EXECUTIVE SPOTLIGHT: ROBERT WISE

This article appeared on June 6, 2019 in the Baton Rouge Business Report.

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Rob Wise

POSITION: OWNER AND CEO
COMPANY: ITINSPIRED
AGE: 39
FAMILY: WIFE, MICHELLE, AND TWO CHILDREN: MYRA (5) AND WILLIAM (4)
HOMETOWN: BATON ROUGE, LOUISIANA
EDUCATION: BACHELOR’S DEGREE FROM LSU, MAJOR IN ISDS AND MINOR IN ELECTRONIC MEDIA


IN THE NEWS:
In May, ITinspired was just one of two Louisiana companies—and the only one based in Baton Rouge—to be included on Inc.magazine’s list of the 346 Best Places to Work in 2019. It was also ranked No. 2,584 on the magazine’s 2018 list of the 5,000 fastest growing companies in the U.S., with annual revenue of $2.2 million, an increase of 165% over the year previous.

THE Q&A:
What time do you typically get up on a workday, and what’s your ideal morning routine to get it off to a great start?

Ideally, I would wake up without an alarm, cook and eat breakfast with my family, read a chapter from a book, meditate in silence, do yoga, skip Baton Rouge traffic on the way to work, and greet each employee as they walk into the office. In reality, I wake up between 7 and 7:30 a.m., skip breakfast, shower and get dressed for work, read business/leadership articles on the internet, answer work emails/texts/calls/chats, get the kids ready to drop off at school, and head into the office with a smile on my face.

Your company has been expanding rapidly in recent years, more than doubling revenue and tripling its staff and clients. What are the greatest challenges to managing that kind of growth, and should we expect to see ITinspired to continue such growth?

One of the greatest challenges is to maintain and not sacrifice our unique corporate culture at the sake of more revenue, clients, and most importantly adding more staff. Finding the right person who is both technical and personable is extremely difficult because we are highly selective of our adopted work family. It can be tough to scale gracefully but embracing change and being responsive to employee and operations needs is critical. ITinspired is in an exciting growth stage and you can expect to see more where that came from.

Among ITinspired’s most recent achievements, the company was ranked in the Inc. Best Workplaces of 2018 and it also landed on the magazine’s 5000 Fastest Growing Private Companies in America list last year. What are your next goals for the company?

We are ecstatic to be recognized for the determination and teamwork that has led us to be as successful as we are today. My goals for ITinspired include steady and stable revenue growth each year, servicing more cities of Louisiana and the Southern U.S., creating more jobs for talented and driven professionals in our community, and hopefully win a few more awards along the way like the Business Report’s 2019 Best Places to Work and LSU Top 100 list!

You are a former LSU cheerleader and Mike the Tiger mascot, and you also were the Boudreaux T. Nutria mascot for the New Orleans Zephyrs for a few summers. Are there any insights or lessons from those cheerleading/mascot experiences that you apply as a business leader?

My mascot and cheerleader wisdom for business leaders: Be animated, make a big entrance, keep moving, bring energy, stay positive, work on the fundamentals, be polished, leave it on the mat, and smile because everybody is watching! 

How has technology disrupted your industry in recent years and how has ITinspired adapted to remain relevant and take advantage of new opportunities?

There is increased competition in the IT sector, hardware and software solutions are generally easier and faster to deploy, and cloud-based subscription services increase collaboration while decreasing the barrier to entry. ITinspired has transitioned from your typical “break-fix” model of providing IT support to a “managed services” approach. We manage entire IT infrastructures with bundled solutions, unlimited support and pricing that is affordable with high value. Our main differentiator is our personal approach to customer service because we create Raving Fans where most companies just have clients. Our Raving Fans love our company and our staff, they are a part of our work family. Not to mention, we are pretty good at this IT stuff! 

What’s a leadership skill you’ve learned the hard way?

I didn’t always appreciate the importance of being authentic, embracing my strengths, and applying empathy and compassion to all things life or business. I had an epiphany the day I learned that people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. However, the hardest leadership skill for me to learn has been to delegate and communicate effectively to different personality types. I’m still learning.

What’s something about your job that might surprise people?

I believe that 90% of our job at ITinspired is people oriented and only 10% technical. We hire for personality first and technical ability next. You can train someone to be technical but it is harder to teach someone to have great soft skills and a winning personality. Our first priority is to connect with people on a personal level, make them feel comfortable, and build a trusting relationship before we ever start working on a technical issue or solution. Only after we break down the typical IT stereotypes do we actually begin solving the problem. We have a “People first. Problem second.” Mentality that has served us well at ITinspired. 

What are some of your hobbies or favorite things to do in your free time?

I really enjoy hunting, fishing, archery, marksmanship, reading books, listening to music, watching TV series and movies, taking naps whenever possible, learning about business and leadership, and most of all enjoying family time with my wife and kids. 

What are your best productivity hacks?

I try to schedule things on my calendar at all times to stay organized. I purposefully take brain breaks and engage with my work family at the office to maintain my high energy level. I find that the app Google Keep is a great way to to keep track of and share lists, to-do items, and quick reference information. I don’t multitask anymore. I create a prioritized list and pick the top three things that will have the biggest impact on my day and I devote my full attention to getting those items completed before moving on to the next three high-value targets.

As a husband and father of two with a demanding career, what is your strategy for striking a healthy work-life balance?

The struggle is real. I don’t know a single business owner with a rapidly growing company that has a healthy work-life balance. It’s rare, and it takes extreme commitment and sacrifice in my opinion. I usually feel guilty that either my family, business, or personal “me” time is not getting the attention it deserves at any given time. As soon as I’ve got one stabilized another is out of alignment and needs my full attention. I’ve gotten better at the balancing act in the last two years by being present and living in the moment, shutting off the computer when I’m at home unless absolutely necessary, setting boundaries and being mindful of my priorities, scheduling quick getaways or mini family vacations, and setting aside personal time for myself to recharge my batteries.

What’s one of the smartest purchases you’ve ever made? What’s one of the dumbest?

The smartest purchase and investment I have ever made has been to buy a house instead of renting. The dumbest purchase would be the wasted money I spent on various gym memberships I signed up for over the years and convinced myself I’d work out every day. Great intentions but horrible follow through.

What kind of vehicle do you drive and what do you think it says about your personality?

My last two vehicles have been Ram 1500 crew cab trucks. My three vehicles before that were compact cars. I’m definitely a truck guy now. I’m comfortable in the city or the country, I can clean up nice or get a little dirty, you can see and hear me coming from a mile away, and I’m capable of carrying heavy load sometimes. 

What’s one of the luckiest things that has ever happened to you?

When I was two and a half years old, I was supposed to be on the Pan Am Flight 759 that crashed in Kenner shortly after takeoff. My parents decided at the last minute to take a later flight and change our travel plans from Pensacola to Las Vegas, where we lived at the time. There were no survivors in the crash and the tragedy impacted so many lives. I’m beyond lucky that plans changed that day and I’m grateful for the amazing family, friends and business I’m blessed with in my life.

Can you name someone who has had a great impact on you as a leader, or someone who has been a mentor to you in your life or career? How have they changed your outlook?

My brother, Michael Wise, is the reason why I became fascinated with computers at an early age. He taught me about computers, inspired me to learn more about technology, and was very successful at climbing the corporate ladder. I always looked up to him and tried to emulate his every move. He’s the type of person who keeps me on my toes, can instantly change my perspective with his wisdom, keep me guessing with his witty banter, or have me laughing hysterically from his side-splitting jokes. I also need to recognize my parents, wife, kids, friends and every person I have ever worked with for having a significant impact on molding me into the person that I am today. 

What is something you are absolutely determined to do in life?

I am absolutely determined to brighten the day of those around me on a daily basis. It energizes me to bring smiles to peoples faces and help them forget about their worries even for a short moment. I want to be a positive influence on others and strive for continuous improvement personally and professionally.

About the Stephenson Department of Entrepreneurship and Information Systems

The Stephenson Department of Entrepreneurship and Information Systems at LSU’s E. J. Ourso College of Business combines teaching and research to create a rich learning experience for its students. Relationships with industry and state agencies enable the department to assist organizations with issues related to entrepreneurship, information systems, analytics and business intelligence, as well as innovation and technological change and offer enhanced career opportunities for its graduates. Collaborative research efforts of its diverse faculty have resulted in major grants from the National Science Foundation and the state of Louisiana. For more information, visit business.lsu.edu/sdeis

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