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“I think an entrepreneurial spirit is within somebody.” — Michele Bolos
Today, Chad is joined by Michele Bolos, founder and CEO of NT Concepts, a leading national security solution provider applying AI and machine learning to help strengthen the operations of government agencies such as the Department of Defense. Michele built the business by staying lean and cultivating an employee culture of innovation. Her company has lived through two recessions, the tech bust of 2000 and the national recession in 2008, as well as several government shutdowns. How did she do it? Michele would give most of the credit to her team but it was also due to key financial decisions Michele made through the good times, constantly saving while keeping the company’s focus on the customer.
“We grew very quickly in a short amount of time, but I could see the bubble was going to burst. I could just feel it,” says Michele. “And so for the first seven years we did 100% private industry and then I decided to diversify into the government sector, which is not an easy nut to crack.”
Prior to founding NT Concepts, Michele worked as an independent consultant for companies such as Mobil Oil, Talus Corporation, and API/WANG Global, where she led complex software engineering efforts for commercial and federal marketplaces. Michele was also a system engineer for Alfa-Laval Thermal.
On this episode of Mission Daily, Michele talks about the genesis of NT Concepts, how she managed to carry her company through not one but two recessions and the importance of being a servant leader.
Quotes from Michele:
[On starting NT Concepts…] “I decided when I left [Alfa-Laval Thermal] that I was going to go out on my own. Developers back then had middlemen companies who would contract us out and so it was really easy to find work at that point, but I started getting too much work and that was the premise to the catalyst to start NT Concepts. So it wasn’t this ‘aha moment’ but was to take the middleman out and start my own business.”
[On shifting the sales strategy…] “I quickly learned that it is not possible to win business in both areas [public and private sector] and have the same sales force. They are completely different businesses. And so when we started, we really won our first large contract in the private industry, which helped fuel the work in the government industry. But when we finally cracked that nut, it did not take long to go completely shift and go 100% government.”
[On hiring…] “There’s usually three top things that people are looking for in a company. They’re looking to see if the values line up. They’re looking to see if the company is a culture fit. And honestly, they just want to work with really great people. So we’re very intentional when hiring to hire to our core values so we almost guarantee we are going to work with people we really like.”
“My dad taught me how to be a servant leader. He just reminded me to constantly show empathy. You might not always give somebody what they want but if you show someone empathy then the conversation is going to go much better.”
“I have what is called a HEAT method which is my mantra in leadership. For me, HEAT stands for honesty, empathy, accountability and trust.”
“It’s hard to remember the days before TSA. As long as this nation continues to evolve and learn from our mistakes, then we’ll always be ahead. We have the strongest military in the world, and we owe a debt of gratitude to the military men and women for their service and sacrifice.”
[On Michele’s passion for promoting STEM in young girls…] “We need to build their confidence, give our girls a voice and get out of their way. If that path leads them towards STEM then great but if not then that’s great as well. I’m certainly not going to push that in a child whose brain thinks differently than that.”