Thursday, September 11, 2014

“We Put Our Money Into Our People, Not Our Facilities”--Tim Edwards of NSR Holdings

“We Put Our Money Into Our People, Not Our Facilities”

Tim Edwards was a student at Brigham Young University when he helped start FirstRev, which eventually led to the founding of EBQuickstart, the genesis of NSR Holdings, Inc (“No Small Reputation”). EBQuickstart grew out of his Capstone project to become a leader in Outsourced Sales Services and is one of five Pardot Preferred Partners.

Before that, Tim attended 3 different colleges while working towards a degree. First, he followed a basketball dream. Then, Tim says, “I looked for cost effective education since I was paying my own way. BYU offered a scholarship and provided a more cost effective degree than I could get from UT, so I went there.” After the first company began to gain traction he dropped out to focus on the company and never finished his degree.

Tim used the success of EBQuickstart to fund NSR Holdings, Inc . Tim says, “We are in essence a small image of Berkshire Hathaway. However, expanding a group of companies or portfolio of organizations that are not necessarily linked to each other takes an ability in multi-tasking and leader development. I can’t fully manage each company and creating managers who understand and implement the vision of their perspective business unit is essential to the success of each business unit.”

Since its founding, NSR has started or acquired two additional companies and a non-profit. Silver Rock is a project management and professional services company. Limelight Technologies builds and sells electroluminescent lighting products for homes and businesses. And Maverick’s Miracle Babies helps families afford infertility treatments via grants.

Tim says he has always enjoyed building businesses and managing operations and scope. “By establishing a holding company, I am able to scratch the entrepreneur itch without having to give up the prior company I created or acquired. “

What makes NSR unique is it’s focus on meritocracy and how it grows managers and leaders from within its organizations. Tim explains, “Our ability to develop leaders has created an environment where we promote 90% of our management from within.”

NSR businesses conduct 101 courses in their businesses, taught by the business leaders. Employees that are looking to grow their careers are encouraged to explore the upward or outward mobility that a meritocracy-driven holding company can provide. Says Tim, “Our training programs are deep and very hands on and we hold ourselves accountable to make sure the internal employees are given every chance to understand expectations and culture in order to earn consideration for available positions. “

Growing up in Austin, Tim sees the culture and environment of Austin as being core to his businesses’ success. Because he hires from within, almost all of his new employees are entry level. The large number of universities in town provide him a fresh batch of recruits every year. And although he hires entry level employees, it’s not the GPA or transcript that he looks for as much as it is the ability to set a goal and accomplish it.

“It’s just like our customer’s do with us” explains Tim. “We then work to create an environment where employees receive what they earn. We work hard, set clear expectations, provide thorough training, and allow leaders to rise to the top.” This has enabled Tim to “Create mid-level management who understand the vision and implement it while maintaining the culture that was established within the smaller company.” NSR’s portfolio of companies currently have about 75 employees and are looking to add another 25 in the next twelve months.

The desire and ability to promote from within and cross pollinate between businesses makes NSR stronger than the individual companies would be alone. Each business unit can approach different industries and drive different value propositions. Then, as an investment company, NSR can benefit from great ideas that have not taken off and are caught in stagnant or failing companies. Says Tim, “We acquire organizations and embed our scope, vision, and finances into their growth and can put their great idea into a better, more fruitful situation.”

Tim believes that this focus on internal employee growth and success is one of the main ways that NSR sets itself apart from its competition. Tim says that “Existing management and personnel can provide great insight into your organization and how to drive it forward. Outside advice is always appreciated, but those who are in it with you will be more likely to assess the situation and then help to sustain the solution.”

Like most fast-growing companies, cash flow is one of the most important factors and limiters to NSR’s growth. Tim says, “We worked out of an apartment and then a broken down office building while we organically created momentum. We took the bootstrapping route but it is tough.”

While continuing to bootstrap, NSR is now at a place where it can fund its own growth. Tim says, “We have 3 major business units and are working to keep each on pace for stable, long term growth. We will also look for growth by adding additional business units and making further investments in private and public companies. “

Tim recognizes the struggles that entrepreneurs face. “If I had to do it all over again” says Tim, “I would have gone slower at certain times. But there is nothing harder or more rewarding in the business world than starting your own businesses. You will go through the lowest lows and the highest highs. If you aren’t ready for hurt, you shouldn’t start a company. “