Clint Betts

Bill, thank you so much for coming on the show. It means a lot to have you here. I want to start, let's give people a little sense of your background. You've actually had a really interesting career, an interesting life. You were in the Air Force for eight years, right?

Bill Wosilius

Yeah. Yeah, I was.

Clint Betts

What was that experience like?

Bill Wosilius

That was a long, long time ago. No, it was awesome. That started on the heels of spending four years at the Air Force Academy in the late '80s and early '90s, so I'm not sure how much you know about that, but we have a service commitment after we graduate, and so I went and served the country as an aircraft maintenance officer for the better part of eight years; F-15s, F-22s. And that was in the era of in between the first Gulf War and 9/11. So, I spent some time in a little place called Bosnia and worked that mission. But at the end of the day, I made the decision in the late 1990s, early 2000s to take my career into corporate America.

Clint Betts

That was the Top Gun era, wasn't it?

Bill Wosilius

Believe it or not, that was the influential movie that made me join the military and I didn't want to spend the rest of my career on a boat, and so I joined the Air Force instead of the Navy.

Clint Betts

That's incredible. So you're the CEO of NexusTek. Tell me about your journey to getting to that position today.

Bill Wosilius

Yeah, you bet. Like I said, I spent eight years on active duty and when I transitioned into corporate America, my first job out of the military, I went to work for a couple of classmates of mine from the Academy that had started a data center business called Inflow, and this is back in the late 1990s. And I joke about this; I'm an accidental IT guy, because of that experience. I thought a router back then took the edge off a piece of wood, and that's true, but that wasn't the kind that we dealt with. So I had to learn IT on the fly and I've just spent the better part of 25 years or so in tech companies, whether it was data center business, cybersecurity businesses, managed IT services. My whole career has been in that space and about almost five years ago, I got a phone call from a private equity sponsor that I had done some work with in my past, and they had a business headquartered here in Denver, which is where I live, and needed a CEO. So, I got an opportunity to become a first time CEO five years ago, and it's been nothing but bliss since.

Clint Betts

So what does NexusTek do?

Bill Wosilius

It's the explanation I give to my family, because they don't understand tech either, it's in your business, you have a problem with technology, you pick up the phone and you call your IT people. And all we are is an IT outsourcing organization. We manage IT and cybersecurity services for businesses that are really too small to have any meaningful IT expertise in-house. So, that's the easiest answer to it. We've got about 1200 businesses nationwide that are customers, ranging from on the high end, a couple thousand employees, all the way down on the low end to 50 or 60.

Clint Betts

How concerning is cybersecurity right now? Has it ever been worse? Probably not, but I would love to hear your thoughts there. And with AI, how is that changing cybersecurity?

Bill Wosilius

Yeah, everybody asks that question and cybersecurity is the boogeyman these days. I tell you; three years ago when we had a little pandemic and everybody moved from their corporate office behind the firewall in a controlled environment and moved into their spare bedrooms and started working from home, it increased the attack surface by a factor of a thousand.

Clint Betts

You know what? I never even thought about that. That is so fascinating. Yeah, because all of the offices have great cybersecurity and you take it to your home wifi. Well, yeah, maybe they do or they don't, but at least it's probably better than the home wifi. And wow, that's incredible. So how bad did it get?

Bill Wosilius

Yeah, it's interesting, the first call is six months, maybe call it middle of 2020, a lot of companies were scrambling to enable their people to work remotely, and that required implementing some technology that tried to plug those holes and enable people to be productive. And so for us, it really created a lot of work to get those customers caught up. We're a IT centric business, so we were used to being able to work from anywhere and being mobile, but our customers, it was implementing Microsoft Teams and VPNs and all kinds of technology, not only to secure where they were working from, but really to allow them to be productive. Many businesses, those people hadn't worked anywhere other than the office.

Clint Betts

Yeah, it's fascinating. I've never even thought about that until now, what that did to security. Has it gotten better now that people are coming back, or is it still a hybrid thing?

Bill Wosilius

I think it's still hybrid. I think depending on what industry you're in, it may be less hybrid than others. But I would say for the tech enabled business where, unlike manufacturing, you have to go in, because you have to create something on a production line, but if you're tech enabled and you can go anywhere, I think we're pretty stable where we're at. We have customers that are still fully remote and we are as well. We go to the office when we need to, but for the most part, we can do what we need to do anywhere, anytime. So, I think personally that a hybrid work environment is here to stay. I think people like the flexibility they've gotten out of what I call the high-speed wobble of working remotely. They manage the work, or the home distractions, and I think it's here to stay really.

Businesses have tried to force their employees to come back to the office and it's met with revolt and frankly, we talked about it for a very short period of time and we left it alone. It's actually been a blessing for us, because now we can recruit more nationally in places where we didn't have offices and we're able to find the best level of talent regardless of where they live. Forcing people to come into an office, not only going to make them cranky, because they have to sit in traffic for a couple hours, but maybe you can't get the people that have the skill sets that you want in the location that you want. So, it's a good thing for us.

Clint Betts

What did you learn as a leader and from a leadership perspective going through that process of; "Hey, pandemic's over. Should we all come back to the office?" And then that whole part, you said you talked about it, I wonder how you led through that and maybe what you learned during that experience.

Bill Wosilius

Yeah, anybody that says that they knew what they were doing in that period is lying to you, because none of us had ever lived through any of that before. But I tell you, we kept a focus on culture and really created a culture of open, transparent communication, telling people what was going on. I think one of the things we learned was people were woefully unprepared to hold themselves accountable to working the same way they would in an office from their spare bedroom. And so a lot of people, the line got blurry between work time and playtime, and we had to work through some of that stuff. But I think the key was creating an environment where people felt connected, they knew what was going on, they didn't feel like they were out on an island.

And, we had a really fun thing that we did. We had a house band, so we had a group of employees, we have about 350 employees or so, and we have a group of people that are just really musically inclined. And during the height of the pandemic, they wanted to do a music project. And so they all filmed individual components, drums, guitar, vocals, et cetera, and they did a couple of covers. They did the Eagles' Hotel California. We did a fun one that I had a little cameo in, which was a Backstreet Boys song. And so everybody sent in their individual components and we had a video editor on our staff, our content guy, and put together a pretty cool little music video of a cover of a song. So it kept people connected to their coworkers even though they weren't sitting right next to each other. It was cool.

Clint Betts

What does a typical day look like for you?

Bill Wosilius

God. Well, it looks a lot like this; two-dimensional. I like the three-dimensional world much better, but the reality of it is its two-dimensional meetings, Teams and Zoom. And I spend 80% of my time externally focused with investors and investor relations. I think this is a pretty well-known topic, but we're an M&A roll-up platform, so we've acquired eight businesses over the last four or five years. So I spent a lot of my time doing that, talking to business owners, and I leave the day-to-day running of the business to those that are much closer to it than I am.

Clint Betts

We talk a lot about self-leadership at CEO.com, and I wonder for you, what does that mean? How important is that to you? And what have you learned over the years on what keeps you sane and grounded?

Bill Wosilius

Yeah. Man, that's a great question. I am a huge leadership fan, Kool-Aid drinker. I have a saying that the fish rots from the head down. So if you have poor leadership, it's going to affect the entire organization. And we've invested heavily here at NexusTek in that vein. We've created a thing that we call the NexusTek Leadership Academy. We take about 25 of our frontline leaders, high potential leaders through an executive MBA style program that we teach once a month, a couple hours each month, on different topics ranging from how to read a financial statement to how does the M&A acquisition process work. And so we're giving our people those leadership skills. I developed this program around the kinds of things that I wish somebody had told me 25 years ago that I wouldn't have had to skin my knees so much along the way, but we invest heavily in leadership and I think it's critical.

Companies invest all the time in technical training and sending people to sales training, sales methodology training and those sorts of things, but our leaders get ignored and it's like any other skill; you have to practice it. So that's how we approached it, but personally, I give, it's not TED Talks, because I don't think TED Talks care about me, but I've given TED Talks-like speeches to other organizations and I've got a list of eight things that I talk about in those things, and it's my leadership odyssey.

And it's things like the best job they ever had is the one you have right now. And there's three things that are certain in life; death, taxes and people will quit. Don't be the sixth idiot. If you hang around five successful people, you'll be the sixth. Don't be the sixth idiot. And so I have this list of eight things that I go through, and it's all based on real life things that I've lived through in my career.

Clint Betts

How do you define the culture of your company? How did you come up with it and how do you communicate it? Particularly now that you're in this hybrid work environment or remote work environment, I'm sure that's become a challenge as well.

Bill Wosilius

Yeah, building culture as a CEO, your job in my opinion is two things: mitigate risk and develop the culture. And it's hard enough to develop a culture if you're in person. It's even harder when you're remote. And so, we dealt with that a little bit pre-pandemic. I had to revamp the culture here at NexusTek, because prior to my arrival, it had become very much a technical culture, so it valued how smart your engineers were and who had a bigger brain and those sorts of things to one of passionate customer service. We're in an industry where customers pay us, in a lot of cases, a lot of money every month to be their IT department. And when they're unhappy, it's usually not because we don't have smart people, it's usually because we weren't doing the things that created a culture of passionate customer service.

So, I had to start with that. It was mission, vision, values. It was creating a culture of passionate customer service, and then not only saying that, but driving that through not only rebranding the website and the things that you would typically see, but every month we do an all hands call for all 350 people and we talk about our core values and we hand out a $100 gift card to Amazon for the person that best exhibited the core values of the business.

So we beat that drum every month, and we don't frankly tolerate people that don't believe in those core values. It's just; it's okay if you don't have the same core values as us, but in order to work here, you have to. So we drive that and it has to bleed from your skin to really... The employees of the business know when your culture or your mission, vision, values are lip service. They know, they just do.

Clint Betts

How do you decide where to spend your time each day? Given you probably have so many incoming and there's probably 10 different things you could be doing even right now, how do you decide where to put your focus, time and energy?

Bill Wosilius

Yeah, that's a great question. I wish I had a scientific answer for you. I am pretty protective of my calendar. So, at the beginning of a week, I'm looking a week ahead and going, "What are the things that I have to be involved in, versus nice to haves?" I try to keep the things on the calendar that require my involvement, not things that are micromanagement things, but I think the biggest thing I do, and I'm not always successful at this, but I try to block off an afternoon once a week to actually think and to not do the whirlwind tasks that need to get done and work on the business instead of in the business, whether that be reading up on articles on our industry, or leadership, or reading a book that I assign to our leadership academy class. So, it's real easy to get bogged down as a CEO in the weeds, and you have to preserve time to think, or else you will become that 50-foot leader instead of the 50,000-foot leader.

Clint Betts

Who's a leader or an example of a leader that you admire?

Bill Wosilius

Well, there's a lot of them. One of those eight lessons that I talk about in my leadership odyssey is to find a mentor and invest time in those relationships with people that have been there and done that. I have had two, one unfortunately passed away a few years ago, but the other is still a really influential guy named John Kelley. He was a former CEO of McData, board member of Polycom and former Quest executive, and he's been there and done that. And I love the way that guy led. I love the way that he engages with people and he makes everybody that he interacts with feel super important. And I think you look at that guy's career, and if I'm even half as successful as he was then I'm doing okay.

Clint Betts

It sounds like he was super empathetic, and I wonder what role you believe empathy plays in leadership?

Bill Wosilius

Yeah, I think he had a good balance of empathy and reality. Are you familiar with the term The Stockdale Paradox?

Clint Betts

No.

Bill Wosilius

Admiral Stockdale, prisoner of war, Hanoi Hilton, Vietnam era, and one of the... If you look it up, it's effectively based on his experience as a POW in Vietnam, and it was his observation that those that came into the prisoner of war camp that were overly optimistic will be out by Christmas. And then they were let down, they failed, they didn't make it, as well as those that were super negative and; "We're never going to get out of here."

And those people didn't make it, but the people that were super realistic about their situation, but yet had ultimate faith that they would one day make it home. And it's called The Stockdale Paradox. And I think John Kelley's view on leadership really aligns with that. It's like, "Hey, you can be a great cheerleader to your people and be super empathetic, but if you're not real and you're not painting the picture, the reality of what they're facing, you're setting people up for failure." So I think not only was he empathetic, but he was also a realist. And I think that's a good combination.

Clint Betts

Part of your job also is to look at the macroeconomic environment, the macro environment in general now, which is different for CEOs than 20 years ago. CEOs today are asked to make comments on what's going on in other realms of society that have nothing to do with their business, which is interesting. I wonder; how do you think about that and how do you handle that whenever that comes, if it ever comes up in your world? And what are you thinking, going into 2024, what the macroeconomic environment will be like, how you think we're handling it as a country and then the rest of the world?

Bill Wosilius

Yeah, that's a great question. Like you said, I do get asked those questions. I'm not a global economist by trade, so I also know my swim lane and what my area of expertise is. I can tell you I have the same view about the global economic situation as I had about COVID, which is anybody that says they know how to navigate their way through what we're experiencing is lying, because I think over the last three years, the worst economic environment in a hundred years since the Great Depression, so none of us have lived through that. We've lived through, some of us that are older, have lived through some tougher times like the late 2000s and those sorts of things, but nobody really... I firmly believe if you say that you know what's going to happen, you're probably lying. Now, that said, I'm optimistic about the direction that things are heading, but is it back to where it was pre-pandemic? No, not a chance. We're still seeing the knock on effects of that, and I think we will for some time.

Clint Betts

Yeah. Yeah. That's interesting. Bill, I can't thank you enough for —

Bill Wosilius

How was that for a vague answer?

Clint Betts

I loved it. I loved it. That's perfect. I can't thank you enough for coming on. Seriously, it's an honor to have you. We end every interview the same way at CEO.com, and that is, we believe the chances one gives are just as important as the chances one takes. When you hear that, who comes to mind that gave you a chance to get you to where you are today?

Bill Wosilius

Yeah, it's a great question. I knew you were going to ask it, because you ask it in all of your shows. I'd have to say it's a guy named Kip Turco. He is a partner at Abry Partners, our private equity sponsor here at NexusTek, and five years ago when they had a need for a first time CEO, even though I had done CEO like roles, run large business units for other larger companies, I hadn't punched the ticket yet and he gave me my first shot. He knew that I had what it took, even though I hadn't had that shot before. And what's the saying, is luck is when preparation meets opportunity. I had done the prep work and he gave me the opportunity.

Clint Betts

That's great. Bill, thanks again so much for coming on. I'm sure we'll have you back on again. Seriously, it's an honor.

Bill Wosilius

Thanks, Clint. Appreciate it.