Read the Q&A with Matt Hyatt and learn more about Rocket IT. To contact Rocket IT, visit https://rocketit.com/.
What inspired you to begin your business?
I knew I wanted to be an entrepreneur at an early age. I remember riding the school bus, looking out the window, and watching office buildings and shops drift by, thinking about what kind of business I might like to own someday. At the time, I thought it might be a camera store or a bike shop – both fun ideas to think about.
By the time I reached my teens, I had discovered computers. Like many teenage boys, I was primarily interested in video games, spending most of my computer time scouring electronic bulletin board systems (precursors to the Internet) for bootlegged copies of hard-to-find games. I learned a lot about computers in the process and, eventually, realized that I had developed a marketable skill set as a computer consultant.
Lacking significant consulting experience after high school, I enrolled in a community college to study computer science. I worked two part time jobs to pay for school – one as a bill collector and one as a clerk in a retail software store. Soon after, the software store offered me a job in management and I remember thinking to myself, “What’s the fastest way to learn how to run a business in the computer field? Finish school or manage a software store?” It didn’t take me long to come up with an answer. I dropped out of college and accepted the position.
Who was your first client?
I had a stroke of luck almost immediately that gave me a huge leg up. I called an entrepreneur that I had done business with before and told him about my new venture. I had called him in hopes of earning his computer business, but he immediately took a keen interest in what I was doing and invited me in to discuss my plan with him. He and his business partner liked my idea and wanted to invest. Their offer was simple enough: they’d put up all the money and I’d do all the work. They’d provide office space, I’d draw a salary, and we’d each own a third of the business. Eureka! In no time at all, we had the paperwork drawn up and we incorporated the business the same month.
Where did you begin your business?
A few weeks after launching the business, I obtained a business license and bank account, setting up shop in my one-bedroom apartment as a sole proprietor in January 1995. 25 years later, Rocket IT has experienced three major expansions. The first came when we moved into our previous headquarters in Duluth, GA. After spending a few years in a rather small office space, it become clear quite quickly that we were growing larger than our office space could accommodate. That’s when we began leasing the open suite next door. After tearing down the wall that divided the two offices, Rocket IT was free to grow with the needs of its community. But leasing an office space for Rocket IT was never the end-goal for me. All along, I wanted to eventually purchase a space to call our own. After making huge renovations, Rocket IT moved into its Suwanee, GA location in August of 2019. I still have future aspirations of growing Rocket IT, and this current location provides an excellent opportunity to do that.
What piece of advice would you tell your self when you started out? Any success tips you want to share?
When the previous recession hit the United States, Rocket IT was experiencing a tight job market, a falling out with partners, and a collections problem with a large invoice nearly forcing the organization into bankruptcy. I decided to close the office location I had desperately sought, let my last employees go, and worked out payment arrangements with creditors. I then moved the business into the apartment I shared with my new wife, focusing my attention on the service and support side of technology. My wife, Maureen, supported me for a year while I went without a salary, striving to pay off company debts. In hindsight, I believe this experience provided me with a great lesson in living lean, working hard, and focusing on what’s important.
What are you most proud of?
Rocket IT actively works to change the way people think about outsourced IT.
When used properly, technology drives revenue growth. Rocket IT helps businesses shift from break/fix hindsight to strategic foresight, changes how they think about technology, and alters what they expect from their IT partner.
We build our solutions around the person in the chair, not the computer on the desk. When addressing client needs, Rocket IT staff uses a listen-first approach to understand both short and long-term goals of the organization. In turn, our team forms meaningful connections with customers, understands their application needs, and facilitates their workflows for maximum productivity.
We’ve made it a priority to regularly sit down with each client, providing them with a plan and budget to maintain an IT infrastructure that works with their team; not against them. During these meetings, we limit the use of technical jargon – ensuring clients confidently understand how technology is helping their businesses grow.
Small businesses are more dependent on technology than ever, and we want to deliver both the strategy and support they need to thrive.
Anything else interesting that you want to share?
It is all about relational chemistry and those relationships thrive on trust. You need to trust your people and you must be OK with people making mistakes. If you aren’t, you will end up doing it all yourself and be tied to the job. I gave up on perfection a long time ago. I’m now in pursuit of excellence, knowing that I fall short from time to time.
With your people, be clear on how their role contributes to the vision, why we are all here. That foundation, while not perfect, will set you up for success.