Ian Uriarte from Timbergrove
Tell us about yourself?
I am the Founder & CEO at Timbergrove—an electrical and software engineer turned serial entrepreneur. I’ve spent the last couple of decades building tech startups and non-profit organizations. . My industry expertise ranges from oil & gas to manufacturing to transportation, energy and industrial.
I enjoy working with large technology projects, which usually face many business and technical challenges. Since founding Timbergrove in 2009, I’ve spent the last decade developing solutions that allow our industry to move more agilely and create transformation through technology. Over the past half-decade, I’ve focused our company to grow in the usage of industrial IoT, enterprise asset management, and custom product development while keeping the business boutique enough to take care of each client the way they deserve.
What lessons have being an entrepreneur taught you?
Over the years, I’ve learned how to be nimble—pivoting and adapting when necessary. I’ve learned how to focus our team on delivering value quickly and how to make the team understand why that’s important. A crucial lesson for any entrepreneur is that one person can’t do everything on their own. It takes a village. It seems easier when you are a one-person band to control everything, but eventually, you become your own constraint. This has led me to build a solid team, learn to delegate, grow the team coach them, trust them to do the job right, and hold them accountable
Lastly, I’ve learned the value of relationships, even with competitors. I’ve found that competitors in the market can also become partners. Take, for instance, a situation where one of your competitors won a bid you were also competing for. Why not offer them your services; not all the firms always have all the
resources needed at the right time. You may have the resources they need and can collaborate together towards mutual success. This could become truly a win-win situation for both parties.
If you could go back in time to when you first started your business, what piece of advice would you give yourself?
Sell more, know your value, and don’t back down from approaching potential customers and new challenges. New entrepreneurs often get intimidated by others who are more established in the business, but at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter if you are a team of 1 or 200. If you know your value and what you can deliver, then you have what that company needs. Don’t wait until you are “ready,” or you’ll always be waiting. If you know it’s within the scope of what you can do; you can bring a team together and do it.
A lot of entrepreneurs find it difficult to balance their work and personal lives. How have you found that?
It is very difficult, especially at the beginning. Honestly, it almost felt like I didn’t have a life there for a while. Looking back, there were times when I prioritized my work life over my personal life, and trust me, I paid the price. However, I’ve found the opposite to cause problems as well. There has to be a balance.
When things are out of whack, my first step is to check in on my personal life and get those ducks in a row. After that, I practice having a good attitude about prioritizing all the work and personal things I have to do. Once I have those two parts in place, prioritizing and tackling tasks at work flows more naturally and effectively.
Give us a bit of an insight into the influences behind the company?
While working at larger companies like IBM, I discovered how powerful technology and technology teams can be. I also saw a lot of the barriers companies face when trying to implement this technology and produce real transformation in organizations. One of my biggest influences when starting Timbergrove was to find a way to bring change and transformation to companies so that technology can make people’s lives easier within those organizations, not harder.
What do you think is your magic sauce? What sets you apart from the competitors?
The relationships we build and nurture with our clients are one of the most important parts of the process. We’re not interested in banging out as many projects as possible. Rather, we aim to treat each project with the care and dedication required so that our clients come out on top. We’re only successful if they’re successful. We’ll collaborate with them every step of the way, work until the solution works, and stay by their side for ongoing support.
How have you found sales so far? Do you have any lessons you could pass on to other founders in the same market as you just starting out?
First, reach out to both former and current colleagues and large companies in alignment with what you sell to create partnerships from the get-go. You have to constantly be making those strong connections and networking. Good partnerships mean you don’t have to do it all.
Second, believe in what you’re selling. If you manage projects well, add value first, and deliver on every promise you make, your word is your brand. If you deliver results, you’ll stand out.
Third, use every project you’ve delivered as an example moving forward. Find a way to incorporate proof of what you’ve done into your sales and pitches. This proof will serve you well to get more projects.
Last, treat everyone, clients, contractors, employees, partners, with the same respect and consideration as you want to be treated. Your team’s input and value will increase your’s tenfold. The way you treat others will spread and people will know who you really are. That will attract people to you. It’s a small world!
What is the biggest challenge you have faced so far in your business, and how did you overcome it?
Two challenges come to mind. One is finding the right audience. It doesn’t matter how great your solution, pitches, or marketing is if you’re barking up the wrong tree.
The other challenge would be situations where your clients have a different idea of the problem or solution than you do. It’s always delicate disagreeing with clients. Ultimately, we want to help our clients to the best of our ability. Sometimes this means standing your ground and helping your clients understand why you know a certain approach is the best one, without being condescending or contrary. Learn to confront, to discuss, to dissent, and to negotiate. It’s a critical skill set for any entrepreneur.
What do you consider are the main strengths of operating your business in Texas over other states in the US?
Everyone knows and loves how business-friendly Texas is. It’s more affordable to do business here compared to many other states. We have a great economy and a large market, so there’s plenty of work to go around.
While less tangible, I have also found Texans to be very welcoming of newcomers. It feels like a place where you can start from scratch and grow without feeling like you are limited to needing certain connections to make it happen.
Houston is especially great as the worldwide capital of energy, medical research, and aerospace engineering, as well as the home to the nation’s largest port for waterborne tonnage. So, there is plenty of opportunity for entrepreneurs with ideas and the tenacity to make it big.
Are there any disadvantages of operating our business in Texas?
On the flip side, Texas is such a big state it can honestly feel hard to figure out where to start. There is also a lot of competition for high tech talent due to the large presence of major industries. You have to work hard to attract the right folks.
Texas has a pretty diverse population. How have you found the quickly changing demographics have impacted your business? Have you got new opportunities? Managed to expand your business into new areas?
Diversity makes us who we are. Between our Texas-based team members and those living around the world, we are a uniquely diverse company. With each new team member, we add a unique perspective and way of thinking that only works to make our solutions better and more comprehensive.
It is often reported that, in Texas, politics and business are intertwined. Have you noticed this? Has it impacted your business?
I can’t speak to all of the conversations and decisions happening around politics at the time, but we have seen up close the effects of both laws and opinions on the environment and how they affect our clients. One of our main solutions gives our industrial clients peace of mind that they aren’t polluting the environment with wastewater due to problems with their wastewater plant. Taking this kind of responsibility to limit contamination is more important today than ever—not just from a political perspective but from an environmental and economic one.
With rising prices across Texas (and the US as a whole) have you been impacted? Do you have a plan for dealing with inflation going forward?
I think everyone is feeling inflation and rising prices. On the team side of things, we recently increased salaries for our employees to stay competitive. New hires are getting more expensive too. On the supply chain side, delays and scarcity cause our costs of goods sold to increase. Software costs have also been increasing, which clearly affects us as a software development company.
As far as dealing with inflation, we have to create even more efficiencies across our operations, minimize dependencies on third-party software, streamline our supply chain, and in the end, increase prices for our clients.
What do you want to accomplish in the next 5 years with your business?
We want to grow into a leading SaaS company known for our ability to solve complex issues in industrial environments and create technology that makes our clients’ lives easier, not harder. We want to promote a culture of innovation that attracts top talent and retains it because team members love working here.
And finally, if people want to get involved and learn more about your business, how should they do that?
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