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VOL. 117 | NO. 141 | Friday, August 8, 2003

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Familiar encouragement moved Myers forward

Familial encouragement shaped Myers vision


The Daily News

If Jay Myers lacked confidence when starting his business venture, then together, his brother and father picked up the slack.

The president and chief executive officer of Interactive Solutions Inc. began to embrace the idea of running his own business in 1996, after 18 years of working in the corporate world.

His late father, Jerry, and brother, John who died about a year ago had each served as director of the Better Business Bureau of the Mid-South.

Each had also previously managed his own small business.

Id always had it in the back of my mind that maybe I would like to be part of a small business, and they felt like I had it in me, Myers said.

Myers, a native Memphian and University of Memphis alumnus, had worked for Kodak and Hewlett-Packard Co., but it was during a job he started in 1990 as a project specialist overseeing a new wave of video-conferencing equipment for ATS Telephone and Data Systems Inc. that he discovered a market niche he believed he could turn into his own.

Video conferencing has been out since the 1960s; its nothing new, Myers said. The idea and business plan was to make the technology important to people.

That meant stretching the marketing of video conferencing from primarily the classroom allowing teachers to instruct students in other schools to other professions, such as physicians, who can relay timely medical opinions to patients hospitalized in faraway states.

The concept of helping people live and work better because of technology thats our drive, Myers said.

Five years after starting up in a small former beauty salon in Collierville with one part-time secretary, Interactive Solutions Inc. has recorded more than $5 million in revenue and been bestowed with several honors including a Memphis Small Business of the Year Award and most recently, the Tandberg Southeast Region Award of Excellence.

In 2002, Inc. magazine ranked ISI 182nd on its annual list of Americas 500 fastest-growing private companies after ISI saw a whopping 1,535 percent sales growth in its first five years.

ISIs customers include FedEx Corp., Buckeye Technologies, the University of Tennessee and Methodist Healthcare/Le Bonheur Childrens Medical Center.

Four years ago, the companys headquarters moved into new office space at 3860 Forest Hill Irene Road near Bill Morris Parkway. Satellite offices are located in several Southern states.

Myers vividly recalls specific words of advice from his brother when he was mulling over whether to take the entrepreneurial plunge.

John said, Youll be fine, but go into something you know something about and make sure you are passionate about it, Myers said.

Myers keeps in his office a picture taken from another early source of inspiration.

After reading an article about Myers new business, late entrepreneur and Holiday Inn founder Kemmons Wilson paid Myers an unexpected visit to find out what his business was all about.

Myers described the impromptu meeting at his office like a musician first meeting Elvis.

It was a moment in time Ill never forget, he said. When Wilson got up to leave, he turned to me and said, You hang in there, youre going to make some money.

In its first year of operations, ISI brought in $260,000 in profits. Last year, it made $7 million.

Myers said, however, that Wilsons and his familys encouragement proved helpful not only in the beginning, but later when he faced serious decisions and had to bring the business through tough financial times.

It has been a difficult personal ride, but that calm encouragement really helped, he said.

Myers said his key advice to new business owners is simple: perseverance.

Most small businesses fail in the first five years its a risk, he said. So, you must ask yourself, What are my chances?

For me, failure was not and is not an option. There comes a time when you either fold up the tent or you move forward with a higher calling in mind.

He said a business owner cant afford to become complacent.

Weve been fortunate there are a lot of companies who come and go, especially in the volatile technology industry, he said. But weve done a good job of keeping our eye on the ball and staying ahead of the game.

A supporter of, among other community organizations, the Boy Scouts and Junior Achievement, Myers said his dad and brother were tough acts to follow but hes doing the best that he can.

My brother was a valuable asset, he said. He was really an unpaid consultant of my firm, and I never made a major business decision without Johns input.


PROPERTY SALES 36 154 6,546
MORTGAGES 34 94 4,129
BUILDING PERMITS 201 554 15,915
BANKRUPTCIES 43 126 3,396