I was recently visiting with a very successful entrepreneur, and I was interested to learn that he attributed a lot of his success to the freedoms that he enjoyed in this country and the ability to grow a business. He was passionate about working to protect those freedoms so others would have the same opportunities he enjoyed. There is a certain entrepreneurial spirit that I believe is part of our cultural heritage. A history of innovation and opportunity. We are a people who value hard work and ingenuity rather than what class we are born into. My father grew up very poor but had the opportunity to pursue his dreams and own his own business. I was raised in a home believing that opportunity was available for those who seek it. I admittedly don’t track politics closely, but I sometimes hear statements that make me concerned that we are perhaps drifting away from being a country where entrepreneurism can thrive.
Todd Gooden is one of those entrepreneurial stories that inspire me about our future. Todd is currently the CEO of The Solutions Team and is a serial entrepreneur. Gooden grew up in a small town in Georgia in humble beginnings. He attended the DeVry Institute of Technology and then began a very successful career in the technology industry. His first job was with Fannie Mae where he was a network engineer, and then he moved over to BellSouth where he was a network consultant. During this time, he was approached to assist the state of Mississippi with deploying a major network to deliver Internet to all K-12 schools, community colleges, libraries and state agencies.
He had the courage and vision to start his own company in 1995 at the age of 23. In 1999, he completed his first acquisition of a cabling company, Network Communications Inc. Later in 1999, he merged Integrated Network Solutions with Network Communications to form Consultrix Technologies. Consultrix Technologies grew to over 85 employees and had four physical office locations before being sold in late 2006. During this period, the Mississippi Business Journal recognized Consultrix as a Fast 40 company multiple times and later Emory University Business School recognized Consultrix as one of the fastest-growing privately held companies in the Southeast. After he sold his company, Gooden joined The Solutions Team as a vice president and in 2012, he became their CEO.
Gooden shared that one of his core philosophies of business and leadership is that, “The client is always right, until they prove that they are wrong.” He went on to explain that this means that you do whatever it takes to provide the best service possible, and it is only after it is determined that the client is just not going to accept any solution you offer do you walk away. Gooden makes a great point here. We often here about how the “customer is always right” and similar mantras. We all certainly want to do our very best to serve and please the customer, but the reality in my experience is that there are certain customers that you will never be able to please. It takes wisdom to know these type customers and to move on. Gooden has also always tried to hire people who shore up his weaknesses. He shared, “If I am not strong at something, I try and surround myself with people who are strong where I am weak.”
Gooden is not scared to take a risk, and he encourages future leaders to be bold in their leadership. He shared a story about a very large project with Terminix Pest Control. He said, “My business partners and peers told me I was crazy to even try to get the project. I heard about the project while re-fueling at a gas station. I started making calls to their corporate office in Memphis. It took me six weeks to get someone to talk to me, but in the end, I got the deal.” Gooden aptly noted, “You have to believe in what you do. The best sales person you have is yourself. If you don’t believe in you, then who will?” That is sage advice for future entrepreneurs. To me, Gooden is an excellent example of how creative people who are willing to work hard can accomplish great things in our country. Let’s hope we never lose the ability to be that kind of country.
MBJ-TV producer Stephen McDill recently spoke with Todd Gooden about cloud computing.
Up Close With … Todd Gooden
Title: CEO of The Solutions Team
Favorite Book: Entreleadership by Dave Ramsey
First Job: ”I worked at McDonald’s.”
Proudest Moment as a Leader: “Every day that I have been with The Solutions Team. From DAY ONE— we have operated this company DEBT FREE — and have some of the best employees and clients.”