Be consistent. Be humble. Be Innovative
Take calculated risks. Listen to the market.
As part of my series about the “How To Take Your Company From Good To Great”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Ken Clay.
An entrepreneur at heart, Ken Clay has made a career out of actualizing his passions and visions. With an extensive professional network that ranges from executives of fortune 500 companies to professional athletes, Ken has quickly established himself as an upcoming business leader through various industries. As the CEO of Trackit Technology, Ken oversees all of the firm’s day-to-day operations, contract negotiations, client relations, brand management, and developmental efforts. Ken’s track record of developing business and cultivating deep, meaningful relationships with his clients continues to be at the forefront of Trackit Technology’s agenda. In today’s touchless world, Ken is most excited about the potential of his company’s product across multiple industries. As a lifelong visionary, his passion has always been to create the future he wants to see.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
I got started with my consulting company 38th Street Studios 5 years ago. Our goal as a company was to help businesses solve their problems and better tell their story through marketing and technology. 3 years ago, one of our passion projects was received so well by so many of our clients we ended up turning it into its own company. Trackit Technology. Trackit Technology is a digital display content management system that lets businesses and events control the content on their screen. We allow our customers to leverage the TVs in their offices, Kiosk in their lobbies, screens throughout their event and turn them into engagement platforms. Whether it be to check-in guests and prescreen them for elevated body temperatures, or simply by linking your brand’s social media channels to the screen. Our universal platform is simple to use and meant to accommodate your needs.
Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey? Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?
Some of the hardest times are our most recent memories. Covid hit our business hard as we lost all of our event business, which was 95% of our revenue. It truly was demoralizing because we had worked so hard for all of our opportunities in 2020. From PGA events to the Democratic National Convention. 2020 was supposed to be our breakout year. We knew our product was good enough, and we were excited to show it off on the biggest of stages. However, when event after event kept getting canceled, it felt like gut punch after gut punch after gut punch. Getting invoices from our vendors and having to deal with the banks and our suppliers for our Kiosk was debilitating. Every single day, trying to figure something out to clear our debts, I’ve completely depleted my savings, and we are still digging ourselves out. However, the hardest part still to this day is knowing our team and product was good enough, yet having the opportunities ripped away. It was soul-crushing to furlough employees who did nothing wrong. Where I got the drive to keep going was out of desperation & stubbornness. The little voice in the back of my head screaming at me to keep going, saying we built it before, we can build it again. So I did what I could only do, and that was to keep going. Innovate. Build.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘takeaways’ you learned from that?
The funniest mistake I made was flying into the wrong airport in New Jersey. To this day, I am still very budget-conscious, so I’m always looking at the least expensive form of transportation while traveling. I had a meeting in New Jersey with one of the largest Event companies in the US. I saw that there was a cheaper option if I flew into Trenton airport. Never having been to Trenton, I just thought New Jersey was New Jersey, and everything was somewhat close. My meeting was at 3 pm and I was scheduled to show off one of our newer Kiosk. The plan was to land at 1:30 pm, rent an SUV and drive to my meeting. Little did I know Trenton was nearly an Hour & a Half drive to my meeting location and the airport was barely an airport. The rental car options were less than slim pickings as well. So realizing this, as soon as I landed I had to order an XL Lyft and my kiosk barely fit. I arrived 2 Mins before my meeting(by the grace of God there was no traffic). The best part was my kiosk barely fit, so the driver and I had to push our seats all the way up. Luckily he was a good sport, and we laughed. When I got to my meeting, it was the perfect icebreaker, and my now client still teases me to this day about it. I also ended up spending the same amount of money I would have if I would have just flown into Newark because of my Lyft bill.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
What makes our company stand out is that our software is truly universal. By allowing our clients to control the content on their screen, they can now elevate the experience of their guests, employees, and visitors in creative yet simple ways.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
It’s hard to say because I still haven’t figured this part out. In 5 years, I can see myself needing serious therapy because I never let myself take a break or compartmentalize all of the emotions of the trials and tribulations I’m currently going through right now. I did try picking up meditating recently, and it has helped my anxiety. So I would certainly recommend that.
None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
This list is so long as it’s impossible to just name one person. First and foremost, my entire team for the sacrifices they had to make to get us to where we are. Afterward, ALL of our vendors of course, and Yvette Harris of Harris Public Relations for her patience with our young company and wisdom. iAutomation who manufactures our kiosk, and Derek Parks, who leads all of our Events business. Truly, the list goes on and on, and I feel so guilty not being able to list everyone.
Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. The title of this series is “How to take your company from good to great”. Let’s start with defining our terms. How would you define a “good” company, what does that look like? How would you define a “great” company, what does that look like?
A good company solves a particular problem for a particular problem and does it consistently well. That’s awesome, and there is nothing wrong with that, but if you do not continue to innovate and, more importantly, study the trends of your clients, you’ll never be great. A great company listens to its customers and tries to become the ultimate resource. Without spreading themselves too thin, they expand on their product offerings or services because they realize their clients could gain value from it. Otherwise, someone else will come along and steal the entire business away from you because they aren’t just a one-trick pony.
Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things one should know to lead a company from Good to Great? Please share a story or an example for each.
-Take calculated risks
-Listen to the market.
Extensive research suggests that “purpose-driven businesses” are more successful in many areas. Can you help articulate for our readers a few reasons why a business should consider becoming a purpose-driven business, or consider having a social impact angle?
In recent times, businesses have a more soulless appearance, just being these massive conglomerates only focused on making money. That isn’t always the case, but it’s not always easy to convince the public of that. Being a purpose-driven business, or at least having a social impact angle, gives businesses a more human appearance, making them more relatable and drawing the public to them.
What would you advise to a business leader who initially went through years of successive growth, but has now reached a standstill. From your experience do you have any general advice about how to boost growth and “restart their engines”?
I do not. However, it’s never a bad idea to try and get more out of and do more for your current clients. They are your best resource. Can they offer referrals, would they be willing to give a testimonial, etc. Start there.
Generating new business, increasing your profits, or at least maintaining your financial stability can be challenging during good times, even more so during turbulent times. Can you share some of the strategies you use to keep forging ahead and not lose growth traction during a difficult economy?
I network every day and try to do research every day about the industries our product fits in. How can we be a solution? Then I try and perfect my cold pitches, calls, and emails every day.
In your experience, which aspect of running a company tends to be most underestimated? Can you explain or give an example?
Managing people and relationships. As a founder, you carry everything on your shoulders. Not just the stress from trying to grow your company but from your employees and their situation. You have to know when to push and when to ease up. It’s easy to drive people into the ground and burn them out. That isn’t sustainable.
As you know, “conversion” means to convert a visit into a sale. In your experience what are the best strategies a business should use to increase conversion rates?
Word of mouth. Especially starting out. Create a referral program. My business is strictly relationships.
Of course, the main way to increase conversion rates is to create a trusted and beloved brand. Can you share a few ways that a business can earn a reputation as a trusted and beloved brand?
Do what you say you are going to do every time.
Great customer service and great customer experience are essential to building a beloved brand and essential to be successful in general.
In your experience what are a few of the most important things a business leader should know in order to create a Wow! Customer Experience?
Don’t over promise and under deliver. Do what you say you’re going to do and do it consistently. This is a lot harder than it seems, and I struggle with it every day. I never want to let anyone down and what I’ve realized is that although those intentions are good. That mindset is crippling.
What are your thoughts about how a company should be engaged in Social Media? For example, the advisory firm EisnerAmper conducted 6 yearly surveys of United States corporate boards, and directors reported that one of their most pressing concerns was a reputational risk as a result of social media. Do you share this concern? We’d love to hear your thoughts about this.
Meh. I’m indifferent to this. If having a strong personality on social media fits your brand, then do it. If you don’t know what to say, don’t say it, it’s that simple. Social media has been a valuable asset to my business because we can use our platforms as a resource for our clients and partners. We can explain the different values of our product without overselling to our clients because we can display it an interesting way on social media.
What are the most common mistakes you have seen CEOs & founders make when they start a business? What can be done to avoid those errors?
Over Promise and under deliver. If we feel like we have to talk a big game, people won’t be willing to help us. In our experience, most people will respond better to honesty. Do not overextend yourself as being a founder is already hard enough.
Thank you for all of that. We are nearly done. You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
Honestly, I believe that if cities invested in tech more, they could solve a lot of problems. I’m always looking for ways to work with cities with our technology and digital displays because I believe it can be a real revenue generator, job creator, and educational tool to help underserved areas.
How can our readers further follow you online?
Twitter & Instagram: @kclay16 | Website: Trackitmedia.com | Linkedin: Kenneth Clay, Company page Trackit Media.
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this!