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How Bit-Wizards' Achieved 20 Years of Magic

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Dan: And good morning, it is 8:30 on a Tuesday, and that means it's time for a Bit-Wizards ' Tip of the Wand. And with us is Vince Mayfield with Bit-Wizards, probably part of The Mayfield Four. I'm not really sure. Good morning, Vince.

Vince Mayfield: Hey Dan, how are you today, man?

Dan: I'm doing well. You want to sing a little something for us from The Mayfield Four or no? No, probably not.

Vince Mayfield: No.

Dan: I hope everything's going well for you. I see Sam's not with you this morning, your sidekick. He is on vacation, I guess. But we will be able to press on. How's everything going at Bit-Wizards?

Vince Mayfield: Well, everything is going great. I don't know how many people know, but this is Bit-Wizards ' 20th year in business.

Dan: Wow. You don't look that old.

Vince Mayfield: Well, I'm older than I look. I'm very fortunate, I've been blessed with great genes.

Dan: There you go.

Vince Mayfield: But I've been pretty reflective this year and because it is our 20th year in business, and the road to success, it's a marathon, it's not a sprint. And kind of everything you do, every choice you make as you build the business is part of your success or failure. And I often think about Samuel Golden. He was the media mogul who left Warsaw penniless and ultimately created Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, the iconic roaring lion at the beginning of the motion picture.

Dan: Oh, yeah.

Vince Mayfield: And he said, " The harder I work, the luckier I get." And that's something I can attest to that fact. And for all the business owners that are out there, running a successful business is a lot of hard work and it doesn't happen by luck. It's pretty damn hard. If you would look at the Bureau of Labor Statistics, it says that 20% of all small businesses are going to fail in the first year and over 50% have failed by the fifth year. And those odds aren't good.

Dan: Right.

Vince Mayfield: And especially considering the times that we're in right now, I know there's a lot of folks that are struggling out there.

Dan: Yeah. Well, being in business for 20 years, I am sure when you first started things must've been a little bit on the tough side, but it is for most businesses.

Vince Mayfield: Well, it's like a roller coaster ride. I love that movie Parenthood. It has the grandmother and they ask her about life and she talks about the rollercoaster going up and down. But just thinking a little bit about some of the insights about what it takes to become successful the way we have is I started with a great business partner. And a lot of people don't know this, but Louis Erickson and I started this company. We're both military brats and we grew up here in the local area, got transplanted here. And we've actually created two successful businesses, Bit-Wizards and a company called talkingparents. com.

Dan: Oh, didn't know that.

Vince Mayfield: Yeah. Additionally, in October of this year, Louis and I have been best friends for almost 40 years, so we met at Meigs Junior High School back when it was a junior high school. And I graduated from Choctaw and we've been best friends ever since, and we've supported each other through a lot of different successes and failures in life. But I'm happy to report that we've made more good decisions than we've made bad ones.

Dan: Yeah. It's obvious you guys have made some very good decisions. But it's amazing that you can be friends that long, be business partners and remain friends because oftentimes, well, I shouldn't say oftentimes, but you'll see partnerships dissolve like that because of conflict. So you guys have a special relationship.

Vince Mayfield: Yeah. There's a joke around that we're kind of like Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock, so Louis is more the logical one and everything has to be backed by data. And while I need some data, I'm damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead. It's time to shoot all the phasers and knock the Klingons out of the sky. But we know each other like the back of our hands. We know both of our strengths and weaknesses and we've played off of that. And it's been able to help us create obviously, Bit-Wizards, which has been very successful for 20 years, but we have a second company called Monitored Communications and our flagship product there is called talkingparents. com. And talkingparents. com was an idea born out of another local guy, Attorney Stephen Nixon, who graduated from Niceville High School, and ultimately he ended up graduating from FSU Law School. And he ended up coming over with his idea after he'd started it and said, " Hey, Vince and Louis, I need some software guys to help scale this thing and take it to the next level. And so we formed a partnership there. And so in addition to just Louis and I that do Bit-Wizards, we also have Monitored Communications and Talking Parents, which is a very successful software as a service application. And it was Stephen's idea as the founders. So there's a lot of great people that grow up here in Destin and Fort Walton Beach and go off and do great things and also do great things right here in our own backyard.

Dan: Wow. Hey, Vince, could you expand a little bit about that program you're talking about?

Vince Mayfield: Yeah. Well, Talking Parents is for parents who are co-parenting, who are divorced, or they may have fathered or mothered a child together with somebody. And basically what it does is it facilitates communication between them. As you know, that divorce and co-parenting is often contentious because the two parties have often split. But what Talking Parents does is that communication is monitored in real-time and it's immutable, and you do that through an app. And we offer the base application as a free service that you can do through our website. And then if you want to expand and pay for it, we also have some apps that allow and facilitate that communication. So basically what Talking Parents does is it tracks all that communication, it can't be changed. And so then you can take that communication and it can go back with you to court. It helps people be a little bit more civil with each other because if they know that the communication is being monitored and they can't change it, you might be a little bit more civil with your co-parent. And we just launched a new feature within that called Accountable Calling, which actually allows you to call each other via your cell phones, and it actually records the call and makes it part of the official record that we have. So if you have to go back to court, you can order a copy of the record. Or if you're part of the paying service, you can just download a copy of the record or get an official one printed for you, and then you could take that into court and it helps facilitate and make that transition and ... Not the transition, but really whatever dispute that might arise or whatever, they're a little more civil and it's easier for the courts to read and do.

Dan: That sounds like a really good program, Vince. Because that kind of keeps people maybe from being so angry with each other because they know it's being recorded, or not being so mean to each other. And that's probably good for the kids and if nothing else, it keeps things civil so they don't get out of control.

Vince Mayfield: It does. And we could go beyond just the normal conversations between people, it's things like managing their calendar. So for example, if you tell somebody, " Go pick up little Johnny at baseball practice at five o'clock," and then you communicate and change that at the last minute and say, " Well, it was actually four o'clock," because people do play games and do stuff like that, all those changes and all those things are actually recorded as part of the system. And then it's got an information bank that allows you to store information within it. It's been a labor of love between all of us, not just Bit-Wizards but also Talking Parents. I think what we've all learned is it's not about what any one of us does, it's what we can do together. And I've kind of learned over the years that to run a successful business, you have to have relentless persistence and you have to embrace change, and you got to be willing to take risk, and you have to have a bias towards [ inaudible 00:08:44]. But ultimately, you got to be a leader and you've got to learn how to inspire the people that work for you, and as well as inspire yourself and your family members because as I mentioned, being a small owner is tough.

Dan: Yep. I agree with you. Something that we learned in the military, as you gain your rank in the military, you can command respect. I mean, you can just demand it and command respect, or not only that, but you can earn the respect of the people that work with you and they will do anything for you if you earn that respect. And I think that's kind of what you're alluding to.

Vince Mayfield: Yeah, absolutely. And I would just say, Louis and I both served in the military and I think that the big thing I miss about the military is, and it's something that we try to instill here at Bit-Wizards and at Talking Parents is a level of esprit de corps. When people are part of something, they understand the vision, they understand the direction that you're going to go, and they understand that they're part of something that's larger than themselves, and they're treated with respect and made part of that overall vision, and get them vested in that success, that you're going to all work together towards that common goal and make things happen. People often ask me and says, " If you're going to go into business, what's it take?" There's a lot of things that Louis and I have learned over the years, but risk is a big part of this. And I remember, Captain Kirk once pontificated about risk. He said, " The potential for knowledge and advancement is equally great. But risk is our business." He said, " That's what a starship is all about." And I can identify with this because in business, everything you do is a risk and it's sort of continuously calculate a risk to build on that potential for tomorrow. And those choices that you do in your business come with consequences, good and bad. And ultimately, if you're ruthlessly persistent and calculating that risk and making good decisions and lean towards executing, you can't help but be successful and especially in times of downturn or like what we're experiencing now.

Dan: Yeah. And sometimes do you think that maybe some of your clients, when you present something to them, maybe when they first become a client of yours, in their mind, that's probably a risk. In your mind, you know that is a sure thing. So you're probably going to have to convince some of them that if you do listen to us and you go along this way and you update your equipment, update your software, even though it's not something you're used to doing, you're going to reach out there and do something different, just listen to us, we're going to help guide you, they probably felt like that's a risk and that'll end up paying off in the long run just like anybody else taking risks in their businesses.

Vince Mayfield: Well, absolutely true, Dan. Professional service is about the transfer of trust. So any time you do a professional service for somebody, whether it's an attorney or whether it's a doctor, whether it's managed IT, or any other type of service like this, the business owner is evaluating risk and it's about imparting that trust, that transfer of trust. Can I trust you to deliver on the thing that you say that you're going to do? And so with that, at Bit-Wizards, one of the things that we try to do is we try to educate people and make sure that they understand why we're recommending what it is that we're recommending and building off of little successes to help them and earn their trust so that they'll not only give us their business but also so that they'll let us do what we do best for them. And so it's our sales process and the way that we go through, and I know that I'd really call it selling, it's about building that trust. And it takes time. Jason Monroe, who represents us out in the community is one of our senior solution consultants that deals with our managed IT services, he's not a high-pressure salesperson and he goes out and he talks to people and really tries to educate them and give them the information that's necessary so that they can make a good decision. If we're not a good fit for a company, that's great, we understand, and we can kind of move on and do our thing.

Dan: That's interesting because I would imagine that if anybody has a business and they have computers, and the need to make sure those computers are working good, and they're updated, and they don't crash, and they have backed up information, it's hard for me to believe that they wouldn't look at it at your company very seriously, because you're obviously, the best at what you do. I mean, I can just say that because you guys are so knowledgeable. You have a great team. Every team member has their specialty. You work together as a team to fix solutions for people. Sometimes you fix the problems before it ever happens, that your customer even knows. It would be hard for me to say that you wouldn't be a good fit. They just must decide that they don't want to try you or something.

Vince Mayfield: Well, it's hard for small business owners because when you're a small business owner you wear a lot of hats. I mean, you're the CEO, and you're the chief marketing officer, and you're the chief sales officer, and you're the HR person, as well as the technician for whatever it is that you do. Whether you're in retail, or whether you're an attorney, or a doctor, or whatever it is that you do, or an HR specialist, whatever it might be, whatever service or product or thing that you're offering, you're an expert in that, right? And when you're a small business owner, the stakes are super high. So even though you may not know what you don't know, you may not know what you need, or you may not feel like you can afford the services to get those things done. And what a lot of people do is they get very myopic and they look at it totally from a dollar's point of view. They don't factor in the bigger picture. Like if I take care of my own IT, or if every time one of my employees has a computer problem, somebody else is trying to fix their problem within the company, that's time and effort that's lost or money that's lost. They don't factor that into the equation. And unfortunately, sometimes people have to feel a lot of pain, and especially with IT because there's a lot of charlatans out there. There's a lot of people in business that talk a great game, but they really aren't IT professionals. They didn't go to school, they didn't get the certifications, they don't stay up to snuff. They're just some dude or gal that thinks they're a guru because they read it on the internet type of thing. And that's really not what an IT professional is. For an IT professional, this is their career. They have to maintain lots of certifications. There's a lot of knowledge that you have to know. I often tell my people that any IT professional worth their weight, they're a mile wide in a lot of things and then they're a mile deep and two or three things, right? You can't know everything. And one of the things that Bit-Wizards brings is that we've got a team of people and they work together, and they're cross-functional, and they're all a mile wide, and then they're a mile deep in two or three respective areas. And those areas overlap and they know how to pull on each other to bring the customer the right expertise that they need at the time that they need it.

Dan: Yep. And we've talked about that a few times, about how many different people on your team specialize in different things. So it would be very hard for one IT person for a company, for example, to be able to be an expert in every single field that you have your team as they're an expert in each individual field, and the continual training, and the updating and everything. It would be hard to have that kind of consistency with one person versus a team of people to take care of your IT needs.

Vince Mayfield: Yeah, it's really rare to find an IT person that can do it all, that knows how computer hardware works, that knows software, that knows networking, that knows business systems, that can think strategically while also drop down to a level to help an end-user that doesn't understand all the acronyms and all of the things that you know. We call them a triple threat. They are somebody that can do the work, and they can talk to the customer, and they can work with their peers, right? Those people are really, really, really tough to find and they're super, super expensive, right?

Dan: Sure.

Vince Mayfield: And an organization like Bit-Wizards is much like an IT department in a large company where we stock the right skillsets, get the right people in there, interweave them together, make sure that they're trained, and that they're updated, they stay at the bleeding edge of the tip of the spear, right? And then, we've got more senior people that know how to apply those things strategically as well as helping guide some of our younger or newer folks in doing the tactical application of those things.

Dan: Yep. And I know that you guys find, Bit-Wizards finds people that are well qualified. But the continual training is what kind of impressed me when you and Sam have talked about this before, how you each one of your technicians or people on the team, team members, they're continually updating, and they're continually going through continued training if you will, to stay updated because as we know, IT's changed so much. All the technology these days just changes so much. And for one person to try and keep up with all of that, I can see where your team members each takes a part of that and they can stay updated on it. Because it would be very hard for one person, I would think.

Vince Mayfield: Yeah, it is. And some of the things that we build institutionally into our organization, not only the continued training, but Sam's team meets once a week on the managed IT side, and they talk about different problems and different things that they see across multiple customers, as well as put out new pieces of information or different factoids or stuff that different people have heard about. And then also we send people off to training. We send them off to seminars. And then a lot of people don't realize this, but we are a Microsoft Managed Gold Partner and there's fewer and fewer of those in the country. We actually work directly with the Microsoft sales teams. We go into large enterprise accounts, where we're in Mitsubishi, and Bealls, and Belk. And we just did an evaluation for Publix, the grocery store chain down in south Florida, working with Outback, and Darden group. In addition to the small and medium businesses that we have within our managed IT, we also do a lot of high-end consulting, digital transformation in moving organizations to the cloud. So I have a wide variety of people within our organization. And a lot of people don't realize that that's right here in Destin-Fort Walton Beach. And we've been recognized Microsoft as one of the top Azure partners in the Southeast region, that's Microsoft's cloud computing platform. And we've also been recognized for digital marketing by Microsoft. I told you that we do software engineering and software development, a big part of that is user experience and user design. We have over 50 American Ad Federation awards for different applications and different things that we've built over the years. The most recent one is that we did a kiosk for Anheuser-Busch and the Stella product, which is actually an engraver that allows you to engrave the chalice, the Stella chalice, the chalice for Stella beer. And those are going to be in places like Buffalo Wild Wings around the country. The software for that was built right here at Bit-Wizards in Fort Walton Beach by our software engineers, and Anheuser is now taking that worldwide. So we're pretty excited about that. We've done some pretty interesting things.

Dan: You got to be extremely proud of being able to boast that because that is amazing. I mean, it truly is. To think about Fort Walton Beach, we're not a huge city or anything, but we have a company here that is doing fantastic things all around the country and probably some things around the world.

Vince Mayfield: Yeah. It's kind of crazy if you think about it. Louis and are both military brats that we ended up here in Destin-Fort Walton Beach. I got here in '72. I came here with my parents from Turkey. And Louis's dad got stationed here from the Midwest, and then they left for a little while and went to Okinawa, and then came back here. And my dad's a retired Chief Master Sergeant and my mom was the director of Catholic Social Services here. And Louis's mom, his parents divorced, but his mom stayed here. She's from Madrid, Spain, and raised three kids on her own and was a local seamstress here, well-known. And so, I think our parents put a lot of value in education and a lot of value into a work ethic and making good choices. That's not to say that either one of us didn't make some bad choices as we were growing up. But ultimately, we both went in the military and we're both driven guys and we ended up building this. And we're proud of it. I think the biggest thing I'm proud about, it is not just the building of the company, but the people that we have in the company and watching them grow and build their own families. One of the guys, our first employee that we hired in 2003, he's a guy named John Jackson, and John is kind of crazy. But the first time we put out a job placement, we put it in the Northwest Florida Daily News and put it in a couple places before, places like Monster and all that, and we must have had a hundred applicants for this entry-level position. And we boiled it down to about 40. And we tried to interview them all in little 15-minute increments in our little office over there in Shalimar. And John was the first person to put his resume in but he was the last person we interviewed. But we hired him and he's still an employee today. And he's now the product manager on the Talking Parents application, and a very sharp software engineer, graduated from Niceville High School and the University of Florida, a great guy. I've watched John not only come in as a young engineer, but I watched him get married, and now he's got a son and he's striving, right? And so when I look around at the different folks in the company, how that's happened, it's a great point of pride and also accomplishment, in addition to the financial accomplishments and the things that we do as a company. But I think seeing the people grow and the things that they do has been the best part of it.

Dan: Got you. It sounds like you've got a great company, honestly. You and Louis have developed a great company because it sounds to me that you don't have a high turnover rate. When people come to work for you, obviously you're treating them right and they're sticking around, and it's like your family is growing like you said with John. And he gets married, and he has children, and that's pretty fascinating. That really is. It says a lot about your character, about Louis's character, and how you run your business. And I like the idea that you guys just aren't IT people. You also know business and can help a business connect with IT to make their business better. You guys are great assets to our community. And obviously, you're a great asset to a lot of people in business. But let's move on, Vince because it's just about time for you to do ...

Speaker 3: Bit-Wizards from the spellbook.

Dan: A little grit.

Vince Mayfield: Yeah. So I thought that because we were talking a little bit about business, today's term would be grit. And one of my favorite books is a book called Grit. It's called The Power of Passion and Perseverance. It's by noted psychologist, Angela Duckworth. And it's been a book that's generated a lot of discussion within my family. If you haven't read the book, I highly recommend a condensed version of her book and a famous TED talk that she's got with over 19 million views. So look up Grit and Angela Duckworth, and you can watch that. But grit, according to Angela and her fellow researchers is defined as a personality trait that's characterized by perseverance and a passion for longterm goals. Grit is a personality trait that is the main factor in individuals, you can hunker down and stay the course when faced with challenges, adversity, and setbacks. And people with a lot of grit can maintain high levels of motivation, determination to succeed through sheer force of will, and failure and difficulty are empowered and tapped into as a source of learning and growth. In her studies, she helped the army study, the dropout rates for cadets at West Point and the Army Ranger School and Special Forces School, and her findings show that grit is a better predictor of success than either innate talent or IQ. And in my opinion, successful entrepreneurs and business owners are quintessential paragons of grit. And I believe that out there in our community right now, we've got a lot of paragons of grit who are trying to ... It's a great time for them to be exercising that grit and focus on servicing their customers, and monitoring their fundamentals, and capitalizing on opportunities, and continuing sales to come out on top. And with the COVID-19 crisis, it's an opportunity for growth and change. And so I want people not to practice resignation or embrace negativity. I want them to hunker down and have grit.

Dan: Good point. I like that. It reminds me of the show True Grit by John Wayne in it, of course. Hey, one last thing. Would you like to do a shout-out to your businesses that support you when you support them?

Vince Mayfield: Yeah. I want to take it a little bit bigger. I want to give a Bit-Wizards thank you and shout-out to all the businesses and business owners in Okaloosa County in Northwest Florida who are persevering and grinding it out right now. My hats off to all of you. You're the economic engine that powers our communities. And if you need managed IT services, Bit-Wizards would be honored to serve you and help you create your success. And also to all of our existing customers out there, thank you for allowing us to serve you and we really do appreciate your business.

Dan: Vince, it's been a wonderful talk this morning, got to know a lot more about you and Louis and the rest of your business. And I appreciate your candid this morning. And so we're going to have to take a break on this one and come back next Tuesday for Bit-Wizards ' Tip of the Wand. Thank you so much, Vince, for allowing us some time to talk.

Vince Mayfield: Thanks, Dan. Take care.

Dan: You too.

Vince Mayfield: Have a good one and stay safe, man.

Dan: You too. Bye-bye.