As founder, president and chief executive officer, Kenneth Hamilton runs Total Tech LLC, a 2-year-old Kearny Mesa company with revenues of $1.25 million last year.
And he has tough love to thank for it.
Hamilton, 44, spent more than 17 years working for “the man” in corporate America before mustering up the courage to start his own network security company.
Like countless small-business owners before him, Hamilton struggled with giving up a steady paycheck. That is until one day when an entrepreneurial friend put everything into perspective with one gut-wrenching comment , “You’ve been institutionalized.”
“I was very upset by that at first,” Hamilton said. “In fact, I said I got to go and walked away.”
After some thought, Hamilton said he began to realize his friend was right. He had become programmed to expect a paycheck every two weeks and to follow the rules his company set forth with little to no personal risk to himself. He’d followed the crowd and put his livelihood into someone else’s hands for far too long.
After the epiphany, Hamilton picked up the phone and called his friend.
“I apologized first and thanked him second,” he said.
Armed with newfound courage, Hamilton launched his company in 2004, working with other businesses to secure their computer network systems.
While successful now, Hamilton admits to having more questions than answers in the beginning.
“I was really driven by fear in starting the business initially because I only had so much startup money and I knew once that was gone, that was it,” Hamilton said.
Name: Kenneth J. Hamilton.
Titles: President, chief executive officer.
Company: Total Tech LLC.
Company address: 3914 Murphy Canyon Road, A-126, San Diego.
Company phone: (858) 433-9735.
Year founded: 2004.
Prior business experience: Entrepreneurial executive with more than 17 years’ experience managing technical, professional service sales for startup and established technology companies.
Average hours worked weekly: 60.
Source of startup capital: Personal savings.
2006 revenue: $1.25 million.
2005 revenue: $140,000.
Number of employees: Three (plus several outside contractors).
Web site: www.1totaltech.com.
Birthplace: Springfield, Ohio.
Education: Bachelor’s degree in business management.
Current residence: Scripps Ranch.
Family: Wife, Jennifer, and son, Troy, 16.
Hobbies: American history, blues guitar (when I have time) and running.
Reasons for getting into business: Had a desire to leverage my industry knowledge and my ability to build relationships so I can set company direction.
How I plan to grow the business: Continue to build relationships. Hiring the right people. Applying our technology and experience to under-served markets. Continuing to differentiate Total Tech in a competitive market by offering a high level of service.
Biggest plus of business ownership: Having the opportunity to create the organization, from casting a vision to hiring the right people.
Biggest drawback: Not being able to spend as much time with my wife and family.
Biggest business strength: Relationship building and risk taking.
Biggest business weakness: Impatience.
Biggest risk: Not owning the intellectual property that our company depends on (but we are solving that).
Smartest business decisions: Not giving up ownership of the business. Hiring the right people.
Biggest business mistake: Selling a product or service that didn’t fit within the core business.
Toughest career decision: Going from the corporate world to starting my own business.
Biggest ongoing challenge: Building awareness in a competitive market space. Developing our own intellectual property and making it a more significant contributor to the business.
The most important part of my business: Satisfied customers who refer us to other customers.
My business works best when: We align our mission and goals of the company with the customers’ needs.
Best way to stay competitive: Staying strategic and tactical at the same time. Utilizing the right tools and efficiencies to maximize profitability. Building a strong infrastructure. Always asking what’s next. Having the tools in place to be operationally sound.
How I measure success: Quantitatively , meeting revenue and profitability goals. Qualitatively , measuring and reporting on customer satisfaction.
Goals yet to be achieved: One hundred percent revenue growth for the next two years, continually identifying new markets.
My five-year business plan: Establish managed security for small- to medium-sized businesses. Branding Total Tech as the security-solutions expert.
I would sell my business only if: If I were able to accomplish the key goals that I have set for the company and selling it would offer me the opportunity to take on bigger challenges. And execute on other entrepreneurial ideas.
Guiding principles I will continue to follow: Hiring the best and most talented people. Our success is predicated on providing network technology solutions for our customers. We need to meet or beat their expectations and be open to new ideas, new ways of doing things and other challenges.