Q. Please give our readers an introduction to your business. Please include what your business is all about, in which city you are located and if you have offices in multiple locations/ cities.
Ans: Knowledge Tools was founded to provide popular Mathematics Diagnostic Testing Project (MDTP) tests to schools outside of California, via our online testing platform. Our tests assess middle school and high school student’s strengths and weaknesses in a variety of math subjects.
We are located in Newport Beach, California, and work closely with our partners at UC San Diego.
Q. Please give us a brief description about yourself (it should include your brief educational or entrepreneurial background and list some of your major achievements).
Ans: I started my technology career at IBM, and served the giant corporation as customer engineer, systems engineer and marketing representative. After several years at IBM, I decided to start my own business, leveraging the skills I had picked up along the way. My company, Desktop Services, originally was a dealer and service provider for major PC brands, such as IBM, HP and Apple. Myself and my employees also performed PC integration, networking, and repairs. But, the one thing which I came to love was developing business applications for small businesses. I found it was very rewarding to help business owners solve problems using technology. I liked software development so much, it became the sole focus of Desktop Services.
I started working with MDTP in 2016, and we developed their first online math testing platform. The new platform went live at the beginning of 2017, and has become a very popular testing option for California schools. To date, nearly 400,000 tests have been taken on our online platform.
Q. What inspired you to (start a new business venture) or (to make significant changes in an existing business)? How did the idea for your business come about?
Ans: Once we (MDTP and myself) noticed we had a winning combination of their insightful diagnostic tests, and a quick and easy to use testing platform, we thought it would be worthwhile to offer these services to schools outside of California, as MDTP offer the tests for free inside the state, via their grant.
I then formed Knowledge Tools LLC and licensed the tests for our use.
Q. What three pieces of advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs?
1) If you don’t go after it, you won’t have it.
2) Teach others what you know.
3) Stop thinking so much and start acting.
Q. What would you say are the top three skills needed to be a successful entrepreneur?
1) Be flexible and always grow. You never know how your business may change in the future. Always be ready to adapt.
2) Listen, listen, listen
3) Do more than what is expected of you.
Q. How many hours do you work a day on average?
Ans: About 10, although not always at one stretch
To what do you most attribute your success?
Ans: I try very hard to stick with a project, and not give up if challenges arise along the way. Again, be flexible. I’ve also learned that I don’t know everything, and collaboration is a wonderful thing. Allowing others, who have skills I don’t possess, to join a project, makes the project a success.
Q. How do you go about marketing your business? What has been your most successful form of marketing?
Ans: So far, we have experimented with direct email, with limited success. We also have been an exhibitor at two educational conferences. One conference was a general education conference, and one was strictly math educators. Obviously the math only conference was more successful for us, and I plan to participate in more math conferences in the future.
Looking forward, and beyond more math conferences, our focus will be on optimizing our website to yield better search results, and drive more sales through the site. We are also looking at direct mail pieces.
Q. Where did your organizations funding/capital come from and how did you go about getting it? How did you obtain investors for your venture?
Ans: To date, Knowledge Tools has been self funded.
Q. What is the best way to achieve long-term success?
Ans: Oh, please
Q. Where you see yourself and your business in 5 – 10 years?
Ans: I plan to start winding down my working career 5 to 7 years from now. By then, Knowledge Tools will have a management team in place, and less of my time will be required. As far as the business is concerned, we will look to other opportunities and other ways to adapt our testing platform for other purposes.
Q. Excluding yours, what company or business do you admire the most?
Ans: It’s hard not to admire Apple, whether you like and use their products or not.
Q. How important have good employees been to your success?
Ans: N/A, so far
Q. How long do you stick with an idea before giving up?
Ans: Perhaps too long! I only stop once I’ve weighed all the options, and determine it just doesn’t make sense to continue.
Q. What motivates you?
Ans: The projects that excite me are the standout projects which will not only make money, but have a benefit to the customers, or if you’re really lucky, society as a whole. I truly feel Knowledge Tools is one of these projects. By using this diagnostic tool, educators are able to better prepare students for college and their adult lives. Who could argue that better prepared students aren’t a benefit to society?
Q. How do you generate new ideas?
Ans: Coming up with new ways to solve a problem is a real motivator for me. My favorite software development client is the one who is willing to try new approaches within their business.
Q. How do you build a successful customer base?
Ans: Grade your customers like students, A through F. Focus on the A’s, keep the B’s, and fire the rest! It sounds harsh, but in a small business, you simply don’t have the time to spend on clients who don’t respect you or your time. Not having time-sucking, resource-wasting clients will free you up to nurture new relationships and spend more time with your profitable grade A client base.
Q. What is your favorite aspect of being an entrepreneur?
Ans: I love the freedom of being an entrepreneur. Somehow, being on your own allows me to come up with, and execute new ideas.
Q. What do you feel is the major difference between entrepreneurs and those who work for someone else?
Ans: Entrepreneurs embrace, perhaps even thrive on risk. Employees avoid risk at all cost.
Q. In one word, characterize your life as an entrepreneur.