource to solve the problem creates frustration in that employee who is in desperate need of your help.
This happened one time and it affected me very deeply. We had a person who worked for us in a sales leadership role. He needed a technical person to do the function of what he was selling. That was supposed to be me. But as you say, I’m in many, many boxes. I just could not get that box fulfilled. So we searched and searched for people to fill that box and they were always square pegs in a round hole. We would bring somebody on who couldn't get through the material and they would leave in a matter of a couple of weeks. He ended up taking on the technical role as well as the sales role and as a result of that, that business did not function. We had very few sales and technical problems along the way.
So what was the leadership lesson? The leadership lesson is, if I’m going to take on a challenge, I need to be prepared to provide the resources to complete the challenge. If I’m going to give somebody a task, I need to make sure that I’ve given them the resources to complete the task. Don’t set them up to fail.
Progress or perfection?
I am a perfectionist, but progress oriented. I’m more focused on correctness than completeness. It has to be done right. Have you seen a network closet? If you're going to do it, it should be done right when it's finished. It's not simply good enough that it works. It has to look right and be easy to maintain.
What’s going really well?
We have four things going really well for us in our organization right now.
Our HR and Finance are going fantastic. We have a phenomenal employee support program. We outsource payroll and HR to ADP Total Source. As a result, we are all employees of ADP on our W-2. We have a great benefits package, 401k, Roth IRA and medical insurance. We provide a ton of stuff that companies 5 times our size cannot do. All of this is provided by ADP except our 401k and Roth are through Edward Jones. This is what attracts people to us.
We have been fine tuning our Connectwise integration with Quickbooks. This has taken our Accounts Receivable aging from 45 days to 15 days.
Our Customer Experience is going very well. We are getting great reviews from our customers. Granted they are frustrated with technology, but they are very happy with us. We survey customers after tickets are closed as part of our workflow with automated reporting to let us know our Customer Experience.
We have the "study of technique" or Technology down pat as good as any other company could possibly do it in managing technology for other businesses. It's steady, it’s true, it’s proven and it works. If a customer allows us to put the network in the way we want it, they end up with a lot less expense in the long run because the network just works. It's when they try to cheap out on a product that they end up shooting themselves in the foot and causing more self-inflicted pain than the way we had recommended it to go.
Bullet Points about Kyle
Who were your greatest influences?
Not so much when I was growing up, but after I was grown up, my Dad was a big influencer on who I became. I suspect that every boy has had issues with their father, most likely because we are turning into him as we get older. Not so much of who he is, but who we are becoming. My Father and Mother were the two most influential influencers. Brothers and sisters right after that. There are a handful of clients - Dave Boomstra has been an integral part through our friendship. The people who helped me make a decision in the direction I go most though, probably Mom, Dad and family.
What is a Core Value that is not negotiable?
Integrity and Honesty.
Favorite Business Book right now?
Simon Sinek – Leaders Eat Last
Favorite technology catching your interest?
Remarkable tablet. I believe I have directly influenced the sale of about 300 of these. Very interesting product.
Get to know Kyle personally
What is your DiSC Profile?
I had a DiSC assessment a while back and I think I am a High D. This typically means fast paced, outspoken, questioning and skeptical.
DiSC was one of the most demoralizing things I’ve ever done in my life. It made me feel really bad about myself. While it said I am a good problem solver and good at troubleshooting, it also said I could improve my communication with others by being more flexible and showing sincere interest in what they are saying. The demoralizing part was that my DiSC was saying that I didn’t care about other people. I only cared about the problem and my version of the answer. As a result, I now listen to people much more often and for longer periods than I ever have in the past. I work through problems with people, help them get their point across, and then find their solutions.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
Get Financial Peace University from Dave Ramsey and study it. Not understanding how to handle money is one of the greatest stresses that face everybody today. Pay everything in cash.
I was introduced to Dave Ramsey and had lunch with him last October. About six years ago, I learned of his processes, but about three years ago I really started applying them. It’s about not having “stupid tax” like credit card debt, car payments or whatever. Everything I pay for today is in cash. Live below your means. He is personally responsible for more millionaires than any other individual.
What hobbies do you have?
My ultimate hobby is music and singing. I would give up everything all day long to sing and perform all day long. However, I have 19 people out there relying on this business to function. I’m not in the position yet to turn that off.
I also enjoy shooting skeet and handguns. Secondary is target archery.
What makes you different or unique?
I don’t see myself so much as unique, I see myself more as a collage and I think that might be unique. I’m very well rounded which comes from being the youngest member of a very large family that is very close. I have 12 brothers and sisters. We have 113 nieces and nephews. That’s unique.
What are you known for?
My ability to provide the technological answer to any type of technology problem and a great voice.
What are you not known for but wish you were?
A stronger man of God and a good business leader of my staff
Where do you have great balance right now?
I’m so out of balance right now. I have significant life changes that aren’t finished. Work changes in the process and living so far away.
Magnum, my dog, is probably my balance right now. He relies on me 24 hours per day, seven days a week. I don’t go anywhere without him. He’s keeping me sane.
What is your love language?
Touch and words of affirmation. I give hugs. It’s one of the things that makes me unique. My Mom and Dad brought us up that way. Christ hugged all of his people and everyone he met. He didn’t walk up and shake hands. It breaks the unfamiliar barrier and does it quickly. It immediately opens up the friend barrier. It establishes relationship much more than if we shook hands. When someone is open enough to walk up and give you a hug, they’re open enough to tell you when they have problems and to tell you when you’ve done something great. They’re more receptive to dealing with problems you create and allowing you to fix them more than someone who is just a business associate. It’s all about relationships.
What’s your favorite quote?
What is your soapbox topic?
College is a facade. A college education has turned into a facade that is shadowed by the greed of the people who are running the institution. It is not about education, it is not about getting people employed. It is about making money and keeping the entity going. The college industry has failed the people who are in their institutions.
When you go to a four year school and end up with an $80,000 debt and no one assisted you in getting a job when you were finished with school, they never taught you how to get the job. They never gave you the resources that you needed to take with you when you left college to show that you could do the job. They failed. They were greedy. All they wanted was your money. Their focus is not on education. It’s on the turnover rate. How many more students can I cram into a class at $1500 per semester credit?
This industry is vocational and there is no reason for anyone to ever step foot in a college. You can get a job when you're 18 years old and completely fund the next two years of your education and get 10 years of education in two years’ time. If you spent 10 years in college, you would not get the same amount of education as you would teach yourself or attending a few curricular classes to get certified. In all the products that are related to your education it'll cost you $15,000 to $20,000 over that two year time frame, including building your home lab, all the equipment that you would need, and you’ll be employable in 90 days in your field.
The complacency of the United States for protecting personal identity and data. The fact that the United States has a different approach than the rest of the world toward protecting personal identity and the control of that information is a blatant disregard for our populations. When companies like Target, Equifax, Amazon and Facebook are not held accountable financially to every record of data that’s lost it’s a blatant disregard to their customers. The potential damage of that personal identity and information loss is devastating to the person that now has to pay for identity theft management and identity protection from a third party company. These companies allow their networks to be compromised and hacked and there is no governmental punishment on the company for allowing that to occur. There should be a devastating expense so these companies would do everything possible to protect the integrity of their data instead of whimsically allowing anybody with a piece of malware to infect their network and take your data. Because we don’t hold such a high penalty, the loss of that data will continue to be rampant.
Also, if we are to have a government based unique identifier such as our social security number, which is based on the decimal system of ten digits, why do we have not capacity of replacing those ten digits with new ones in the event that yours has been compromised? Credit card systems all over the world can change your credit card number in minutes and cancel your previous one so nobody can do anything with it. Why can’t I do that with my social security number? If there is a unique identifier out there that is mine, it should be able to be changed and edited. We should be using a hexadecimal value that is an unforeseeable amount of characters which I have to look up each time I want to use it. There should also be an automated system that is searching the dark web for that identifier and notifies me when there’s a threat. No different than fraud protection. Why is the United States so far behind? There’s no reason for it.