I Share Hope

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Story. Action. Hope.

Stories about hope and ways to share hope

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Jay Myers

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“You look at those kinds of situations, Chris, and you’re saying, “Hope?” I was just hoping to get up the next morning. I was just hoping that I wouldn’t get another phone call about something else bad that was happening. I was hoping for a better day the day after that and the next week and the next month. It felt like the summer would never end. It was just so many things hitting at the same time. But, what happened is still some of the inspiration to write the second book. We chose that time, we chose that moment in time to do something special!” — Jay Myers

Jay B. Myers is founder and CEO of Interactive Solutions Inc. The company was named seven times in the past eleven years to INC. magazine’s list of the fastest growing private companies in the United States and featured in the Small Business section of the Wall Street Journal.

Jay Myers shares uniquely personal stories that deliver compelling, practical tips for overcoming huge obstacles.



 

13: Jay Myers – Hitting the Curveballs of Life – I Share Hope

“You feel like you’re kind of going a little bit crazy because everything’s coming at you. I remember that I was having such a hard time trying to take it all in that I was afraid to turn the lights off in my bedroom because I was afraid what the next day was going to look like. You look at those kinds of situations, Chris, and you’re saying hope? I was just hoping to get up the next morning. I was just hoping that I wouldn’t get another phone call about something else bad that was happening. I was hoping for a better day the day after that and the next week and the next month. It felt like the summer would never end. It was just so many things hitting there at the same time, but what happened is still some of the inspiration to write the second book. We chose that time, we chose that moment in time to do something special. I’m Jay Myers and I share hope.” – Jay Myers

Intro:

Welcome to I Share Hope! The podcast where world leaders share their real stories of hope and how you can use actionable hope to start changing your life today and now here’s your host, Chris Williams.

Chris Williams:

Jay is the founder and CEO of Interactive Solutions Inc. He founded it in 1996. It is a $25 Million company with over 51 employees. He has offices all over the mid-south, Memphis National, Chattanooga, Knoxville, Birmingham, Oxford, Mississippi, Little Rock. He was named seven times in the past 11 years in INC magazine as one of the fastest growing, privately-held companies in the United States. Wall Street Journal named him in the small business section, he’s published a couple of books, Keep Swinging: An Entrepreneur’s Story of Overcoming Adversity & Achieving Small Business Success. Also, Hitting the Curveballs: How Crisis Can Strengthen and Grow Your Business.

These are amazing books. I have read the first one into the second one. Actually, in reverse order, I read the second one he produced first. They’re really good. Jay is a phenomenal storyteller, sought after speaker, also mentioned very recently in Fast Company, an online publication. There’s a lot here and Jay has a lot to say. He is very successful. He’s had a great life, great family, but you think how does this guy need hope? Well, he’s lived through a lot and come out stronger for us. So, Jay tell us a little about yourself.

Jay Myers:

Well Chris, I appreciate all the accolades by the way, most of them I probably don’t deserve. I’ve got a great team and I think for all your listeners and folks out there, you don’t get success on your own. In particular in small business, you have to have the team and I got a great bunch of folks who have been with me a long time that I’ve been able to make that happen. In learning about myself and everything, I’ve lived in Memphis a long time. I went to school here, Christian Brothers High School and University of Memphis. I had a couple of jobs, two or three on the way to entrepreneurship and working for major corporations like Eastwood and Kodak, Hewlett-Packard.

Probably the most beneficial experience, all of them meant something to me, but the one that led me to my place today was when I was working for a telecom company here in Memphis called ATS. Within that company experience, I got a chance to get introduced to this technology called video conferencing and little did it change my life. By virtue, I’ve been able to be put in position to grow a business underneath a business. In this case, video conferencing within a telecom company. I took a group, me, myself and I initially to when I left there, we had over 20 people and from the start up to five years later, $5 Million in sales. So, brand new technology, learned a lot about profit and loss and cash flow and things and was able to be an entrepreneur and be able to actually build a business again underneath a business.

It was priceless. I would have never started ISI had I not had that experience. Some quick notes there, how did I get ISI started? I’m the all-American entrepreneur. I got started because the telecom company fired me on my 39th birthday. So, as I look back and I say that that was a priceless experience, it was. I think it took the shock of getting fired on my 39th birthday to realize where – I think God intended me to be all along, which is to be an entrepreneur and own my own business. I remember my late parent, she used to say that to me quite often as I was struggling through my career that you really ought to open a business. You’re just that kind of guy.

But you know, it’s interesting, as you look back in your career and everything, you’d have to have moments in time that those make sense, that kind of advice, and other times it doesn’t. You just have to get there. In my case, I was – for the lack of a better word, shocked into entrepreneurship. Quick thing on ISI, appreciate again those great accolades about the INC recognition. We started out very slow. First year, we did $260,000 in business and yes, we’re going over $20 Million over the last few years and what have you. I think it’s interesting, working on being 19 years old as a company next March. I mean is that eye-popping growth? Kind of sort of, I guess, but we’ve been around a long time. I think that is something to be said for that in technology in Vietnam that length of time, but also, I think what makes our story interesting, Chris, is that the experiences that we’ve had…You’ve mentioned me being a story teller, I never really thought about myself necessarily being that, but this place and this business and the history of this place has created a lot of stories.

At the end of the day, one of the reasons why I wrote a couple of books was not to be the next John Grisham, but was to share those stories of our experiences to help other people and to the point of your show, to give them hope because a goofball like me that made seasoned college, that wasn’t the smartest guy ever, still not, not very technical, with God’s help and with hope, been able to build a successful company that’s still around today.

Chris Williams:

It’s great for a couple of reasons. One, you look successful on this side of the story and it don’t look like you would need hope in a sense. In the same way, there’s no hardship the way it looks today. But, you’ve come through it, you’ve done it, you’ve worked hard. It takes 20 or 30 years, it’s not been fast and entrepreneurism or life or raising kids or whatever it is, there’s a lot of doing involved in the whole process.

Alright, here’s how the interview works, we ask a series of questions, five questions in a row.

Question 1 – What is your definition of hope or the best hope quote that you have that you fall back into in?

Jay Myers:

What’s interesting, I was thinking about this in preparation for this interview and my favorite hope quote of hope is going to be about a business because I am the small business owner and everything, but it’s something I actually quoted in my second book, Hitting the Curveballs. I’m not being disrespectful in trying to answer the question, but hope is not a management strategy for a business, but my definition of hope is “the deep feeling that one has that things will get better”. In the deepest place of your being, hope gives you that feeling that whatever you’re going through, the sun’s going to come up tomorrow. It is going to be a better day. I’ll tell you, hope has served me very well in this business, although I wouldn’t define it as a management strategy because you have to have some metrics and analytics and things to run your business. That’s the financial side of it, but the emotional side of it that every small businessman knows what I’m talking about, you have to have that as part of your making it day to day, month to month, year to year. Those are ways I do it.

Chris Williams:

Very true. That’s a great quote. It really is. Thank you.

Question 2 – Who’s given you the most hope in life? Who’s been there and poured that all into your life?

Jay Myers:

This was an easy one. The first one was a little bit, I’m trying to figure out that one a little bit, but this was easy – my wife and children and my family, specifically, my wife Maureen and my children, Jordan and Kaitlin. We have been through a lot as a family. We’ve had loss of life, my parents have been gone for a while, I lost two brothers, we’ve had a lot of different things with my wife’s family. Just other family challenges, but we shared the hope together. We shared the vision that tomorrow will be a better day. I think that’s what keeps the four of us honestly.

Chris Williams:

I’ve heard that many, many times. It’s the relationships that seem to keep coming back and being the underpinning of so much strength.

Question 3 – When was hope all you had and how did you use hope to make it through? Just give me a story there, give me the background, paint a picture and tell me what happened.

Jay Myers:

Sure Chris. I don’t want to be this shameless marketing guy here always selling a dozen books and all these things, but I do think that again, I wrote the books not because I’m trying to be John Grisham. I wrote the books because I want to help people. Underneath all this, to help people, to share the experiences, to go through some of those stories are very personal. I don’t write like an academic, they’re like real life stories in order to help people and give them hope. As I look at Hitting the Curveballs, the most recent book that was published earlier this year, I think in the place, I would say the hope really that I had to have it to get through was – actually in the first chapter of the book I called it The Summer from Hell.

Briefly make this story happen for you here or portray it, it was in a series of about 30 days. Stay with me when I go through all of this and I’ll try to communicate it properly. But, in the space of 30 days, I had 1,2,3,4 key sales and support personnel leave my business. Sales people are accounted for somewhere around 80% of my revenue. All in a few weeks. Within that same period of time, one of my top support technician’s installer was in the hospital with liver transplant and died on the operating table. In that same period of time, a good friend was on vacation and literally died when he got off the beach and got transported to a hospital. I went to two funerals, Saturday and Saturday, like okay then. In the same period of time, my wife was diagnosed with breast cancer.

There’s a moment in my life that I look back over seven years later that I think I still feel traumatized. I mentioned this in the Fast Company interview.

You feel like you’re kind of going a little bit crazy because everything’s coming at you. I remember that I was having such a hard time trying to take it all in that I was afraid to turn the lights off in my bedroom because I was afraid what the next day was going to look like. You look at those kinds of situations, Chris, and you’re saying hope? I was just hoping to get up the next morning. I was just hoping that I have an office to go back to that people would be in it and my employees would support my business. I was just hoping that I wouldn’t get another phone call about something else bad that was happening. I was hoping for a better day the day after that and the next week and the next month. It felt like the summer would never end. It was just so many things hitting at the same time. But, I do think that when you go through those kind of this that God challenges you at different times. You’re reading my first book about an embezzlement that we had years ago, in fact four years before this crazy summer and we thought we’d seen it all. A lady stole a bunch of money from us, we had her prosecuted, it was a surreal experience.

Honestly, I thought everything – we’ve been through the worst. I was pretty much convinced to that and then that summer hit. I think that’s what – for people listening to this interview, you need to understand this, God doesn’t hand you challenges because it’s convenient for you to deal with it in this space. Wednesday is – we got a little bit of space between our – it doesn’t work like that. Four years later, we got challenged big time yet again. That number could’ve put us out of business, Chris, easily. What happened is still something that was the inspiration to write the second book. We chose that time, we chose that moment in time to do something special. We didn’t know it at the time. Keep in mind, this summer 2007, a few months after that? Guess what happened, that annoying thing, you may have heard it, called the great recession?

Chris Williams:

Yes. I heard about it once or twice.

Jay Myers:

We’re trying to grow a business when everybody else is trying to stay in business. I’m very proud. What we did was we used that whole crisis, that whole horrible situation to wipe the slate clean and do something special. What was that something special? We doubled business during the recession.

Chris Williams:

Incredible.

Jay Myers:

We’re kind of building things and weird things today on some of the business and trying to maintain and trying to continue to grow, but in a four-year period of time, we went from $11 to $25 Million in sales, from almost 7 to 11.

Chris Williams:

The worst time ever to grow business.

Jay Myers:

The worst time ever to grow a business.

Chris Williams:

Wow.

Jay Myers:

So, Chris honestly, the theme of this interview is hope, that’s all we had at that point and we felt like the days were going to be better in the future that they had been in the past. We didn’t dwell in the past and I got to tell you, I’m not a hero here. I’m just a regular guy. What I did, I think, may be different from some other people and people who are listening to this interview, I listen to my people. They understood we were under the gun and they responded. Some people that we would never expect. I mean we have engineers who work around here, they’re not very emotional, but when it comes to you back them in the corner, it’s amazing what people can do.

I discovered, they can read the book, your listeners, everything about people and my engineers that have been with me the longest time, this guy when we got all the sales people leave, he’s the guy that came up with the idea to have a pep talk and give the people who are still working here, the sales team, to get it going and blaze their own trail and all that.

Chris Williams:

Wow.

Jay Myers:

So, sometimes moments of the greatest distress can create the greatest opportunity. That’s what happened in our case.

Chris Williams:

What’s your definition of hope, one more time? If you can just remind me.

Jay Myers:

My definition of hope, and this is just me talking, looking at the dictionary and everything, Wikipedia, I think it’s a deep feeling that one has that things will get better.

Chris Williams:

Somehow, you were able to not only have – truly have it in your won heart, but also communicate to your team, your family, friends, I mean you have done all. That was the life. You were getting hammered and your friends and family were getting hammered.

Jay Myers:

Honestly Chris, at one point, I think, again, I’m not a hero here. I thought it was like the human side of me was going – it felt like God was plowing on. I mean it’s like, come on, I can take a couple of these things but really, four or five in a row kind of deal is just – I felt battered. I’m left traumatized or whatever. But, when that situation, when we started to pull out of it and we started to get a side of that what we could do, when we had the hope firmly planted in the middle of our psyche, then it became a remedy crop. We’ve done some other things. I mean hope became the mantra for the 2008 as I recall and that kind of kicked in another year.

I remember walking around this building saying, the recession, I don’t want to talk about. We’re choosing not to participate. So, I played around, I had nothing to base it all. Just being stubborn. I said, we’re not selling bank loans or with all the stuff that was going on those days. By the way, even today, if you sit here six years later, there are still small businesses that are absolutely scarred about that whole recession. I mean it’s still tough, but what we did was use all that negativity to learn from it and move forward. Hope is a big piece of that. We hoped and we worked hard for a better future.

Chris Williams:

From reading your book, I know a story of something in your lobby. Out there you have this huge piece of white paper. It looks like it’s stuck on the wall, but it’s really nice and 8 feet tall, a letter from a physician in Arkansas. If I remember correctly, you gained that client during some of those times and this letter just talks about the hundreds of people that the technology provides here as a company in South because you were able to not just change the mind of your company and this isn’t meant to go back to entrepreneurial story, but it’s a hope story of you could have taken the back seat and fold it, gone home, taken a lot less risk, whatever it may be, but you’ve actually helped and probably saved hundreds of lives because you stuck out, went for it and grew.

Jay Myers:

I appreciate that. Chris, the technology that you’re referring to is Telemedicine and the client over in Arkansas, UAMS, University of Arkansas Medical Sciences Group has just been a terrific client of ours. The other thing that’s interesting too is selling technology to them, the Telemedicine carts and the Hammers and all videoconferencing technology is one thing, but the mission of what we’re doing with that equipment as it applies to treating patients in rural areas – and yes we’re very proud of that letter. That’s why we got there the infant version. But, the other part of it is the story behind it that included people being in rural clinics where they’re being treated for – I could picture one case, a stroke victim, patient, that was not a victim actually because he was able to be treated by his specialist who is 200, 300 miles away and was able to prescribe the proper drug, the TPA drug that keep him from having a stroke and literally went to the doctor one day for potentially life altering death event and two days later he’s back to work.

This is much more than a business making money for us and for me. That’s again, you have to do that because we’ve got 50 something employees in the last term. It’s a matter of, to me, leveraging technology to improve people’s lives. Guess what, at some level give them hope that by virtue of using this technology and being a part of it, they can improve their lives and be able to go about doing what they enjoy doing in the rural community and not having to worry about trying to take off to go to the doctor and all these other things. So, we see a bigger mission with our technology.

Chris Williams:

It’s great to hear that.

Question 4 – How are you sharing hope today?

You’ve come through a lot, been through a lot, learned a lot. What are you doing today that you’re involved in that’s really actively giving hope to others?

Jay Myers:

Chris, like you, I’m the mentor with the Start Co. folks downtown on Memphis and the start up companies which is really a lot of fun. I know you’ve done a lot of things there, probably more than I have in trying to help business clients and everything. But, I think that those kinds of things were involved at, we try to provide hope to young entrepreneurs. You did this business off the ground and you can be sitting in my shoes 18, 19 years from now and you could be successful. Just hang in there, provide that kind of hope and we give pep talks and we start to work on their business plans and try to give them some ideas on how to make money, how to survive and grow with technology. That’s one way we do it.

We also think by virtue of just learning the successful and employing people and keeping it going, we know that there are people here that are watching what we do everyday and by virtue of running a successful business, it also has honesty, integrity and ethics within the way we run the business. Not just running it successfully but doing it the right way that we also provide hope to those folks as well. One of the things that I’m particularly proud about, to answer question, I’ve been a member of this board, The Better Business Bureau here in Memphis for a long time. I’m currently the board of chair and so, what does that mean? My family has been involved for a number of years, my Dad, my brother Raymond, the organization for two or three decades. The other part of it is, what does that mean?

Today’s environment to have the representation of a business, in our case, with the technology business to have as your foundation, pillars in the way you run your business, honesty, integrity and ethics. Chris, you and I both know there’s a whole lot of people out there that run their business in a very different manner. A lot of deceit, all kinds of behavior that’s not right. Go back to that, how do we share hope with the business community in particular? By being the representative on Better Business Bureau Board, by being active in it, by laying this business everyday, we see to do it the right way, with honesty, integrity and ethics. WE think that gives people hope and when people deal with us, they know that they’re dealing with a credible firm.

Chris Williams:

I think you’re absolutely right and it’s great to see somebody giving hope and using hope, sharing it in their specialties. Often, we think of a Mother Theresa type or somebody whose helping hunger issues in Africa or whatever it may be if it seems like, oh that’s giving hope. Education to kids who don’t have enough and they are. Those are fantastic causes, but you have to be oriented towards that often to do that or donating dollars to it. But, you’re actually getting to use your time, your skill set, the way you’re gifted to bring hope at a genre that most folks don’t think about sharing hope in.

Jay Myers:

We definitely feel a lot of pride about that. And then on the charitable and the social issues, we just had somebody coming here yesterday, Sister Maureen Griner from the Dorothy Day House, they support the homeless in Memphis. Our employees came in, I’m very proud of them, we have a program here called ISI Gives Back and we put initials in front of our employees to see, is this something you’re interested in pursuing in terms of charitable donations? They vote on what we support and you would have been proud and I know I was at the reaction my employees had at the Dorothy Day House. It didn’t take a lot to get people’s attention when you talk about your people’s lives and to live in the streets or live in the woods, small children that don’t have a place to sleep or have dinner and be able to eat. It’s unbelievable.

So, even here in 2014, to think about over 150 families in Memphis, homeless and The Dorothy Day House only has a certain number of places that they can provide. So, they become a temporary stopping point. They’re not social workers. Sister Maureen Griner is a catholic nun, but there’s no religion over time. It’s just people helping people. Our folks really got it – or people like to help people.

Chris Williams:

That’s great to hear. It really is. You have given us some phenomenal stuff.

Question 5 – How can we take action today? Listeners who are tuning in, hearing the story, understanding what you’ve come through, what you’ve done, what would you say? Some simple 1,2,3 steps, go to this resources, read this book, what can we do today to take action about hope and using hope in our lives or in the lives of folks around us?

Jay Myers:

I think a lot of people read my books, again marketing over, but that’s just a portion of it. I think one of your guest, I believe or to have in future shows is Bill Courtney and I think one of the things I would close with your listeners is that, when dealing with any of the things in trying to promote hope and all this, you got to get out of your comfort zone and you’ve got to engage to be able to and be vulnerable to what throws to you and be able to react to it. So, in our case promoting hope, sharing the stories that we have and the fact that it was with hope that we were able to get through all these things in the past and even in the future as well.

God don’t look at you and say guess what, you’re done, you had the worst stuff happen, we have ongoing challenges today. But, I think if you brace the strategy of hope and believe that the next day is going to be better, the one you’re in today, solid way to lend your life and your business and I will say that – although it’s not necessarily a management strategy, it’s a great personal strategy to be able to interweave with your business and to be able to not only cope with the future and survive, but to thrive as well.

Chris Williams:

That’s really true. I hear you loud and clear. It’s so important for us to be able to recognize what’s going on, deal with it honestly, know it’s real, it’s hard, it’s painful, but you have to know there’s a tomorrow. There really is and you have to be able to keep focusing on, keep going, what’s next and build in with folks and supporting people around you and also yourself internally.

Jay Myers:

Absolutely.

Chris Williams:

That’s great. Really good. So, how can we connect with you? If we want to follow you somewhere or learn more about you, obviously two phenomenal books, got one, Keep Swinging, right here and the second one, if I’m getting the right order, Hitting the Curveballs.

Jay Myers:

Right.

Chris Williams:

Great books. You can find them online. But, tell us where else, Twitter, Facebook, what have you got there?

Jay Myers:

Yes. Twitter would probably be the best place, @jbmyers. Best way also, I have a website for my book and public speaking and all sorts of things, it’s jaymyersceo.com. Got everything on there. Company website, isitn.com.

Chris Williams:

Excellent. These are worthwhile checking out. I’ve looked through them all many times and found good resources there. I’ll put them all in the show notes on the website, isharehope.com. Any last points of wisdom that we need to know about before we wrap it up here in a second?

Jay Myers:

Not a whole lot there, Chris, except for the fact that I think above these books and everything, never give up, believe in yourself, there is always hope.

Chris Williams:

Any band or music you’re listening to these days that you pop in and say, it’s going to fire me up today, I’ll be ready to get something done.

Jay Myers:

You threw me off on that one Chris, but I’m a big Steely Dan fan, so pretty much everything they’ve done, but I know my wife, if she’s listening to this, she might enjoy Babylon Sisters though.

Chris Williams:

Okay. Steely Dan and Babylon Sisters. Sure we can find something there. That sounds good. Jay, thanks for your time.

Jay Myers:

Thank you.

Chris Williams:

Jay Myers is my first interview ever and I so appreciate your time Jay. I’m sitting here on my porch this morning going through the interview, getting ready, taking some notes and I can’t believe the value that you brought to this interview. Practical, actionable points, so many things that you’ve done and just really in the hardest days, to believe and move forward and bring a group of people around you to believe and move forward and put together a plan that really worked and then by allowing me to interview you the very first time. Thank you Jay. Apologies for any lack of audio quality. I was just learning and very new, still am, but Jay, you are so kind and you have given me so much hope. I’m so pleased and proud to share the hope that you gave me. Thanks for listening.

You’ve just listened to I Share Hope. If you’re ready to make a change, head to our website at isharehope.com and claim your free copy of the Top Ten Actions of Hope from World Leaders to use hope in your own life. Thanks for listening and we’ll talk to you next time.

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