Trevor Dierdorff is president and CEO of AmNet, a small company that provides information technology support and service to companies along the Front Range. A native of Placerville, Calif., Dierdorff studied marketing in college before moving to Colorado Springs in 1993 to take a job in advertising sales with The Gazette. He spent the next few years growing his sales career until life circumstances led him to make a career change. He got his first information technology job at Best Buy as a lead sales technician before the company launched its Geek Squad. He started Amnet in 1998.
Question: What services does AmNet provide, and how many people does it employ?
Answer: We provide information technology services for other business including server installations, backup solutions, firewalls, help desk services and maintenance to keep it all running. Most of my clients have between 10 and 240 employees. We sell software, but we don't do application development. We partner with IBM, HP, Dell, Cisco, SonicWall and Microsoft to sell and implement their products for our clients. We are hiring another engineer and an executive assistant, so we're probably going to be at 10 employees.
Q: What are your plans for growth?
A: Most of our new clients come from referrals. We don't have a dedicated sales person, but we might be doing some growth through acquisitions in the future. Microsoft has discontinued the current mail service product so they can move customers to a cloud-based solution. The old solution was our bread and butter, so we will have to add more customers to bring in the same revenue. It's an evolving space.
Q: What do you do better than your competition?
A: One of the main factors would be the experience of my team, their certifications and education. We pay for training, certifications and tests and send them to conferences so they stay sharp and have the best skills on the market. A lot of companies won't pay for training because they think if they train their employees, they'll leave. But I think it's worse if you don't train them and they stay. We also train our people in communication and leadership skills. If they are going to be the chief information officer to our clients, they have to be able to communicate the business value for what we're recommending as well as keep the equipment running.
Q: Are there any ways in which AmNet uniquely serves the community?
A: Some of my favorite clients to serve are nonprofit clients who are doing good work in our community. We recently set up a computer lab at the Marian House Soup Kitchen so people can gain job skills. We designed and implemented the lab free of charge, and I wrote a grant to my Rotary club to fund the hardware. We're working with the Pikes Peak Library (District) to put on some curriculum for them and working with some students from Colorado College to provide them some training.
Q: What early experiences did you have that might have led to your current success?
A: I think it is the fact that I was able to get a work ethic as a kid. When I was 9, I was at Target with my mom and I asked her for a toy I wanted. She said I could buy it, but I didn't have any money. So she asked me what I was going to do about that. My first business loan was from my mom for a bucket, a sponge and a bottle of Palmolive. I went knocking on doors and washing cars for 50 cents each. Then when I was 11, I was getting myself up at 4 a.m. to fold and toss a hundred newspapers, and I was cutting lawns for neighbors. For me, it might have all started with that toy at Target. I might not have been in business for myself if it wasn't for that one day, that one time.
Q: What kinds of people make AmNet successful?
A: People who aren't like me. When I started AmNet, I was the one guy running around fixing computers. When I got too busy to take care of my customers, I could either stay small or hire somebody. Most people will hire somebody junior to them to take care of the noise so they can focus on the big important stuff. I chose to hire somebody who was better than me so we could increase our capabilities and the types of accounts we could get.
Q: What is your formula for success?
A: In the scenario where you've hired somebody junior, you've just lowered your average skill set in your company. I hire people that are better than me and raised the average. I'm not as focused and detail-oriented as a good network engineer needs to be. I tend to be more of a big-picture person and can't stand routine. I hire people who like routine and detail and are task-oriented and friendly, people who are going to elevate our average skill set.
Q: How do you motivate your employees?
A: I think that starts with hiring. You have to hire people who have a good attitude. Specifically, I look for traits of enthusiasm and also humility. What motivates you is not what motivates her, is not what motivates me, so to do a blanket incentive is not really effective. We do recognize our employees in our weekly meetings and encourage them to recognize each other. Also, I'm a believer in being transparent with financials. We have a strategy white board where we detail our financial goals three and five years out and teach our people how to read a profit and loss statement. We don't get granular (detailed) with salaries, but we look at where we were last year, the revenue and expenses, and the goals for the future. Some of where we're going is driving top line; some of it is cutting expenses. Helping them understand how they can help is good for employee engagement.
Edited for space and clarity.