Nick Bock is the co-founder and CEO of Five Nines Technology Group. Together with business partner James Bowen, Five Nines has been able to grow from the original three employees in 2006 to their current 80+ employees. Nick has a strong passion for learning, and is always seeking new ways to build on the foundation that Five Nines was established on.
Nick graduated from Union College in 1998 with a degree in history education. He is married to his lovely wife Erin, and is the proud father of two children, Derek (16) and Kylie (14), as well as two stepchildren, Ethan (13) and Ava (10). He loves all sorts of fitness endeavors, traveling, and poker. He is ecstatic that Birkenstocks came back into style, and is patiently waiting for Dr. Marten shoes to come back as well.
Tell me about your early career.
I started working when I was ten years old, mowing lawns and selling Current (stationary) door to door. I picked up a paper route at eleven, and had more jobs than you can count throughout high school. As I graduated from college with a history education degree, I was focused on my belief that you should love what you do. Unfortunately, it didn’t turn out to be teaching high school history! I went on to be an IT person, started my own online e-commerce business, was a pharmaceutical sales rep, and finally a semi-professional poker player!
How did the concept for Five Nines come about?
My current business partner and I had both already started our own IT companies, so Five Nines was a merger of sorts. We were both of similar age, and we believed that IT was about much more than just fixing IT problems. It was about building relationships with our clients to help them be successful.
How was the first year in business?
It was actually really great. We experienced rapid growth, and our community in Lincoln really embraced us as a business. We built a core that would be the building block for the Five Nines that exists today!
What was your marketing strategy?
We learned a lot about marketing in those first few years. The most important thing we learned was how important awareness marketing was. Clients switch frequently in our industry, so much of our focus is on awareness so that those companies know who we are, what we do, and most importantly, that we are their best choice for IT support.
How fast did the company grow during the first few years?
It was crazy. For the service industry, it was really rapid growth. We experienced approximately 100% YoY growth each of our first three years! Somehow, we survived those chaotic years, and learned enough hard lessons to still be around eleven years later.
How do you define success?
Not going out of business.
What is the key to success?
Never sitting back in your chair and thinking you’ve got it all figured out. That second is the first second of the trip down the other side of the mountain to failure. Secondly, it’s never giving up.
What is the greatest lesson you’ve ever learned?
Revenue is vanity, profit is sanity, cash is KING. You can run a profitable business with growing revenue, but if you don’t pay attention to your cash, you can crash and burn.
What are some quotes that you live by?
“In the confrontation between the stream and the rock, the stream always wins…not through strength, but through persistence.”
“Success isn’t owned. It’s leased. And rent is due every day.”
Tell me about one of the toughest days you’ve had as an entrepreneur.
Any day that I have to let someone go. It’s the worst thing about owning a business, hands down.
When faced with adversity, what pushes you to keep moving forward?
You don’t have a choice! It’s not like a regular job where you can just quit and get a different job. You’ve got to push through, figure it out, and persevere.
What advice would you give to young entrepreneurs?
One of my favorite videos of all time is Bill Gates and Steve Jobs up on stage, and someone asks them about being an entrepreneur. Jobs responds that you have to be passionate about whatever it is that you are doing. You can’t just do it for money, because at times it’ll be so hard, and you’ll have so many times where you want to quit, but you don’t because when you are passionate about something, you can dig deep and find a way to keep pushing through. The moral of that is to go into a business you are passionate about. It’s the only way you have a shot.
This interview was conducted for research purposes by author Jason Navallo for his upcoming book, Underdog.
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