At Interactive Solutions, Inc. (ISI), founder and CEO Jay Myers has an open-door policy. Walking through that door could leave a visitor confused — is this the boss’ office or is it part of a New York Yankees exhibit? Decorating the walls, several end tables, and Myers’ main desk is Yankees memorabilia, from light-up models of each iteration of Yankee Stadium to a hanging Derek Jeter jersey and several baseball bats. And so much more. The bats aren’t just for show, either. “Everybody’s got their hobbies,” says Myers, “and I like to play in these fantasy camps.” Myers selects one of the bats,
which he recently used at a Yankees camp to score two RBIs. “I love baseball, and all this stuff has accumulated over time.” At the center of it all is a flip-up stadium seat that Myers rescued before the demolition of the old Yankee Stadium.
While Myers loves baseball, he doesn’t just want to play in the fantasy camps; he wants to win. That drive to succeed isn’t more apparent anywhere else than in ISI’s continued success as a business. Myers remembers all too vividly the rocky start he had as an entrepreneur. “I was working for a telecom company for a while. I wasn’t a telecommunications guy but got introduced to videoconferencing and helped to build up that part of the business to about $5 million in sales. But then, for a lot of reasons, they fired me. On my 39th birthday. I had two kids, a wife, and a dog to feed, so I had to scramble. I didn’t come from money or have a rich grandfather to finance the company. We had a few initial investors and I had to take a bank loan out to pay them back.” On top of that, Myers had to deal with melanoma and a supplier stealing from the company. Finally, one of ISI’s initial partners didn’t want to move to Memphis, so he had to be bought out. A tough start, but ISI weathered the storm and started its long road to growth.
Myers credits an early surprise visitor as key to maintaining his focus in the tough early years. “When I first started the business, I got a call from Kemmons Wilson. He founded that little company called Holiday Inn. He didn’t buy anything from me that day, but he did provide me some priceless words of encouragement. He said ‘You hang in there, you’re going to make a lot of money in this business.’ Good old Catholic that I am, it felt like I’d been blessed by the pope. So I’ve always kept that photo of us, it’s been my good luck charm since 1996.” He found out about us after seeing an article in the Memphis Business Journal, and I thought ‘Why us? Why then?’ Maybe it was fate.”
The success of his business isn’t about luck, though. One of the strengths of Myers and ISI over the years has been adapting to a changing landscape. “The way we made money five years ago is nonexistent,” says Myers, “so we have to be quick on our feet.” As an audio/video conferencing and integration company, keeping up with the latest trends in tech comes with the territory in order to be competitive. “As we’ve grown, we’ve been able to address different needs, whether it’s a hospital for telemedicine, distance learning for schools that have remote campuses, and of course corporate places like FedEx or Autozone.”
The main conference room at ISI is fully synced with Amazon’s Alexa, which projects content from company computers and phones onto a big screen and initiates video conferences. The system is designed to be as seamless as possible, making conferences and presentations simple and easy to start for even the least tech-savvy users. Jordan Myers, Jay’s son and a recent full-time addition to the ISI team, believes that’s another of the company’s strengths: “We’re taking a lot of these parts and pieces and putting them together in way that makes sense for the customer. A lot of the custom programming and back-end to make all these pieces communicate is something we excel at.”
The rest of ISI’s office layout is also designed for ease of communication. There are no isolating cubicles. Instead, low-cut walls provide an open environment between departments. A 10-foot-long touch screen on the far wall works either in an interactive presentation or a brainstorming session. To prevent loud voices from carrying too far, ISI even installed a white noise machine in the ceiling to cut down on distractions. In the support department, a large monitor streams content from multiple sources, ensuring that technicians are able to see new requests coming in. ISI has its own warehouse where necessary installation equipment — TVs, monitors, cables — are stored. Finally, there is what Jordan calls the guts of the operation, ISI’s build room. “If we have anything going outside Memphis,” he says, “we like to build it in-house to test it out and make sure it works before shipping it out on one of our trucks.”
Over the years, ISI’s constant adaptations have led the company to a valuation of $25 million dollars. The biggest change of all, however, might be Jay Myers’ decision to turn over the reins of the company to his son. “These days, the people buying our products look more like him than me,” Myers jokes. “I’ll be taking a slightly reduced role, but I’m not going anywhere just yet.”
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