“Learning as We Grow: SDV-DOBES talk about early inspiration and their journeys as entrepreneurs”
We will take a look at what made these three entrepreneurs start their business, what has kept it going and where they gain inspiration to continue on their paths forward. What their successes are and what certification means to them.
Why did you go into business for yourself?
Dennis: After 40 years of being working for large corporation and few start-ups, I decided to capitalize on my years of experience/training by starting a company with a focus on high technology solutions.
Gary: As a Service-Disabled Veteran, I had a difficult time gaining employment after my time in the military. Many employers had preconceived notions and prejudices against my “disabled” status. I went into business for myself to provide for my family.
Mark: I have always wanted to be my own boss and control my career. Not as soon as I had hoped; but was able to launch JEMNI in 2008 when I turned 50 years old. The company I worked for (Ergotron) was sold in 2010 and this allowed me to commit fulltime to growing JEMNI Inc.
Michael: I started AE Works because I thought we could do things a little differently and bring purpose to our work. My time in the Navy provided countless examples of leadership and showed me the value of acting with integrity. The Navy instilled in me a belief system that everything in the world, including business, is about people. Business is about culture, teamwork, and camaraderie. We always knew from the captain why we were doing something. The values we shared gave meaning to our service and cohesion to our crew. The leaders I served with during my time on submarines considered their shipmates in everything they did.
What was your thought behind the industry/niche you chose?
Gary: I noticed firsthand the lack of opportunities for employment across the disabled community. By utilizing the human capital management industry, I was able to help others that were in a similar position.
Michael: A former punk rock guitarist and self-described electronics geek, I was always interested in figuring out how things worked. Atage10, I installed an FM radio modulator in my mom’s ‘78 Dodge Charger to learn how the radio systems worked and to give my family something to listen to other than AM. I continued this passion and my learning in power and systems aboard fast-attack submarines as a nuclear-trained power-plant operator.
After the Navy, I transferred my skills to pursuing an education in power and lighting systems. I graduated from The Pennsylvania State University with both undergraduate and graduate degrees in architectural engineering. As an electrical engineer by trade, I started AE Works offering only electrical engineering services. Gradually, I added other services, including architecture, other engineering disciplines, interior design and most recently security risk management and construction related services. AE Works was founded to provide an integrated service delivery to benefit our clients with innovative, creative and collaborative solutions to complex problems.
Dennis: The growth industry of High Tech and Telecommunication industry continue to innovate and have great needs for our services.
Mark: My career provided me an opportunity to become an expert in Distribution and Logistics. I’m an Engineer by formal training and this was a way to connect my manufacturing expertise along with my Distribution / Logistics expertise.
What is your company’s mission?
Dennis: Tech True Up pairs technology with business needs and aligns our engineering expertise with the client’s organization and business processes. This approach enables Tech True Up to deliver solutions that solve real business problems to meet the client’s business goals. Our experienced staff hold a broad range of certifications across industry and functional areas and has in-depth experience working in a variety of roles with diverse organizations.
Mark: JEMNI Inc. is the leading small business to business packaging and print solutions provider
Gary: Amerit Consulting provides staffing solutions and guidance that power progressive companies to the next level. Our goal is to enable businesses to capitalize on Veteran-partner incentives to create an elite workforce of high-quality talent. Amerit strives to be the largest disabled Veteran owned business in the country by utilizing transparency, empowerment and philanthropic endeavors.
Michael: The mission of AE Works is to transform the lives of people and organizations by creating stunningly beautiful, highly functional, and safer spaces. We do this by integrating the practices of architecture, engineering, and security risk management to develop innovative, creative, and collaborative solutions to complex problems. Partnering with our clients and communities, AE Works continually seeks to be an active participant in efforts to improve our world. We do this by working beyond our professional practice and engaging as stakeholders in change movements we believe in. Collectively, thru practice and participation, AE Workers are on a mission to achieve our vision of a world where everyone is relevant.
What is your motivation–gets you up every morning and keeps you focused as a business owner?
Michael: Value innovation. Evolving our service offering and value proposition to enable the missions of our clients.
Mark: Competing and winning against large companies on value. When we win, we create job opportunities.
Dennis: The excitement of developing and delivering high tech solutions that drive revenue and developing business opportunities that allow veterans to transfer their skills into meaningful and interesting civilian careers.
Gary: I love to negotiate ideas and processes with other CEO’s so that I can better understand the totality of a company’s needs and then provide them with the best contract solution. In doing so, I am able to provide wonderful jobs for my employees.
What has been your biggest challenge/risk? And did it work out?
Dennis: Establishing a sustainable revenue base which in turn afforded Tech True Up to develop a growth platform.
Mark: Getting access to procurement folks that understand that you can compete on value and win against the larger corporations. Supplier diversity professionals have been good to work with; providing support inside a corporation to give JEMNI an opportunity. If we can be invited to participate in our core competences, we will win.
Yes, it worked out! JEMNI has experienced double digit sales growth the past few years
Michael: Staffing is an important area of risk. Hiring the right staff and then making sure they are in the right position to maximizes their happiness while also effectively delivering to clients is critical to maximizing success. As AE Works, has matured from startup to emerging firm to an established firm, now experiencing our largest growth period yet, we know our chances for success lie in the people we employ.
Gary: Establishing a solid relationship with our banks in order to ensure we have loans to meet overhead has been a challenge. It took years of accountability to establish our reputation and establish a solid relationship with our banks.
What has been your biggest investment in your business- and was it worth it?
Dennis: The foundation of Tech True Up is our Workforce Services (staffing, recruiting, call center) required significant up front funding and time to ensure that our company is sustainable. This investment has allowed Tech True Up to establish a business presence and growth outlook.
Michael: People matter. That mantra is central to everything that AE Works does. We believe that great work starts with great people who flourish in the care of leadership and opportunity to do what it is that they are passionate about. Many people have helped build the firm and make it AE Works the company it is today. Celebrating our tenth anniversary this year, we continue to grow our impact. Our investment in people enables this growth and innovation while strengthening our culture and firm values.
Gary: The biggest investment to my business was putting my home and entire life savings on the line to fund our start-up needs. After years of hard work and perseverance, I can definitely say that yes, it was worth it.
Mark: Of course, people will always be a huge investment in a small business along with IT infrastructure. Yes, anytime we can add employment opportunities, it gives you a larger sense of accomplishment. You’re changing lives in a small way.
Why was it important to apply for and maintain national certification through USBLN?
Mark: It’s critical to have a national organization certification. It provides “one voice” to support and help create awareness for Disability–Owned Business Enterprise’s (DOBE) through the DSDP program. Still today; as we speak, very few companies nationwide include certified DOBE’s into supplier diversity programs. Not because they don’t want to but because most companies are unaware of this business certification program. The 3rd party certification program demonstrates to corporations that you meet the standards for this certification.
Michael: US Business Leadership Network (USBLN) maintains a growing and diverse network of corporate partners. Certification is important to us for many reasons. Our USBLN certification enables connections to nurture new opportunities that in turn support diversification of our portfolio.
Dennis: USBLN helps us drive our performance by leveraging disability inclusion.
Gary: The USBLN provides another outreach and peer association opportunities on a larger scale in addition to our military affiliations.
What is the single most important bit of advice you would give to a disability entrepreneur who is just starting out?
Michael: Clarity of values is something that often gets overlooked, but has tremendous impact on business success. Development of a strong value system helps with everything from internal culture and employee satisfaction to communication of your value proposition in the market to create opportunities for growth.
Dennis: Knowing and recognizing opportunities is not enough. We must all apply our training, years of experience, insight and goal setting. Willing is not enough, we all must stay current, build a network of professional/partners and have a must do attitude.
Gary: Drop the first three letters of the word disability and think of yourself as having abilities for employment and you will overcome all obstacles for a successful career.
Mark: Be patient, continue to focus on your company’s value proposition, and network. You will win business, if you can keep your team motivated.
What makes you stand apart from your competition?
Dennis: Experience, certification and offering business solutions in a timely manner.
Gary: At Amerit, we desire to exceed the expectations of our clients. Our practice of taking time to properly vet a potential employee for a staffing assignment really gives us the advantage opposed to our competition. We strive to not just find a candidate but to find the best candidate that will match the client’s needs as well as the employees. Standing by our work and our reputation is what keeps our employee satisfaction rate in the 90th percentile.
Mark: JEMNI competes on value. We have multi-location capability and can provide a national distribution foot print with local expertise.
Michael: Every organization uses human and eco capital to develop technical capital. At AE Works, we seek to create all three at the same time. This methodology is rooted in a belief that the results of our efforts should do the same for our Clients. Great architecture is technical, human, and ecologically conscious. How we work is synonymous with what we produce.
Did you have a mentor or someone you leaned on for advice? If so, who?
Michael: From friends and colleagues to clients and resources like the SBA, industry and professional organizations, I’ve asked many people for advice throughout the years and on many different topics. The important thing is to reach out and ask for advice. You may hear something you don’t like, but those are the moments that help you learn and grow as an entrepreneur.
Dennis: Yes, AT&T provided Tech True Up with the opportunity to participate in their “Operations Hand Salute” mentoring program.
Mark: My father, he always had an open ear to listen and provide guidance.
Gary: Not at first. As the company grew my two partners became my co-advisors.
What are three words that best describes you?
Dennis: “Can do attitude”.
Gary: Decisive. Honest. Caring.
Mark: Committed, Disciplined, Passionate Leader
Michael: Authentic. Learner. Serial Entrepreneur.
Gary Herbold – Founder and CEO, Amerit Consulting
Amerit Consulting was founded in 2002 to provide quality management, process optimization and cost management consulting services to Fortune 500 companies. Our deep expertise in human capital management has fueled our expansion into direct hire placements, temporary staffing, contract placements and additional staffing and consulting services that propel our clients’ businesses forward. Our innovative consulting and staffing services place quality candidates in top positions as we consistently strive to exceed expectations. Gary Herbold is a two-time Purple Heart awarded Service-Disabled Veteran himself, he is passionate about providing mentorship and encouragement to other disabled Veterans.
Amerit Consulting is SDVOB and a USBLN certified SDV-DOBE, located in San Ramon, CA. To learn more, click here: http://www.ameritconsulting.com
Mark Ellson – President and CEO, JEMNI
Mark has a long and distinguished career of providing products and services to fortune 500 Utility and Medical companies. His background includes more than twenty years of progressive senior leadership in fortune 500 and large private manufacturing companies. His engineering, manufacturing and operational experience has focused on significantly improving sales and operational performance, reducing operating costs, leading and managing product introduction, and improving customer value. Providing consulting services and products to the utility industry has given him the experience and insight to meet complicated customer requirements.
Mark is an Army Combat Veteran. In addition, he is also a National Board member for the Elite SDVOB network. Disabled Veteran businesses helping other Vets help themselves. He has an engineering degree from Iowa State University and a Master’s of Business Administration with a minor in Finance from.
JEMNI is an SDVOB and a certified USBLN SDV-DOBE located in Woodbury, MN. To learn more about JEMNI, click here: http://jemnitechnology.com
Dennis Parker – President and Founder, TechTrueUp
TechTrueUp is a service delivery organization with core competencies in Network Service Orchestration (NSO), Cloud, Network Function Virtualization (NFV), Software Defined Network (SDN), Real-Time BSS and Network Security. As well as providing Telecom/IT professional services, recruiting and staffing services to some of the largest telecommunication clients in the world. TechTrueUp is dedicated to providing outstanding personalized and effective staffing services, ensuring that you get the right person for your position every time.
As a Service Disabled Veteran Owned Small Business (SDVOSB), our focus is to provide, hire, or train veterans to meet the demands of your business goals.
TechTrueUp also has a US-based Veteran Contact Center/ Support Center operation that delivers innovative, quality-driven, solutions, across all industry segments. To learn more about TechTrueUp click here: https://www.techtrueup.com
Founder and President: Michael Cherlock
The mission of AE Works is to transform the lives of people and organizations by creating stunningly beautiful, highly functional, and safer spaces. We do this by integrating the practices of architecture, engineering, and security risk management to develop innovative, creative, and collaborative solutions to complex problems. Partnering with our clients and communities, AE Works continually seeks to be an active participant in efforts to improve our world. We do this by working beyond our professional practice and engaging as stakeholders in change movements we believe in.
AE Works in located in Pittsburgh, PA and is a SDVOB and a USBLN Certified SDV-DOBE™. To learn more about AE Works, click here: http://ae-works.com