In 2013, Tim recognized the need for current and engaging eLearning for IT professionals and ITProTV was born. He had been operating a brick-and-mortar computer learning center and saw a gap he could fill where he could bring IT learning to the masses at an affordable price. As a career changer himself, Tim knew the value of IT training and he continues to believe that it can change lives. Today, ITProTV has a team of 70+, occupies a 28,000 square-foot studio, and creates new content every day. Even with explosive growth in the last four years, Tim is focused on expansion. He says “I am on a mission. A mission that will likely never end, that will provide every user on earth the opportunity to learn about technology, in an easy to understand, engaging way, that everyone can afford. It is our goal that every person will have an ongoing, continued subscription to ITProTV because it is the best asset and resource that IT professionals can use to be effective in their roles.”
How did the concept for ITPro.TV come about?
I’ve always been a tech enthusiast with a thirst for knowledge in that area. It was the 1990s and I had established an 8-year career in the trucking business – nothing to do with tech at all. I was a big fan of TechTV: a cable network channel featuring Leo LaPorte in the late 1990s, the godfather of technology. One day my wife said to me, “If you like tech so much, why don’t you turn it into a career?” So with her support, I changed careers and got my first IT certification. That led me to the business of IT training and I became a franchise operator for a traditional, instructor-led, brick-and-mortar training center. While that was a great business for more than 15 years, I saw a revolution coming. That revolution was video.
My team got the bug for creating IT training videos and streaming them to customers. It was clear that while there were many businesses selling online courses, there were few actually creating them. So we made the leap to fill that void and ITProTV was born. ITProTV evolved because we had a vision to create something that was better than what we had used when we were learning IT. We wanted to make IT training videos that were effective, entertaining, and engaging so that they would inspire rabid fans.
When we actually started selling memberships, I knew the TWiT network (Leo’s current network) would be our target audience. I personally traveled to the TWiT network in Petaluma, California to meet Leo to tell him our story and how he inspired me to change careers and get into a technology role. We were thrilled when he accepted ITProTV to be an advertiser on his network. His endorsement, coupled with the quality of our content, really launched our business into profitability. Today, we are removing obstacles for everyone to learn more about IT and we are empowering people around the world.
How was the first year in business?
At the time we began to create our original video content, we were working out the bugs, but still had the classroom training business. We were using cash flows from one and putting it in the other to get it started. I went to my team and explained the vision. Fortunately, I have a great group that believed, trusted, and helped us to get things rolling. I actually had to ask them to help launch this business in addition to their full-time jobs in the brick-and-mortar training center, all while telling them that I wouldn’t be able to pay them for a while. I pledged to share the revenue once it got rolling. Our awesome team trusted me and I can never repay them enough for those sacrifices in the beginning. I still have that original crew and it has, of course, expanded as we have grown. They have more than multiplied their investment of time over the past five years and will continue to reap those rewards from ITProTV. I am very grateful for their trust in me and the vision.
What was your marketing strategy?
Originally, it was quite simple. We had a direct-to-consumer model selling individual subscriptions that was supported by podcast advertising on the TWiT network. The thing about IT people is that they tend to be employed. So it wasn’t long before we started getting requests for multi-seat, business licenses. The B2B channel grew organically over four years, and we made a decision in late 2017 to focus on it. We brought in an experienced B2B marketing leader and launched a data-driven B2B marketing program that includes a mix of content marketing, social media, paid search, trade shows, and owned events targeted at IT leaders.
How fast did the company grow during the first few years?
We were very fortunate that members like our content and stay with us. In 2014, our first full year of sales, we broke $1 million. That was followed by $3 million, then $5 million, then $7 million last year. We will exceed $10 million in 2018, and we’re working out our plan now to exceed $15 million in 2019.
How do you define success?
Our team is truly driven by our purpose and core values. We talk about our values, live them, and reward those exceeding them often. We focus on empowering the world, by providing the most valuable resources/content to our members. Our success is truly defined by the number of active members and our NPS score (60+ – Happiness score). By focusing on our members’ success in everything we do, we can be rest assured that our families will have food on the table. Obviously, in my role as CEO, I discuss our numbers a lot with PE firms and the like, so the sales growth is exciting, but it is only a reflection of the success of our team in empowering more members each year. Cash is the fuel that gives us more resources to empower even more, so of course we focus on creating more fuel. My success, as the leader of the organization, is defined by our team’s growth and development, to see a rough piece of coal (young millennial) develop into a shiny diamond (young professional exceeding expectations) is very rewarding and satisfying. As CEO, our people and our team is my priority. It is my responsibility to empower them and develop them to be the best people they can be. Then it is our teams’ responsibility to serve our members and help them achieve their success. Happy members will take care of the company by remaining a member and telling their friends about ITProTV.
What is the key to success?
The only “key” or secret sauce to success is hard work and gratitude. Your team gives you their lives; don’t waste it. Rather, invest in them and the return will exceed your expectations.
What is the greatest lesson you’ve ever learned?
Trust the process while listening and trusting your gut/instinct. It is okay, in fact, it is awesome to make mistakes. That is the only way to learn and improve. Embrace those mistakes you make as well as the mistakes of others. Of course, smaller mistakes are more prudent than big mistakes. It’s always okay to make a mistake as long as you and your team learn from it. It’s what puts you closer to success.
What are some of your favorite books and quotes?
I am a big Simon Sinek fan, and so I really like Start with Why. Being able to meet him and spend some time with him was amazing, and he inspires me all the time. So many of his quotes resonate with me: “People don’t buy what you do, they buy ‘why’ you do it.” “Successful people ask better questions, therefore they get better answers.” “Context trumps content every time.”
Tell me about one of the toughest days you’ve had as an entrepreneur.
When you are ‘all in’ as an entrepreneur, there is no distinction between work and home; it’s all just your life. There is no difference between your business checking account and your personal. If you are ‘all in’ and believe in what you are doing, everything goes into the business. The toughest days were when cash was tight (or nonexistent) and you feel as though you have let your family down, or you feel your spouse or family is disappointed in you and you have failed. There are those sleepless nights when you lay there, staring at the ceiling, just wishing it was 5:00 AM and you could get up and go make it better. Those were some dark times, but remembering them, reflecting and telling others, helps you stay grounded and grateful for the normal times and the great times: the spikes. I have been very, very fortunate to have weathered many storms and still be here, and I truly believe that perseverance and grit is what got us through those times. I would greatly prefer that those lessons remain in my memory and not return.
When faced with adversity, what pushes you to keep moving forward?
It is my responsibility, as our team’s leader, to not let them down. I have to always be better and improve, continue to learn, and be the best I can be, for my team, my wife, and my family. I have been successful in surrounding myself with the greatest people. They are talented and awesome – the consequence is that I have self-inflicted pressure to be even better. There is certainly no resting around this place!
What advice would you give to young entrepreneurs?
First, don’t read Techcrunch and think PE/VC firms just throw easy dollars at you for an idea. While it certainly seems that way, from all of my conversations and experience, it is truly rare. Expect to work harder that you could ever imagine, put your team and family first and yourself last, and don’t require a lot of sleep or time with friends. Your business is your life, and ultimately, failure is not an option, but mistakes are okay. Just learn from them, and make “it” happen. Be nice to everyone, be vulnerable, ask for help, seek advice, and be thankful.
This interview was conducted for research purposes by author Jason Navallo for his upcoming book, Underdog.
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