In an interview with Insights Success, Skyler Ditchfield, the CEO and Co-founder of GeoLinks, shares key insights derived from his entrepreneurial journey, and discusses how his company has effectively disrupted the billion dollar industry of telecom. Insights Success recognizes Skyler as one of the most inspiring entrepreneurs.
Give a brief overview of your background and your role in GeoLinks.
My “entrepreneurial roots” began at the age of six, selling food, video games, lemonade, and basically anything else I thought people might buy, going door-to-door, or on the side of the road. I dove into the world of technology at the age of 13 when I set up a bulletin board system (BBS) to service 200 members of my local community with dial-up Internet.
This entrepreneurial spirit followed me into high school where I bought laptops off of AOL classifieds and resold them in my local newspaper classifieds for a 50% profit.
Fast forward, and I took my first real corporate job as Network Engineer II at the Private Network Management Center (PNMC) of MCI Worldcom in Silicon Valley servicing high-level clients such as JP Morgan, Goldman Sachs, Quotron, Reuters, and more. Although I was the youngest technician in the office, I was quickly promoted to Network Engineer III after exceeding the entire staff in router reprogramming. When the company relocated to the East Coast, I was one of two employees offered a transfer. Ultimately, I declined the offer and returned to my home town of Ojai, California where I proceeded to build a network business from scratch with only $500 in startup capital. I grew the company to nearly $3M within four years (in a town of only 8,000 people) and then sold my shares. Following this venture, however, things plummeted.
Over the next few years, I experienced multiple business failures that left me facing massive debt and ruined credit. Simultaneously, my health took a severe turn for the worse, placing me in multiple month-long stays in the hospital. Then came what I call my restart button. I found out I was going to be a dad. With replenished motivation, I found a whole new lease on life. I regained my health, and aggressively got back in the I.T. space allowing me to climb out of debt.
Fast forward a few unsuccessful startups later, and I co-founded California Internet, now GeoLinks, with my cousin Ryan Hauf. We are now the fastest growing fixed wireless provider in the country, and the fifth fastest growing overall telecom.
As the acting CEO of an 8-figure company, and growing significantly, I focus on fundraising, M&A work, organic growth strategies, and big picture initiatives.
How do you diversify your solutions that appeal to your target audience?
We sell Internet so our target audience is nearly everyone – businesses, anchor institutions, and rural consumers. We reverse engineer every circuit to fit a business’ specific needs. From different speed tiers, to VoIP, to SD-WAN, we offer solutions for businesses of all sizes, across all categories.
Describe some of the vital attributes that every entrepreneur should possess.
Resilience. Being an entrepreneur requires having the energy to work long hours, putting yourself on the line, and accepting little to no pay for extended periods of time. You will fail 15 times more than you will win. That being said, never take no for an answer; find another way. Never get upset as losing your cool never helps a situation. Always actively monitor your finances and cash flow (running out of cash is one of the top killers for all businesses.) Finally, you have to be able to sell. As an entrepreneur if you can’t sell your own product it will be near impossible to get things off the ground.
What were the past experiences, achievements or lessons that shaped your journey?
I was an entrepreneur from a young age, as previously mentioned. I always had the desire to sell and create. I sold on street corners, door to door, in classified ads, at school–you name it. I built a $3M computer networking repair and sales business in my small home town of Ojai (which has a population of 8,000) at the age of 19 with only $500 of personal startup capital. From there, I failed in 3 different businesses for multiple reasons – bad partners, theft, and an investor with a “risk-it-all” attitude. Every one of them taught me something different but significant.
Simultaneously, I was also struggling battling an autoimmune disease, Crohn’s, which consistently knocked down my health. After multiple blood transfusions, and a major over haul surgery on my kidneys, bladder, and intestines, in 2007 I was told I had just a few weeks to live. Unaccepting, I used the Internet to discover a new experimental treatment that ultimately saved my life. Nonetheless, I exited with my credit ruined, all my money gone, and not a single possession left to my name. I struggled with how to start a business again but eventually I found a way to build myself back up while continuing to focus on repairing my health. People have told me for 19 years that they feel sorry for me because of my health issues. However, I am grateful for all I have been through because they have taught me appreciation, strength, and resiliency.
Where does GeoLinks see itself in the near future and how will you catalyze the change?
I currently have 3 initiatives in the works that have the ability to increase the size of the business 550% in the next 18 months. While all may not come to fruition, I am confident at least 1 or 2 will. I see GeoLinks growing to a $1b+ enterprise value by 2023.
What is your advice for emerging entrepreneurs?
I would answer similarly to my outlined vital attributes. Furthermore, plan to make NO money for at least three years. DO NOT count on a paycheck. Once you start making money, don’t pay yourself all of it. Reinvest and keep your lifestyle as simple as possible. I’ve seen many entrepreneurs in years 4-5, when they start making good money, take it all home. They then adjust their lifestyle accordingly, and ultimately have no excess capital to continue to grow their business – they become stuck.