Eric Zolnosky, CCIE No. 46636

Happy Birthday NetGuys

March 2016 marks the 4th anniversary since The NetGuys were formed. In meeting with many clients I am often asked, “How did The NetGuys get started?” Looking back, it was definitely a humble beginning when Dave Lilligren and I cofounded the company. We started with five thousand dollars in startup capital, a one room office and an idea. Oh, let’s not forget the Keurig coffee machine my wife donated, very important. That coffee machine has more miles on it then an account manager’s expense report.

The Idea

The idea of The NetGuys started on a white board with a relatively simple concept. Provide something that is missing from our industry; A Cisco professional services organization that is solely focused on the service of others. Start by taking care of the team so the team can take care of the clients…. However, when it came to business we didn’t know any different as both Dave and I had a technical and teaching background. For many years all we did was wake up each day and help others have fun in learning how to build Cisco networking solutions. Looking back, the years teaching would play a pivotal role in how our company got off the ground and key to the makeup of our team.

Where Can You Find Quality People Who Care

Being consultants and teachers is typically not the business credentials one seeks to start a company. Admittedly both Dave and I loved technology and helping others with their challenges but had no experience in growing a business. Our involvement in the classroom proved to be a tremendous asset in many ways. Getting to know the students was always something we enjoyed but little did we know these relationships years later would help grow a company.

How does one grow a team to build a company? I am sure there are a thousand ways to do it but for us we had to find engineers who loved technology but cared more about relationships and helping then a paycheck. This is not an easy task. How could we interview someone for a couple hours and really know what they cared about? The answer was right under our noses or console cables to use more of a technical reference. Together Dave and I had taught hundreds of Cisco classes, met hundreds of students, many of them remained in contact with us for years and some became friends. That’s it! We already knew most of our team. We already worked with them in class, saw them interact with others, seen their work habits and best of all we knew their hearts. So it began slowly with hiring our first team member who was a former student. Every few months after that we would add another former student and before we knew it the first eight of nine team members were students or fellow Cisco instructors we had met during our Cisco training days.

C.I.P.

OK now we are cooking. Our team is growing and we have plenty of work and things are happening but what about values and culture? Again we are not Zuckerberg, Gates or other companies who have excess money or venture capital funding. We do not have waterfall art hanging on our walls, but we do have that used Keurig machine and that’s something apparently. We needed to define our values and start to grow our company culture. We had a long list of values and went through a process to narrow them down. We came up with; Caring, Integrity and Passion or what we call C.I.P. At the end of the day everyone at The NetGuys will be measured against C.I.P not how many billable hours one can accumulate. In other words, it’s “all about relationships”. Relationships with our team and customers is what we value. If we take care of our values, the rest will take care of itself.

Effort, Talent and Culture

We are no different than any other startup or small company; we could not have got off the ground without a tremendous amount of team effort. Effort can create a successful blastoff but every great team needs talent. The NetGuys are very fortunate to have some of the most talented folks in the region on our team. Our engineers are some of the top contributors to Cisco’s support forums, continue to teach Cisco courses and are leveraged by other Cisco partners to provide high level technical support. Our sales staff is interested in providing our clients what they need to support their business and are compensated on customer satisfaction not how much money they can generate in a sale. Effort and Talent are a great start and a necessity to every team but what pulls it all together is the Culture. A team needs to maintain the talent by creating and cultivating a culture in which people are valued. Our culture and values act as our compass as we navigate the waters of business. However, for us it seems to be more, it creates our family like atmosphere at The NetGuys.

Thank You

In looking back over the four years it’s hard not to overwhelmed with gratitude. On behalf of The NetGuys we would like to thank all the team members who have made the last four years possible. We would like to of course thank all of our customers, clients, partners and those in the local Cisco office for their unbelievable support. A special thanks to our families for all their patience and support as we worked day and night to make our dreams a reality.

We look forward to continue to serve you.

Sincerely,

Eric Zolnosky

CEO, The NetGuys