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CCCT with Rob Downs from Managed IT Solutions

CCCT with Rob Downs from Managed IT Solutions

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CCCT with Rob Downs, CEO & Chief Technology Strategist from Managed IT Solutions Video

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CCCT sat down with Rob Downs from Managed IT Solutions. Rob is a bestselling Author, Cybersecurity Expert, Cloud Integrator, and Chief Technology Strategist: His primary focus is ensuring the safety and security of his clients’ networks and data. By offering customized technology solutions, they help businesses streamline their operations and achieve the best return on investment with minimal hassle. Their latest cloud-based solution is designed to cater to most businesses, eliminating or significantly reducing traditional capital expenditures.

Specialties:

Cybersecurity – Protecting small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) in the challenging online environment by securing their networks and educating employees on potential threats.

Cloud Migration – Assisting SMBs in transitioning from on-site IT deployments to cloud-enabled infrastructures, lowering management costs and capital expenditures.

Hardware & Software Maintenance – Installing and maintaining servers, desktops, and networks for SMBs, both on-premise and remotely.

Enjoy the conversation.

#cybersecurity #software #informationtechnology #cloudmigration #technology #networksolutions #safety

Transcript

 

Hey there, Commercial Construction Coffee Talk fans. Thanks for chiming in. My name’s David Cors. I’m your host and the publisher and editor of Commercial Construction and Renovation Magazine. This is what it used to look like. We stopped printing in August of 2021, but we had Extended Stay America, Mike Curts, Ron Lacy, Dan Stern, and Eric Anger, excuse me, great-looking cover. It’s always good. This is from July/August 2012, way back when, another good-looking issue. I always like to see what I was doing. Oh, this was a very memorable place. I’ve got a Marine who lost his life in Afghanistan, and he was on our plane back from Boston to Atlanta. I’d never seen a ceremony at the airport. Anyway, it was riveting. I’ll remember that day the rest of my life. The whole plane was just dead, just completely silent, and the Delta guys did a great job on the tarmac honoring him. He was actually on his way back to Raleigh. That’s where he was from. But listen, I grabbed the archives. I didn’t even know that that was the picture I was in. I’ve done so many issues since 2001, but it was good to see what things were going on back then. We thank everybody that was on the cover. Thank you, gents, when you guys were cranking and Extended Stay building a bunch of hotels for all the workers out there to stay in as we get stuff done. Hope everybody had a great weekend. We’re starting the week out sunny here in the ATL, a little chilly at night, but we’ll take it. The lake’s still full. Every time it rains, you know, a little less water comes in during the winter. We like keeping the lake as full as possible because we know we’re going to use lots of water in the spring and the summer when things get hot again. Hopefully, everybody had a great weekend. Hey, Falcons won, that was great. Bulldogs are off. They’ve got the University of Florida, the biggest cocktail party happening in Jacksonville coming up next weekend. So everybody down here in the state of Georgia, I’m a Yankee living in the South, so I pull for all the teams, but it’s going to be a great game next weekend. And you got the baseball playoffs going on. You still got the Phillies are in it, Houston and Texas, and the Phillies, I think, can close it out here tonight against the Dbacks out of Phoenix. Hopefully, they’ll both be really good games, and may the best team win. But other than that, you got hockey starting, NBA. It’s just cranking. Indoor lacrosse is going to happen here. St. our Georgia Swarm’s going to get back on the green turf at the arena. Can’t wait to go down and see the boys get her done. We’d like to see another championship brought back here. But other than that, listen, time’s flying. Got Halloween coming up in a couple of weeks, and you got Thanksgiving and then Christmas, Hanukkah, and then boom, the year’s over. This year’s almost done. This is the quickest year I think I’ve ever gone through. It’s just amazing how quick it was just January 1st, 2023, and here I am coming down the end of October, and a couple of months left and boom, this year’s been over. But what a wild and crazy ride it’s been. So hope everybody, like I said, is starting the weekend on a positive note, got a clear mindset, and ready to get all your to-do list checked off. Got a gentleman, he’s on the road today, and he fit me in from his hotel room, traveling like a banshee trying to get things done. His name is Mr. Rob Downs, and he’s the CEO of Managed IT Solutions. He’s an IT guy, and he was back in doing it before even people knew what it was doing. So, Rob, say hello to our guests out there on Commercial Construction Coffee Talk. “Hello, guest, yeah, thanks.” And where are you traveling? Where, what hotel, where are you? “I’m in the lovely Hard Rock Cafe and Casino down in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, attending a cybersecurity conference.” No, well, so where are you normally out of? Where’s your home base? “So, my business operates out of the Raleigh, North Carolina area, so we have clients throughout Central North Carolina.” Awesome, awesome. So, the reason why I had Rob on is, you know, listen, a lot of people don’t understand about IT, and right now, without IT, it’s probably very, very tough for your business to operate. And obviously, when you’re doing new construction, you always want to get IT and all the wiring, or whatever unless it’s wireless, before the drywall goes up because then it’s kind of a hassle. But it goes in everything. It’s data, it’s security, it’s communications, it’s all those things. And these days, with technology, you need to have an IT expert. And he’s got some other things he’s going to talk about as well. So, the way that we do our episodes, we do them in three parts. You’re going to tell your story, where you grew up, kids, dogs, cats, if you played any sports, and how you ended up where you are today. And then we’ll talk about the last three years of lessons learned of the roller coaster that we’ve all been on, and then you’re going to leave one positive thought or phrase with our listeners and your contact info. So with that said, the floor is yours. Tell us your story. “Sure, thanks. So I grew up in eastern North Carolina, so I’m a Tar Heel born and bred, though I’m a Wolfpack fan since I went to NC State. So basically, when school ended up going to Science and Math, which is one of the highest-ranked schools in the US, it’s a residential high school in North Carolina. We were one of the first states to actually have one. And so once I finished there, I went to NC State, managed to not live up to my potential, and went and joined the Air Force for a little bit to get something to do since I had no skill set. Thank you for your service. “You’re welcome.” Went in as a reservist, ended up being full-time for several months. I went in right before Desert Shield, Desert Storm, and then as I got out of my initial training and got released to be a reservist, they activated my unit, and I got to be full-time again. So that was fun. And then I finished that up while I was going to school, got into computers mid-’90s. I worked for a mom-and-pop shop that built custom computers. Back in the day, you could actually make money building custom computers. And then from there, moved over to be a contractor with a very large computer company and worked in their systems in one of their labs of being an IT manager, moved into other IT companies that were local and did IT for other companies, outsourced IT type of thing. Found an opportunity with a company during the dot-com to be their IT manager. Figured I was young, single, most importantly, I didn’t have a lot of barriers to have to worry about, and so did that for a little bit. Unfortunately, we were one of the many, many, many companies that did not make it through the doom. And so after that, decided that if I was going to start my own business, then would be the opportune time, still single, no commitments, a little bit of cash in my pocket to get started and bootstrap this thing. So been doing this since 2001, my own company, and we just, you know, 22 years at this point. And somewhere in there managed to get married, I have two kids, had many, many, many pets. All my family is very big into pets, so we have dogs and cats. So, you know, we do both four-legged furry friends, and then have just gone on to help move the business forward and keep it growing.” Hey, hey. Listen, my family was in the upholstery furniture business, so we had plants in North Carolina. I did a little stint in Greensboro. We used to go over to Eastern Carolina to Wilmington and Wrightsville Beach, some of my favorite places. Any of you haven’t checked out Wrightsville Beach or that whole little area, it’s beautiful down there. Yeah, we have a house down in that area, so there you go. I’m coming now. Now you told me you got a house, I’m coming. So anyway, Wilmington, Wrightsville Beach, it’s just a beautiful area. North Carolina was great, the tech area, we were in Greensboro, but Raleigh-Durham, that whole tech area, it’s kind of like the Denver Tech Center outside Denver and stuff, but a lot of technology, a lot of really cool things going on there. I started my company December 17, 2001. I did the same thing. I was with Nielsen, and they bought our company a couple of years before that. Then, when the dot-com burst, they whacked about X amount of magazines out of their portfolio. My little construction book that I started in ’99 got the ax. Just like yourself, I bit the entrepreneurial apple. I figured I was 39, debt-free, my wife was going through the refi boom at the time, and I had one child still in diapers. I said, you know what, I’m going to go for it. Everybody told me not to do it, don’t do it, you’ve got an expense account, stay there, and they were telling me I could retire there and everything else. I was like, I’m going on the road for a week. When I come back, you got to make a decision. So I went on the road, came back, asked if they were going to sell me the magazine, they said no, I said here’s my resignation, goodbye. December 17th, I left and haven’t looked back since. It’s been a roller coaster. Went through the dot-com bust, the housing crash, and now what we’ve all gone through over the last couple of years. It’s been a wild ride, learned a lot about myself, got some thick skin. It’s been an amazing ride. I’m glad I made all the mistakes I did because if you’re not making mistakes, you’re not going to learn from them and improve yourself. That goes with anything. I’m a sports guy, so the more you practice, you will practice as you play, and as you’re practicing, you’re going to make mistakes too, so you learn from it. It’s been an amazing 23-24 years, and I’m still standing. I remember the dot-com burst, the little dog, I forget what he was called, everybody was buying him. It was crazy during those times when you look back. But once again, it builds your character. You got to roll with the punches. You did the right thing. You were single, didn’t have this, that, you had a little money in your pocket, boom, look at you today, you’re still standing. So congratulations to yourself as well. Look, I come from a military family, totally, anybody, Air Force, Marines, Army, whatever, Coast Guard, National Guard, we really appreciate anybody that does that and puts their line on the line and sacrifices. So thank you for your service for sure.

Let’s talk about the last three years that we’ve all gone through. It wasn’t like the dot-com burst. The dot-com burst was just companies that were over-leveraged, they weren’t probably what they were worth. Some people made a killing, other people got in probably too late. That’s the way it was. A lot of companies thought they were going to make their mark, and that would be it, and someone would buy them. But looking back, it was an exciting time on the internet. When you look at it, I remember when the first Macs came out. I actually took a computer class in prep school my senior year. I wrote some code on how to do batting averages for baseball players. We were using floppy disks. They were these big floppy things. They weren’t even floppy disks; they were but they were old, old Macs. “No, no, those are floppy disks, that’s where I got the name of floppy.” Most kids, probably your age or a little bit younger, certainly not my kids because they don’t know where that icon comes from, they’re like, “What’s that thing?” I’m like, “It’s a floppy disk.” They’ve never seen one. But they had the hard three and a halfs, the five and a quarter, the 8 inch, the 12-inch floppies. They were huge, but they were very floppy because it was just a piece of plastic. You stuck it in there, and if you weren’t careful, you bent it trying to put it in there because it wasn’t solid. So, I took this class, had to learn how many bits were in a byte. “If I said it backwards, I’m sorry.” But Dr. Tim, he was the teacher, and I’m still Facebook friends with him. He’s still teaching computer science. It was a very challenging class. I took it kind of like, okay, this will be easy, but then after I got done with it, I was like, wow, that was tough, as tough as calculus was. But I’m glad I took it because I really didn’t know. Then as things evolved, I went through 2001, and then laptops, and now, look, I’ve got a PC, Mac, phone. It’s just amazing where technology has gone. Over the last year, I’ve taken a year’s worth of digital classes and learned so much about what technology can do to make your life so much easier. I’ve learned that I’ve left a ton of money on the table over the years, but the technology wasn’t there, but now it is. AI, the genie’s out of the bottle, who knows where that’s going to go. But I use it every day, plus a lot of other platforms, apps, plugins that I’m using when I launch my digital agency here over the next couple of weeks. It’s an amazing thing. After every one of my digital classes, I go back and I’m like, “You’re not going to believe what I just saw.” It’s just unbelievable. And so many of the people like yourself who were at the beginning must laugh because you had to figure out everything on your own. You didn’t have tutorials, you didn’t have YouTube where you could go find out. You just had to wing it and figure it out, right? “Yes, there was that, or you know, we had these old-fashioned things called books that we used to read through. And if you were really geeky, there were BBS’s, bulletin boards, where you could dial in with your modem and post questions up, and other geeks and nerds would hopefully answer. Nothing against the geeky nerdy crowd, I consider myself a geek/nerd. But yeah, that’s it. And I do chuckle when people are complaining about it’s hard to do something, they can’t figure it out. Back in the day, we used to call when we started using Google, which is about 2001, and so over the years, it became to be known as Google Fu. How good is your Google Fu? Are you good at putting in the right questions to get decent answers out of it?”
Became a skill in of itself. So, everybody needs to kind of embrace something as it comes out. You don’t have to become an expert at it, but you definitely have to be willing to get into it and use it properly to leverage the tools. Google Fu is one thing. Nobody’s come up with a ChatGPT Fu or whatever they want to call it, but it’s a great tool to be used and leveraged. But you do have to actually learn how to use it. It doesn’t naturally give you exactly what you might want to have or see. The good news is you can go on YouTube or online and find tons of people who can tell you how to do good prompts because, at the end of the day, that’s really what drives AI, a good prompt. I’ve seen it all. I started with the internet in college, I’m sure just like you did. That was pretty much the only thing that was connecting with colleges and universities. As it grew over time, did dial-up just like everybody else, probably did dial-up originally, and then the slow migration into cable modems or DSLs to be able to get internet and now, you know, fiber at your house, where you’re getting gig speeds. When I started doing dial-up, it was 144k, not m, not g, k. So, it’s a factor of a thousand every time you do something like that. K is a meg, meg’s a gig. Infinitely faster than it used to be for the internet. So much more useful. We were shooting to do all these things back in 2001. I think we finally got Web 2.0, probably 2010-2012 something around that time period. The idea was there, the technology wasn’t quite there, not quite ready, but of course, if you don’t push it, it’s never going to get ready. So, somebody had to do it. I’m glad to have gone through it, glad to have played a small part in moving it forward, and supporting those people who actually did move the needle a lot more than I did. We were at a perfect place from a technology standpoint so that when 2019 came around, we thought we were going to have the same problem that we had with the dot-com bust or with the Great Recession, and it ended up being that a lot of companies, IT companies, or IT admins in companies stepped up. Within 30 days, we had the nation running remotely and working almost at full speed. It’s amazing technology, and I think people take it for granted way too much. They don’t think about it, especially my kids, they’re teenagers, 16 and 18, and so they don’t think about the marvel of the thing in their hand and what it can touch and the data and the information it can give them. Instead, they just sit there and doom scroll. But yeah, it’s just like anything else, technology-wise, people take the refrigerator for granted, they take the car for granted, they take flying for granted. The computer just seems to accelerate a lot faster as the nature of the beast as some of those other things, but still, all these things are glorious things and a tribute to the ingenuity of mankind. I still tell people, look, this phone is the best tool you can ever have because there are 8 billion people on the planet, most people have a phone, and you can do anything that you want with it. 93% of the people that get texts are going to reply to it. It’s a marketing marvel. You can run your business right here from the palm of your hand. You can be anywhere in the world. I was already working out of my house, so I really didn’t, you know, when the roller coaster hit in 2020, I was already used to working out of my house and all that stuff, but it was amazing because the big difference between like 9/11 and the dot-com burst and all that, you know, people were still in business, and it was kind of a short hiatus, but people, you know, got back on the planes. In March of 2020, supposed to be a couple of weeks, now we’re here three and a half years later, and we’re still kind of talking about it, even though we’re out of the tunnel. There are still some potholes and little bumps in the road that we’ve been going over, but all in all, just like Zoom, Zoom was around, or you might use Teams out there, the different communication platforms, but it’s not going away. This has just been a marvel in itself. I remember I just bought my mic, and I was going to do my podcast interview people out on the construction site, and then when everything got shut down, I had to do my podcast. And now, you know, I’ve got, I don’t know how many episodes, and I had a bunch of other videos too. I’ve got over 600 videos on my channel, but just on my podcast channel, I just went over almost 12,000 subscribers, and it keeps growing every month. People tell me all the time that they’re sick of being on Zoom, but I always tell the story that with technology, I had a project management firm say, “Today, I was in the Middle East, I was in South Africa, I was in Europe, I was in Latin America, I was in Canada, and I did a couple of walkthroughs in the United States. Before the shutdown, it would have taken me 3 weeks. Now, I can do all that in one day and now can kind of pick and choose where I want to go.” I always tell people, look, you should make 10 calls a day with your phone just because it’s just nice. You can do Zoom, but I like calling people. I pick them out every morning, and even if I get voicemail, it’s always just nice to do that. I still believe in snail mail, writing a handwritten note. If the post office delivers it, but I still believe in that. I think because you get less mail in your post office box these days, everybody’s trying to do email and this and that. Curiosity kills the cat. If you really want to catch someone’s attention, write them snail mail, and they’re going to open that package if it gets delivered, or a letter or what have you. It’s just very effective from a communication standpoint, in my opinion. Right, we don’t know what type you’ve got, whether or not you’ve ever run an update on it, if you have antivirus on it. For all I know, the Russian mafia’s using you to send troll emails out. We’re like, yeah no, you can’t do that, sorry, that’s not going to happen. However, you can go to our website that we use to remotely connect to your computers, and you can use that. So, we set them up on that. I’d say the vast majority of our clients who needed it before the end of April, and we basically set them up with a username, a password, and we insisted that they use MFA, so multi-factor authentication. So, it wasn’t just a username and password, they actually have a token that they got with their phone to be able to log in securely. So that was our biggest thing, is making sure their environment stayed as secure as possible while they worked remotely. Many, many, many of my colleagues across the US did the exact same thing. There were exchanges on forums, what are you guys doing, what tools are you using, are you allowing your clients to do this, why not, yes, no. So, we were all exchanging ideas and again, because of the internet and the speed and the technology, we were able to have those types of discussions in almost real time. And if somebody invented a better mousetrap, then we could all flock to that mousetrap.

After being able to get people to work online, or probably at the same time, then that’s when we’re talking to our clients about, do you want to be Team Zoom, or do you want to be team Workplace from Google, or do you want to use Teams from Microsoft? What do you want to do? Zoom won most of the time, just because of ease of use, and they had more features. Just because that was their focus, whereas Google, it was a thing they did with Workplace. Teams from Microsoft, it was a thing they were doing. They were working on it, it was getting better, but then during that time period, you know, they had a competitor come in and just started crushing it and dominating the market, so they certainly had to pivot. I think the vast majority of our clients were done within the month, and they were able to work. Now, most of our clients are professional types. Very limited human contact is needed for most of the businesses we support, or they could be spaced out enough, like we had some construction companies where the staff worked at home, but the construction workers were on site, right? And then they had protocols, which is not part of our purview. We’re there to protect computers from viruses, not people from viruses.

Construction companies, you know, they kind of get a bit, you know, if you’re a general contractor, some of the guys that I know over the years, they don’t even have a smartphone. They might still have a flip phone, or they’re not very technologically advanced, and others are cutting edge. So, it’s a wide range in construction. There are millions of contractors out there or subs or whatever, and some are more technologically advanced than others. I’m actually doing a webinar on Wednesday. I’ve invited some of my clients, and we’re going to talk about how they market, what technology they understand, and just kind of get a beat on all different types of people. I’ve got architects, contractors, building product manufacturers, all sorts of types of people are going to be on this panel that I’ve built. It’ll be interesting to see what they know and what they use and what they don’t know because there are so many options. To be successful today, you’ve got to have a presence on the web, you’ve got to have social media, and you’ve got to have a plan of attack, whether it’s a blog or a podcast or whatever. But if you use all these different things, you can reach so many people because everybody’s going to be on the web, they already are on the web. Being safe while you do communicate is very crucial, just like we want you to be safe on the construction site.

Learning about all these different opportunities, that’s what I thought I knew a lot about digital, but after I took my classes over the last year, I mean, I learned funnels, autoresponders, cloud for security, ClickMagic, AI, GPT, Mind Journey, Discord. I could go down the list of all the stuff that I’ve learned, and it’s mind-blowing. Once you set it up, it’s like, you can apply it to any business. You might have to change a little copy here and there, but it’s really push-button 101. The biggest thing is if you have all these different plugins, I’m on one platform where everything’s in one, so I don’t have to log in to all these different things. But the biggest thing is if one thing doesn’t work, it’s kind of like your engine; if your spark plugs aren’t charged, your engine is not going to turn over. So I kind of put it in simple terms, if one little thing is not set up correctly or installed correctly, it can just mangle you when you’re trying to figure these things out. But the biggest thing is fear. People can’t be fearful of technology because it’s everywhere. And once you learn it, it’s just like learning how to walk. You got to learn how to walk before you run. So once you do get that fear factor out, you’re not going to break your computer, you’re not going to break stuff. We just did this launch, and we were trying to break Stripe before we launch this platform to join our group. The tribe chief, anyway, he’s like, come on, we got to break Stripe, we got to figure out how we’re going to do all this, we got to make sure, you know, the developer before we launch, and this stuff. So do this, do that. It’s amazing when you’re trying to break something that’s going to help you, but you want to make sure that it can handle not only the volume but also just, you know, stuff that you don’t want to happen because first impressions are everything.

But the biggest thing, I think, that a lot of companies learned when they were remote and got people set up, is that people can be productive at their homes, and they don’t have the gossip at the water cooler. They’re probably going to put more hours in, but they also found out that there was more to life than just work, and that balance of enjoying your life and being productive. I mean, you don’t know how many firms over the last couple of years that I’ve talked to that said they just had the best years they ever had. If we had more project managers or superintendents or foremen, or just, you know, labor in general, welders, HVAC, electricians, we could have built more stuff, but they just weren’t out there. That was the biggest thing that held back the economy from really coming back in full swing, just because of those shortages. As we move into 2024, we only have a couple of months left of Q4 in 2023. I just had this women’s round table I did last week on Friday, and I asked them, are you bullish or bearish on 2024, and what’s your resolution? So many of them said, hey, I want to learn about technology, I want to learn some new things. And the day you stop learning is the day you should go do something else. Learning about whether it’s Google ads, TikTok ads, or what your Google rank is, or improving your SEO, don’t hire someone to do it, learn it yourself because you’re just going to appreciate it so much more. At least that’s my take on it. Maybe I’m wrong, but I just like gold. I’m big on AI. That’s what we do, right? We’re IT for small to medium-sized businesses. I think you should understand how it works just because you know what you’re getting for your money and how to judge if somebody’s successful or not successful. If you’ve got the time, then certainly have at it, but the thing I tell my kids is You know, time or money, one of these things you can make more of, and the other one you can’t. So, if you can leverage your money to get more time back, then leverage your money to get your time back and use it for things that are important, either growing the business, if you’re a business owner, or spending time with your family, or doing what you love. So, I mean, I do some of that stuff too, and I’m not saying don’t ever do it, but I’m an IT guy, and so it’s kind of like playing with the Tinker Toys. For you kids who don’t know what Tinker Toys are, go Google it. It’s cool to know how it works, right, but there are certain things that you’ve got to do as the business owner, for example, you know, you are the face of the business, you’re going to be the one doing the video. We started doing some videos, you’d think I would have done them for years. I’ve done them spot here and there throughout the years. I’m trying to get better at it, but the point I want to get to is where I can just hand that off to an assistant, go, “Okay, here’s the raw feed, go make it look pretty, put all the fancy fonts on, and upload it, thank you,” and then come back with reports and tell me what we’re doing well.

Like my digital agency, as I was thinking about it and how I was going to develop it, my thing was like if I’m going to present it to someone, I want to make sure that they know that I’m knowledgeable enough that I know how everything works. However, I’m not going to be clipping stuff. I’ve built a team where I know that if your toilet’s plugged, you don’t hire an electrician to come and fix your toilet, you hire a plumber. So, if you’re going to outsource stuff and do those kinds of things, you hire a specialist. The amazing thing is that if you learn your trade and you’re really good at it and you like it, you can have fun. It’s a nice side hustle that you can do. Technology especially, I mean, you can go on Fiverr and find all those people that are very affordable, and you find the right guy who has your same vision.

I was listening to a podcast the other day, and he said, “Yeah, my buddy is a fireman, and right now, there’s kind of fruits are becoming short-lived in the supermarket.” He’s out of California, so he goes, “Yeah, one of my buddies, you know, you break a branch, you stick it in the ground, it starts growing. Now this guy has 200 trees, and he’s going to start harvesting, you know, whether they’re apricots or whatever, and he’s going to start selling them. It’s a side hustle, but it’s not computers; it’s freaking growing stuff.” With everything that’s going on in the world today, it’s crazy. Every day, who knows what’s going to happen, but there are these hustles out there that if you like what you do and you have fun with it, you can make money at it.

What was one of the coolest things that you think you saw happen over the last three years of the roller coaster, as you got people set up and got them remote? Well, I think it’s just seeing all the tools that came out of it or got better, so to say, filling the niche that needed to be filled that was created by this vacuum or void. There’s still that kind of vacuum or void out there, so there are still products coming out to help people communicate, being outside the office. Whether it be digital whiteboards, where you can draw your ideas on there, you’ve got computers that are all getting touchscreen, or you can write on them, so you can draw on the screen or do whatever you need to do to get your point across. I think these are all great things.

And with the trends, office space is still tons of office space still. They’re having a hard time filling it because people don’t want to go back to work. Companies were reporting great earnings, profitability, productivity. What happened was, like when I was working at that big computer company out in the park, I had some flexibility in my time. I would take the afternoon off and go play golf because it was gorgeous outside, and it’s North Carolina, and we have lots of golf courses. I’d tell my guys, “It’s 3:00 or 2:00, I’m going to go hit 18, I’ll be back by 5.” So, before you leave, I’ll be back, and we can go over it. They looked at me and gave me an eyeball. I was like, “Dude, I’ll be here till 10. I don’t want to hear it from you. I’m probably still going to be here longer after I get back than you worked today.” But now, everybody has that advantage or opportunity. Before, they might have to do something scheduled to be able to cut work early to go catch their kids’ baseball game or basketball game. And as a parent, that was one of my favorite things to do, is go catch games for my kids and watch them play. People understand that. They get that right. It’s something great they can do, and most people don’t want to abuse the privilege and don’t want to get called out and have to be back in the office, so they’ll make sure they get the work done. And honestly, the studies that I’ve all seen from it, they get more than what they would have done if they were working at the office.

Corporate real estate, look, occupancy rates, depending on what city you’re looking at, they’re definitely down. We’re in construction, that’s my sector, so we kind of look at it as something’s going to have to happen with those spaces. They’re going to become something. What they are, that’s the billion-dollar question. But they’re going to be transformed. It’s just like when a hurricane comes in, a lot of devastation and destruction, or thunderstorms, or what have you, from a construction standpoint, all that stuff’s going to have to get fixed. So, I never look at it as a negative. It’s a bummer that it happened, but all that stuff’s going to get rebuilt, creating jobs, creating momentum. You can have better technology, whether it’s houses up on stilts so they don’t get flooded by the storm surge, putting on windows that aren’t going to break during a storm. I could go down the list on that. But all in all, technology is an amazing thing. It’s not what you don’t have; it’s what you do with what you have. And the lever got bigger. That’s what technology is, a lever to propel your business and your life forward faster. That’s the whole premise behind it. That’s why people put up with it. If it wasn’t good, then we would go back and revert to paper and pencil, and we haven’t. We don’t. I mean, even our paper and pencil of today is a tablet. And I swear, I think it’s just for old guys like me who want to actually physically write something out instead of keyboarding it all the time. Hey, writing cursive is like an art these days. I go to my class, I’m writing my notes down. I could do it on my tablet or whatever, but I like writing out, even though I do it at conferences. It makes the connection a little bit better between what you’re hearing and what you’re learning, depending on who you are. A side story that’s a little weird, but my daughter came up through charter schools, so she just switched to public school in her junior year. She’s in there taking notes, and one of her friends was like, “I don’t know what he’s saying. I missed out. Can I borrow your notes?” So she handed it over to him, and the guy couldn’t read it. It was in cursive. She learned cursive in her charter school, and they don’t do it in public schools anymore. I was very amused by that story. I’m getting old and I’m showing my age as well. So listen, I always tell people, like, look, you should just send a handwritten note. It’s one of the most powerful things that you can do, and it’s not going anywhere. A lot of people don’t know how to write in cursive, so they’re not teaching it in school these days, and I think that they should bring it back along with shop class and trade schools. Most certainly, yeah. I mean, there are all these trades that should be filled out there. These guys make a good living, an honest living. We need more of them, all of them, plumbers, electricians, auto mechanics, carpenters. I give my right arm for a good carpenter every other month of the year probably. I’ve got a project going on that I don’t want to do, and I’m not really good at it anyway. It takes me ten times longer to do it than if I’d hired a professional to do it. So again, it’s that whole time-money thing.

My son, we yanked him out of school. He did online his senior year. They wouldn’t let him into the automotive shop class that they had at the school, so we yanked him out. He went to school online, worked in the local garage, and now he’s on the flight line at Boeing in Charleston, working on 787s, $350 million airplanes, depending on how they’re set up. He was going to solo this weekend to get his pilot’s license, but it was a little windy in Charleston, so he’s got to wait. But looking at what he learned, it was woodworking, welding, sheet metal, all that stuff. But some of the textbooks he was reading, I took calculus, physics, Latin when I was in prep school, but I was looking at it, and I was like, “Darn, man, this is some good stuff.” He’s taking his notes, but he did some on the computer. But the bottom line is when you go and take your test, three of them are written, two of them are hands-on. It was a nice combination to get your license, your A&P license, Airframe and Power Plant. Thank you. But now, you know, it’s amazing. He’s on a tablet, he can look up a PDF, he can find anything he wants on the web that if he doesn’t know it.

It’s been really cool to see that for your kids as they grow up. You just don’t know how they’re going to go when they’re 14 or 15. He hated to go to school at 7 o’clock. We had to drag him out of bed, throw him in the shower, but then when he found his calling, it was like a complete 180. And the biggest thing is he’s learning technology, avionics, learning how everything on that Cessna or Piper he’s flying that day. He’s got his tablet for directions and his maps. You can’t do anything without technology today.

When I was in the Air Force, I worked on aircraft too. I was a maintenance mechanic on a KC-135. So we’d have to know what we were doing, where it fell into the TOs, technical orders, and we’d have to check out that book for that job. There were hundreds of books, depending on what you were doing. This was in the ’90s. Now they just have a tablet, and they can just pull it up, and they can search it. Pilots used to carry a briefcase full of maps. They don’t carry those anymore. They have a tablet. Everybody’s got technology touching their lives in some way, shape, form, or fashion. Plumbers, accountants, everybody’s got technology. It’s there, it’s important, and if it wasn’t something that you could leverage to increase your productivity and your employees’ productivity and put more money to your bottom line, it wouldn’t be there.

The past three years, things have changed. We saw hackers starting to make more inroads, and once 2020 rolled through and people were working from home, well, we wouldn’t let people connect from their home computers because we didn’t know what was going on with it. Hackers took advantage of that for a lot. Attacks went way up. They didn’t go down. You saw the numbers increase year over year, and they’re still increasing for cybercrime and cybercriminals making money off of people who make an honest mistake. Business email compromise is how they get in 92% of the time. It’s something you’ve got to be on the lookout for as an individual, as a business owner, training your employees. Cybercrime, if it were its own economy, would be the third-largest economy in the world behind the United States and China. That’s how much money. It’s very profitable for them. A lot of small businesses don’t think it’s going to hit them, but you’re a target of opportunity, a random target. Attacks went way up, and not all companies did what we did. Some people just wanted it done and would worry about it later. Some people didn’t think about it. But we did. Like I said, I’ve been doing security for over 20 years. Cybercrime and cybercriminals making money off of people who make an honest mistake, it’s something you want to make sure that as an individual you’re wary of, as a business owner, that you’re training your employees for, and that you can help prevent.
It makes the connection a little bit better between what you’re hearing and what you’re learning, depending on who you are. A side story that’s a little weird, but my daughter came up through charter schools and just switched to public school in her junior year. She’s taking notes, and one of her friends couldn’t read them because they were in cursive. She learned cursive in her charter school, and they don’t teach it in public schools anymore. I was very amused by that story. I’m getting old and showing my age as well. So listen, I always tell people, you should just send a handwritten note. It’s one of the most powerful things you can do, and it’s not going anywhere. A lot of people don’t know how to write in cursive. They’re not teaching it in school these days, and I think they should bring it back along with shop class and trade schools. Most certainly, yeah. There are all these trades that should be filled out there. These guys make a good living, an honest living. We need more of them, all of them, plumbers, electricians, auto mechanics, carpenters. I give my right arm for a good carpenter every other month of the year probably. I’ve got a project going on that I don’t want to do, and I’m not really good at it anyway. It takes me ten times longer to do it than if I’d hired a professional to do it. So again, it’s that whole time-money thing.

My son, we yanked him out of school. He did online his senior year. They wouldn’t let him into the automotive shop class that they had at the school, so we yanked him out. He went to school online, worked in the local garage, and now he’s on the flight line at Boeing in Charleston, working on 787s, $350 million airplanes, depending on how they’re set up. He was going to solo this weekend to get his pilot’s license, but it was a little windy in Charleston, so he’s got to wait. But looking at what he learned, it was woodworking, welding, sheet metal, all that stuff. But some of the textbooks he was reading, I took calculus, physics, Latin when I was in prep school, but I was looking at it, and I was like, “Darn, man, this is some good stuff.” He’s taking his notes, but he did some on the computer. But the bottom line is when you go and take your test, three of them are written, two of them are hands-on. It was a nice combination to get your license, your A&P license, Airframe and Power Plant. Thank you. But now, you know, it’s amazing. He’s on a tablet, he can look up a PDF, he can find anything he wants on the web that if he doesn’t know it.

It’s been really cool to see that for your kids as they grow up. You just don’t know how they’re going to go when they’re 14 or 15. He hated to go to school at 7 o’clock. We had to drag him out of bed, throw him in the shower, but then when he found his calling, it was like a complete 180. And the biggest thing is he’s learning technology, avionics, learning how everything on that Cessna or Piper he’s flying that day. He’s got his tablet for directions and his maps. You can’t do anything without technology today.

When I was in the Air Force, I worked on aircraft too. I was a maintenance mechanic on a KC-135. So we’d have to know what we were doing, where it fell into the TOs, technical orders, and we’d have to check out that book for that job. There were hundreds of books, depending on what you were doing. This was in the ’90s. Now they just have a tablet, and they can just pull it up, and they can search it. Pilots used to carry a briefcase full of maps. They don’t carry those anymore. They have a tablet. Everybody’s got technology touching their lives in some way, shape, form, or fashion. Plumbers, accountants, everybody’s got technology. It’s there, it’s important, and if it wasn’t something that you could leverage to increase your productivity and your employees’ productivity and put more money to your bottom line, it wouldn’t be there.

The past three years, things have changed. We saw hackers starting to make more inroads, and once 2020 rolled through and people were working from home, well, we wouldn’t let people connect from their home computers because we didn’t know what was going on with it. Hackers took advantage of that for a lot. Attacks went way up. They didn’t go down. You saw the numbers increase year over year, and they’re still increasing for cybercrime and cybercriminals making money off of people who make an honest mistake. Business email compromise is how they get in 92% of the time. It’s something you’ve got to be on the lookout for as an individual, as a business owner, training your employees. Cybercrime, if it were its own economy, would be the third-largest economy in the world behind the United States and China. That’s how much money. It’s very profitable for them. A lot of small businesses don’t think it’s going to hit them, but you’re a target of opportunity, a random target. Attacks went way up, and not all companies did what we did. Some people just wanted it done and would worry about it later. Some people didn’t think about it. But we did. Like I said, I’ve been doing security for over 20 years. Cybercrime and cybercriminals making money off of people who make an honest mistake, it’s something you want to make sure that as an individual you’re wary of, as a business owner, that you’re training your employees for, and that you can help prevent. Rob, I know you’re on the road, so pleasure meeting you. If I get up to Raleigh, I look forward to seeing you in person. If you come down to the ATL, give me a shout, and we’ll go grab some grub and show you the hospitality down here in the LA of the South. And with that said, say goodbye from the road.

Goodbye.

And I’m going to sign off from Sugar Hill, about 25-35 miles north of downtown Atlanta, right below the Buford Dam on Lake Lanier. And we will see you next time on another episode of Commercial Construction Coffee Talk. Rob, pleasure, safe travels out there, and enjoy the rest of the year and the holidays and all that good stuff. And everybody out there, we’ll see you next time.

 

 

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2023 Virtual Men’s Round Table was held on November 7th, 2023 via Zoom.


 

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