Entrepreneur Spotlight: Rob Hale, CEO and Founder of Granite Telecommunications

We love to feature up and coming entrepreneurs. For this month, however, we decided to take things in a different direction. We had the pleasure of speaking with Rob Hale, CEO and Founder of Granite Telecommunications. What started as a dream to build a small sales company blossomed into a reality of a multimillion dollar organization serving Fortune 500 companies across America. Rob Hale encompasses what all budding entrepreneurs hope to one day achieve. What set him apart from the rest? He never gave up.

To learn a little more about Rob Hale, check out what he had to say when we interviewed him!

Tell us about your company

We started Granite Telecommunications in 2002. We intended to build a physical phone company and the way we planned to do that is to strike a wholesale agreement with Verizon. We were very fortunate to get a bit of business from Wal-Mart and Walgreens in 2002 when they asked us to discount their telephone lines through wholesale in Boston. Shortly thereafter, they asked us to discount their existing telephone lines for all of New England and then ultimately, they asked for the same thing for all of the Northeast. They eventually told us “This discounting of our telephone lines is good for us and we want to do it for the rest of the country, and we want to do it with you”. At this time we had to make a decision. Are we going to do what we set out to do and build a physical phone company in a region of the country, or are we going to become a national wholesaler? We opted for the latter because we determined that if it would be useful to Wal-Mart and Walgreens, then it would be useful to many others. Since then, we have expanded dramatically and created 1,250 American jobs. People always ask “How did you get this great idea?” We didn’t. It was their idea and we just listened.

What was your background prior to starting Granite Telecommunications?

I graduated from school in 1988 and in '88, I went to work for MCI in a sales role and loved it. I then briefly worked for an agent for New England Telephone Company and in 1990, my father and I started a phone company called Network Plus, which we ran from 1990-2002. In 2002 we started Granite Telecommunications. I have been in sales on the customer side all my life.

What was the tipping point that led you to entrepreneurship?

Being born in my house! My father was an entrepreneur; He was the original importer of Laura Ashley to the United States. He would hold sales meetings in the living room and when I was a kid, I remember sitting around watching them interact and I thought “This is what I want to do”. Certainly by the time I was a teenager, I knew I wanted to run a small sales company.

What obstacles have you overcome to get where you are today?

I’ve overcome a host of them. I guess the most pertinent one would be when the company Network Plus that we started in 1990, was forced into bankruptcy in 2002. That year I received death threats, lawsuits; I even had to let go of 400 employees on a conference call. I lost $1.4 billion worth of paper money. There aren’t too many bad things that can happen to a businessman that didn’t happen to me between 2000 and 2002. I would say 2001 and 2002 were very trying years and yet now, Granite is almost a Billion Dollar Company, where Network Plus was a 300 Million Dollar Company. Granite is profitable, the team is better and the experience is much better. I encountered some negativity that not many people do and yet, because we had a great team and strong connections, we were able to rebuild a better company.

How would you define success in terms of entrepreneurship and what are your plans for the future?

I think that success in terms of entrepreneurship is probably risk-taking at all levels. As far as my plans for the future, I would like to see Granite grow. I am focused on expansion and as an entrepreneur, with each goal I achieve, I want to go even bigger.

Do you have any advice for up and coming entrepreneurs?

The most fun you’ll have in life is running your own company. Don’t create a company to make money. If you are just in it to make money, It wont be fun and you probably wont be good at it. Well then again, you might be good at it, but you wont create an environment where people want to do it with you. I think a lot of people can create small companies focused on profit, but I think you would have a very hard time creating a strong team if your real core focus is just profit. People want to be rewarded emotionally and people want to feel as though they are part of something that is special and good. I would say pursue any endeavors that seem fun and if you’re good at it and you work hard, you will probably be financially rewarded in the long run.

Aside from being a hugely successful organization, Granite Telecommunications is conscientious of charitable causes. Back in March, Granite challenged and encouraged 428 of their employees to shave their heads in their "Shave to Save" movement, donating money for each person who participated. They ended up raising $2.1 million to donate towards cancer research. Granite also participated in the popular "ALS Ice Bucket Challenge" and raised $200,000 to donate toward the cause.

Here are a few ways you can get in contact with Granite Telecommunications!




Entrepreneur Spotlight: SmartCode

Every once in a while, a new technology emerges that disrupts the market. SmartCode is that groundbreaking new product.

We at HTM Communications had the pleasure of sitting down with serial entrepreneur and tech-guru Kyle Schutt; Co-founder of technology incubator KAMM LLC, the latest in medical technology, SmartCode as well as a slew of other technologies including a college campus safety application, Gemini. SmartCode is a medical technology software that can be used in hospitals and private practices alike. The software is essentially Google for doctors' offices as well as a prompter that quickens and simplifies the medical coding process ensuring fast and efficient patient visits. Doctors would be wise to jump on this new technology quickly to aid the transition to ICD-10 so that they may bill visits effectively and correctly.

To learn more about Kyle, check out our interview with him in which we discuss the SmartCode product and his thoughts on taking the entrepreneurial route. You can check out the SmartCode website here for more information on the product.

Tell us about your company: 

KAMM is a custom software engineering firm focused on providing solutions to structured activities (i.e. managerial and operational processes), and consulting, for businesses and government.

Our premiere product, SmartCode,  is designed from the ground up to aid hospitals and doctors to improve quality and effectiveness of care by alleviating additional documentation burdens brought on by the complex transition from ICD-9 to ICD-10 medical coding. It gives each user the ability to code to the highest level of acuity and specificity while prompting them to any correlating codes and required rules. SmartCode intelligently prompts you to make the most cost effective decisions while saving precious physician time by not having to perform multiple searches. 

What was your background prior to starting KAMM and developing your SmartCode software? 

Prior to starting KAMM, I completed my undergraduate studies with a dual-major in Mathematics and Computer Science at Elon University. After graduation, I worked for a large financial firm as a software engineer in back end support and trading systems for several years. In 2013, I completed my Master's in Computer Science at Virginia Tech and I am currently pursuing my doctorate. Additionally, I have worked as a software engineer on multiple contracts for the government (local and federal) over the last few years.

What was the tipping point that led you to entrepreneurship?

Throughout my entire life, I have always wanted to start and run my own company. Both of my parents are entrepreneurs, and much of how I envision entrepreneurship and running a company comes from them. The exact tipping point for started in 2011 when I decided to leave the comforts of  a standard working hours occupation and pursue my higher education. I never could agree with the typical schedule imposed by the typical work schedule and environment because it stifles creativity and innovation.

Pursuing higher education truly freed me to expand my repertoire of usable programming languages and frameworks that allows me to tackle any problem with a sound basis in the technologies required. Equipped with this new knowledge, I started working as a freelance programmer for a few small businesses that eventually led to the creation of KAMM with a goal at providing solutions to their most pressing business issues.

What roadblocks did you overcome to reach the point that you are at today?

One of the major roadblocks that we (and me personally) is over-commitment. As a young company, we leverage all potential leads to acquire contracts or projects for different entities. Our motivation to gain more capital quickly can be detrimental to the overall success of the company because over committing will "spread you thin" over all the projects. This diminishes the quality of your work and your throughput which both directly correlate to the success of your business through client satisfaction. In order to address this problem, we initially focused on splitting projects up based on their industry on a daily basis. That is each day represented a different industry whose projects we would focus on.

However, we found that, over time, this was hurting our productivity because a week would go by before we were able to get back to that project which meant we had to take more time re-learning where we left off the previous week. Now, we focus on a particular industry on a weekly basis. We spend Monday morning go over the work that we accomplished last time and decide what needs to be worked on this week. This allows us to dive fully into a single industry without distraction. This has worked out tremendously well since these block are mutable, therefore, we can rearrange the schedule as needed based on deadlines and the amount of work to be completed. If necessary, we can string two blocks of the same industry together to create a two-week push for a new or upcoming product.

How would you define success in terms of entrepreneurship?

From a 50,000 foot view, success is almost entirely defined simply by the relationships that you form. Yes, money is nice, but it is fleeting when compared to your network. Thus, a trusted relationship with other businesses (and your clients) is extremely beneficial since it will dictate the future success of your business. For example, at KAMM, one of the things that we pride ourselves on is always being available to our clients and network (day or night). In today's world, we know our clients can work at anytime, anywhere and we are here to provide support to them at all times. Over the years, I have learned that we must be prepared for anything all the time. You can call or text me personally at anytime at: 703.946.3883.

What are your plans for the future?

In the next year, we hope to have our newest product SmartCode being used by at least 1,000 doctors nationwide. The transition to ICD-10 is a huge issue right now because most providers don't even have a handle on ICD-9 and through Obamacare, The ICD-10 transition is going to be that much more complex further complicating healthcare. With ICD-9, there are approximately 13,000 codes. Doctors will now be expected to know 68,000 codes through ICD-10 which is a massive issue that will prolong patient visits and disrupt the healthcare system in a negative way. SmartCode solves this issue.

In the next five years, we are focused on growing KAMM to incorporate new solutions and clients with unique business challenges. Planning for the future in our business must account for variable changes in the market and be prepared for any and all opportunities to work with new clients. You never know when you will meet them.

7. Do you have any advice for up and coming entrepreneurs? 

My advice for entrepreneurs is two fold 1) cultivate relationships to build your network, and 2) start small, think small. We discussed earlier the importance of fostering relationships. These relationships can and should be with people from any walk of life from an optometrist who provides care and eyeglasses to inmates to a local business-owner turned real estate developer who specializes in historical renovations. As a new entrepreneur, you need to start somewhere. You might hear others say to "think big" about your product or idea, but I believe if you start small, think small you will have greater success in the future when you can start really thinking big.

The reason that I say "start small" is because it gives you a goal that can be accomplished. A small contract or project that can be completed successfully will help motivate you to go after the bigger, long-term projects. This positive reinforcement and the experience through the entire life cycle of a product from inception to production will only make you more prepared for future projects.