Build it local: MiTech Founder and CEO talks leveraging growth, building a hub and more
January 21, 2020 / Share:
Unlike many Nashville natives, the increasing traffic and constant construction in the city doesn’t bother Bill McCleskey much. For one, he says, the traffic isn’t even all that bad. Perhaps more importantly, though, the growth is a sign of opportunity, both for his entrepreneurial pursuits and for his love of meeting and engaging with new people.
“From the outset, I had intentions on building a national company, you know, and so I know it’s going to be based somewhere,” McCleskey says. “Nashville is a good hub — it’s in the only state that borders eight states, it’s why a lot of companies are moving to Tennessee and it’s a good town too.”
McCleskey was here long before the boom — he’s Nashville born and raised, Fisk educated and a member of multiple public-facing organizations, including the Nashville Black Chamber of Commerce and the EC. He remembers growing up in the city loving the music scene, playing in bands and performing with his siblings.
He’s now the founder and CEO of MiTech, a telecoms company that is disrupting the market by giving customers a less painful way to . His first entrepreneurial venture, though, was selling t-shirts in college, where he realized he could make more money working for himself than in the sales job he was in at the time.
“A couple of my buddies and I started this T shirt business in college and I would make $200 in a day selling t shirts. I was like, ‘wait it took me a whole paycheck to get this!’” he said. “I realized that I could be in more control — that’s when the seed was planted and I started to explore and I started a ton of businesses from there.”
After college, McCleskey went to work for Comcast, where he excelled in sales. But he soon realized that working within corporate settings wasn’t for him — he had a lot of insight into what was going right and wrong in telecoms, and was beginning to consider using his creativity to solve those problems on his own. A casual encounter with a loyal client would ultimately help push him into taking the leap into entrepreneurship.
“I was at an event and one of my customers came up to me and he said ‘I have a location opening in another state and I want you to set me up with service,’ and I was like well Comcast is not in that city so I can’t. He said get another cable company, get AT&T, but I worked for Comcast,” McCleskey recalled. “But that got me thinking, and he said why don’t you just do it anyway just do it on the side. I said what the heck — I was so stuck in this corporate bubble, I wasn’t being creative, and I started to explore that and a couple weeks later, I started my company.”
For five months McClesky ran his company, MiTech, while at Comcast. When his employers found out, they planned to suspend him, but he quit instead, deciding to make that the moment he made the leap into investing full time in his company.
That was 6 years ago, in 2013. MiTech, which simplifies and streamlines the purchasing, installation and upkeep of telecoms assets for businesses and individuals, has grown over the years and will see nearly $2 million in revenue this year, with more than 1200 customers and 300 partners.
Those are big numbers for the small company, which currently consists of an 11-member team. McCleskey likes it that way, because a small team means it’s easier to keep a strong company culture.
“It’s a culture of grind and hustle. We’ve got 12 values — we call them isms — that that we try to live by. One of them is to be on time, another is discipline pays dividends, another is innovation is rewarded, execution is worshipped. So it’s a culture of whatever you do, do it 120 percent. Don’t do it 80 percent or even 100 percent; go the extra mile for your customer, for your partner, for your team. And everybody wins.”
Those values have worked so well for McCleskey that he put them together in his book, Get Off Your Assets, in 2018. There are countless books, webinars, seminars, blogs, podcasts, articles and more about how to succeed in business, and McCleskey has engaged with a lot of them. But what was missing from all that, what he writes about in his book, is that entrepreneurs are so often focused on the external that they forget to engage with the internal qualities that made them fit for success in the first place.
We have to attract success; we can’t chase it. And the way we attract it is by becoming the right person.
He came to the realization that he already had what it takes to succeed a few years ago, after an impressive year of growth. He set a goal for himself, saying he would get the company to $100,000 before trying to raise capital. He hit that number, but was so busy with the amount of business that he decided to push his number to $200,000 a year. When he surpassed $200,000, and then $250,000, he realized that he was already seeing the success he thought he needed to raise capital for. Now, he says, investors call him, because they’ve seen him prove that he can lead the company to success.
“A lot of the content out there is about external things, when you’ve already got what you need. Even when it comes to l raising money or knowing the right people and all this type of stuff,” McCleskey says. “I think that success should be attracted. We have to attract success; we can’t chase it. And the way we attract it is by becoming the right person so that we attract the right people.”
McCleskey’s penchant for imparting his wisdom goes beyond his book, speaking engagements, and the entrepreneur’s accountability group he hosts. For the last 5 years, McCleskey has been a staple in the Entrepreneur Center. After joining as a member of PreFlight when he was still getting MiTech off the ground, he’s stuck around, operating MiTech out of the EC’s office spaces and becoming a sought-after mentor for EC members. Recently, he took on yet another role, serving as an Entrepreneur-in-Residence for the EC’s brand new program, Twende.
For McCleskey, supporting the next generation of entrepreneurs is necessary not just because he wants to carry on the legacy of mentorship he experienced that helped him succeed, but because building those relationships with young founders is an opportunity for his own business to benefit. He’s seen his mentors turn into investors, and himself has turned investors into partners, always using his natural passion for relationship building to build up the ecosystem he operates in.
So what’s next for MiTech?
“We’re just growing the company. We really want to get to an eight figure business in the next three years — we think we can do it in two years but definitely within the next three.”
“And I want to fire myself. I want to hire a CEO.”
McCleskey knows his strengths, his value, and where he fits in a company. At this point, he says, it’s time for someone else to take the reigns of CEO, while he wants to focus on building up a network of relationships from a board position or potentially starting again as a founder.
“I’ve got new ideas every week, but I definitely suppress them. Everybody’s got ideas you know, but it’s about execution.”