Hello everyone! This month’s spotlight is for all my small business owners out there. Let me introduce Tom Hughes—client, friend, and one of the most reputable businessmen I know. I first met Tom in his bathroom. Yes, you read that right! I was actually doing hair for his daughter’s wedding at his beautiful home. Little did I know at the time he was a total superstar in the tech world and a mentor for so many business professionals like myself. Tom, his wife Julie, and his two daughters have been my customers for over 13 years now! Here’s why Tom is our spotlight of the month!
A Certified Business Boss
A Seattle native, Tom went to the University of Washington, majoring in Business Administration with an emphasis in Information Technology. He began his career in software development, moved into IT Management, and was in charge of information technology for a multinational construction company across the Pacific Rim. In 1997, Tom started what soon became a very, very reputable cloud services company, WTS, Inc. After 15 years, Tom sold his company, stayed on with them for a little over a year to help transition, and eventually retired in 2013.
Yes, this is an impressive resume (and JUST a quick intro, so check him out on Linkedin for more career details!). How he got here is what separates him from the rest. From creative networking (like working trade shows and offering free software trainings) to establishing and sustaining trusting relationships inside and outside his company, Tom created a name for himself in the IT industry that still resonates today.
Tom’s Tips for Entrepreneurial Success!
Network to Stay on Top
As you know, my business thrives on customer referrals. Without their (your!!) support, my salon wouldn’t exist today! Tom says there’s no question that networking helped establish his reputation (especially at the beginning!) creating that trusted network of people to help build, grow and sustain his business. Tom created his business based on a trusted network of people as well as his own pro-active contributions to his field. He was well connected with other informational technology professionals who were interested in his vision as well as a solid base of customers who wanted to continue business with him. He created significant working relationships before and after starting his business, and continues to build relationships with business professionals everyday.
When Tom finally retired he wanted to give back, but wasn’t sure how. He volunteered in the community and worked in soup kitchens serving others. But it was his wife Julie that inspired him to check out SCORE, an organization that mentored entrepreneurs. She reminded him that he can give back using his own rich experiences as an entrepreneur. SCORE turned out to be a true blessing. It’s an organization of volunteers that offers small-business advice and expertise. What started with just a small group of retired executives back in 1964 has now accumulated over 11,000 volunteers and 250 Chapters in the country, six of them in Washington State alone. These certified business mentors help small business entrepreneurs start, grow, re-structure and transition their businesses with free, professional advice. Tom is currently the organization’s Assistant District Director for the state of Washington.
Find Someone to Give You Advice
Perhaps one of Tom’s most significant tips for small business owners is to have an advisor. Whether that’s through a mentoring community like SCORE, or a business expert in their own field, it should be a priority. Entrepreneurs obviously have a knowledge and a passion about something, but there’s so many nuances and peripheral things they may know nothing about. Tom says an advisor will help them avoid a lot of pitfalls.
One piece of advice Tom first gives small business owners is to make sure they have a BAIL team intact. This consists of a Banker, Accountant, Insurance Broker and Lawyer. That way they are always protected and have experts contributing to the health and sustainability of their business.
**To find a business mentor, go to the website https://www.score.org, and plug in your zip code to generate a mentor near you.
My Top Two Takeaways:
- Network your butt off! But, not just talk to people. Build relationships with them. Tom sold his company to a trusted person in his network. He wasn’t looking to sell. When a person in his network reached out, he listened. Because he built this trusted professional relationship, he trusted the process. He sold the company, and finally had the financial freedom to soar and take on new adventures. Networking can literally change your life.
- Ask for Help. I’ve benefited greatly from using SCORE, getting support on the logistics of running my business. I seek business advice when needed, as their expertise is immeasurable. As Tom advised, let the experts help you navigate through the rough waters of business ownership.
- Learn to Pivot. Tom’s helped me see things from a new perspective, especially now during the pandemic. He advises to be flexible and be ready to pivot at any given time under any circumstances.
Thank you for reading everyone! Stay tuned for our next blog spotlight with Mindy Westfall, Owner of Snohomish Apothecary & Wellness coming soon!
Until next time my friends!