Darren Metz is the Chief Executive Officer of Novatech, Inc., an award-winning, Managed IT and Print Services provider headquartered in Nashville, TN. His father was an adding machine repairman in the late 60s and 70s. Through his father’s business, Darren Metz had exposure to serving business customers from the age of ten. After growing up in the business, Metz recognized opportunity on the horizon with emerging technologies. Businesses required low-cost printing and document management solutions and the industry offered a niche he would pursue as his new business.
Fast forward to present day and the enormously successful Novatech. The company has expanded to a footprint of 13 branches with annual revenue of $95M, and has been recognized as an industry leader with honors such as 12-time placement among Inc Magazine’s Fastest-Growing Companies in the United States. The company currently employs 400 staff, and fields hundreds of service calls per day with a 4-hour on-site walk-in response time.
As his team thrives, Darren Metz is working on new acquisitions. He plans for the integration process as CEO and combines the best of both organizations to merge the services. Novatech strives to provide uninterrupted services to customers during this process. Metz’s ambition is to expand Novatech throughout the southeast and eventually to all of America.
Caught with a few moments to spare, Mr. Metz has offered some insight to readers about his journey so far, and the path ahead.
How did you get started? What inspired you to do so?
I started Novatech when I realized that office technology was changing. The reliance on a stand-alone analog device was changing. Printers and scanning were being added to networks and color was being added to printers in the marketplace. There were emerging technologies. I knew customers wanted to use their devices for printing and scanning, and for it to be a part of their document management system. What inspired me was the new market opportunity. I could fulfill the need as a value-added distributor in the market.
How does your firm make money?
We keep our client’s network and devices up and running. They rely on these essentials, and pay us to assure the highest level of uptime. In the world of printing, we charge on a per-print basis. We also charge a recurring fee for IT services and continual uptime services.
How long did it take for your firm to become profitable?
We survived a tough financial climate during our first three years. It took a while to stabilize and for business to get back to normal.
When you first started out did you ever doubt that this would work for you? If so, how did you handle it?
For any small business to succeed, every day is a matter of survival. We have to keep reinventing ourselves. We have to continually ask the question: ‘What do our customers need?’ As an entrepreneur, you wonder if the business is viable. We’ve seen it all: from cash flow problems to vendors changing their programs to employees in traffic accidents. During those times, you go through existential crisis moments where you wonder if the business can survive all the obstacles and challenges. The way I get myself through those times is to remember that if I can provide my customers with products and services that they want we will be alright. I will work out the math and the technical details.
How did you find your first customer?
It was more like our first customer found us. He was from the same church as my brother. He volunteered to be our first customer. He gave us a dollar bill and told us to frame it. That dollar bill remained on our wall for the first six or seven years.
What is one marketing strategy other than referrals that you use to generate new business?
We use digital strategy, some traditional advertising, and local media. I believe our strength is in personal contact of our sales people within the community. Customers appreciate personal service. It is a pretty intimate relationship where our customers are counting on us to keep their core technology up and running.
What is the toughest decision that you have had to make in the past few months?
I think the toughest decisions I have to make would be made within mergers and acquisitions. I think we have to make sure not to bite off more than we can chew. With each acquisition, you have to make sure to pace yourself.
What do you think makes you successful?
There is not a doubt in my mind that what makes us successful is our caring customer service. This is a highly competitive field and our customers have many choices. We stand apart in personal service. We stand apart from phone response time to speed of having a tech on site when it is needed, to having product delivered.
What has been your most satisfying moment since opening your own firm?
Watching the professional growth of our employees. When it comes to building a team, you can hire people with expertise or you can find people you are giving a chance to. We tend to hire people aspiring to grow and to take on more responsibility. My greatest moments are when our people rise to the expectations of their job and to their ambitions.
What is a recent purchase that you have made to help with Novatech?
We just recently purchased another company in Atlanta called Consolidated Copier Services. It is a 32-year-old company that we are merging with our Atlanta operations.
What does the future hold for you and your firm? What are you most excited about?
I am most excited about offering our customers a great experience with cutting-edge services and expanding those services geographically. We would like to eventually become a national organization. We aspire to be the number one service provider of managed IT and managed print service across America.
What business books have inspired you that you’d recommend?
How To Win Friends and Influence People, by Dale Carnegie or Category of One by Joe Calloway.