Mike McKenna – President, Diamond Assets

Mike McKenna is the founder and president of Diamond Assets, the most trusted Apple hardware trade-up partner. He works with schools and other organizations to maximize the residual value of their Apple devices.

Before joining Diamond Assets, Mike was an Apple account representative, where he worked with school districts throughout Wisconsin to deliver technology to students needed to promote a digital learning environment.

He is a graduate of Eastern Illinois University and resides in Milton, Wisconsin.

How did the concept for Diamond Assets come about?
In early 2014, I was working as an account executive for Apple. I would visit schools and work with districts interested in buying EdTech devices for education. I saw that many of my customers were disposing of their old devices by recycling them and getting just pennies per pound, if that. Most of the devices from Apple were still valuable, but schools didn’t have an easy way to sell them. This is where the idea for Diamond Assets came to me.

How was the first year in business?
The company was founded in 2014, and the focus was on serving schools in the Midwest. Within a year, that expanded nationally. The first year involved a lot of long days traveling to meet with school districts and to validate our business model. Today, we serve schools in every state.

What was your marketing strategy?
Our marketing strategy has mainly been word of mouth and referrals. Our business development reps spend a lot of time meeting with district administrators and school boards to educate them on the benefits of trading up equipment and how they can get the most for their EdTech investment. Because of this educational approach, we have won the trust of many districts. We also have started building important alliances with district administrator organizations, and are working to educate the industry through thought leadership on topics such as total cost of ownership and the optimal time to trade-up devices.

How fast did the company grow during the first few years?
Revenue grew from $217,406 in 2014 to $43 million in 2017. We went from one employee to 120 employees during peak times.

How do you define success?
To me, success is setting audacious goals and then accomplishing them, even if others don’t think it can be done.

What is the key to success?
I believe there are three ingredients to success: passion for what you’re doing, a great product/service, and surrounding yourself with “A players” who are aligned with your vision. This last trait is really important. Our team has decades of experience in educational leadership, as well as former Apple executives and Apple engineers. Since we have this strong background and really care about helping organizations, the team is focused on delivering the best service possible.

What is the greatest lesson you’ve ever learned?
Every day brings new challenges so you can’t get complacent.

What are some quotes that you live by?
One of my favorite quotes is by Steve Jobs: “It doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and tell them what to do; we hire smart people so they can tell us what to do.” I really believe that businesses succeed when they hire really good people with diverse experiences, and provide an environment where their experiences and opinions matter.

Tell me about one of the toughest days you’ve had as an entrepreneur.
Security is very important to us, so we have implemented strong controls in our building and only hire workers who have been background checked. A couple years ago, we contracted with a temporary agency to provide workers to process devices with the promise that all workers would have passed a background check. We had a theft in our cafeteria one day, and were able to quickly access security camera footage to determine that the culprit was one of our temporary workers. I was shocked to learn that this person had a criminal background. We immediately canceled our contract with the temporary agency, as they clearly were not performing the required background checks. While this was upsetting, it also showed me that we had great controls in place to ensure the security of devices and the safety of our workers.

When faced with adversity, what pushes you to keep moving forward?
Now that our staff has grown, I feel responsible for more than just myself. I have staff who have families relying on the company for their livelihoods. That is a great motivator.

What advice would you give to young entrepreneurs?   
Take the leap and don’t have regrets. The biggest regret will always be not trying.

This interview was conducted for research purposes by Jason Navallo for his upcoming book, Underdog.

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