First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Ken Cox: Challenged, but good. The school has been the biggest challenge. Going into the school year, we weren’t sure what the schedule would be. Having an inconsistent schedule with a special needs child is extra challenging, to say the least. My wife and I have also been dealing with slight depression from our daughter who is smack dab in the middle of puberty and taken away from all of her friends. She doesn’t have that support system that she should have from her peer group.
Tell us about you, your career, how you joined Hostirian.
Ken Cox: My hobbies include technology, boxing, adventures in my jeep, preparing for the unknown, camping/overlanding, and videography. My career began in film school. While in film school, I was introduced to computers and IT. In my early 20’s, I realized that it was probably more conceivable for me to make a living in IT than it would be in the film. So, I transitioned to full-time IT in 1999. I’ve been there ever since.
In 1999, I worked for Primary Network as a sales associate, selling DSL and web hosting. In 2000, Mpower communications acquired Primary Network, and I transitioned from Primary Network to Mpower Communications. At Mpower, I was an eCommerce consultant for brands like Wonder Bread, 9Net, and Trans World Airlines (TWA).
During my time at Mpower, I worked with Brian Matthews, Steve Szachta, and Rick Hercules to create Hostirian. In 2001, I left Mpower Communications to become the first Hostirian full-time employee, along with Steve and Rick. At that point, I was named the Director of Operations. Shortly after, I moved to the Vice President of Operations. As we grew, I became Vice President of the company. I took over as President in 2017 after Steve Szachta’s unfortunate demise.
How is Hostirian an Innovator?
Ken Cox: Hostirian is an entrepreneurial company that is constantly striving to find innovative ways to reduce our clients’ IT spend and provide greater services. Some of these innovations include cool aisle containment on a slab floor (see document) and cutting edge technology to support our hosted services (NVMe drives and the castle file system (from Nimble) for sand storage.
How the coronavirus pandemic affected Hostirian, and how are you coping?
Ken Cox: Hostirian has always been on the cutting edge of technology with massive bandwidth at its fingertips. Transferring workers from in the office to being at home was fairly seamless. Our major downfall was that we couldn’t send everybody home because we have the Network Operations Center (NOC). The NOC has to be here to remove servers and do things. Again, leveraging cutting edge technology like Facebook’s Portal and Zoom was fairly seamless. Being a process-driven company has allowed us to easily add additional cleaning procedures and deploy touchless body temperature scanning kiosks.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Ken Cox: Sending people home was a hard decision sometimes. I believe that the majority of creative employees are better in the office than at home. I feel like that suffered more. The tactical work doesn’t need the energy of other people to be good. Creative work does, so it was hard to get the creative stuff done without people around.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety?
Ken Cox: Boxing and exercise are huge parts of my stress and anxiety relief. Trusting my team is a huge one. I think removing negative people from the team has been huge for me. I don’t have the stress and anxiety because I just take those people out of my life. I also have a peer group that I attend. I find a lot of stress relief with my mentors and the people that I mentor. I like having someone talk to about my problems, even in business, and having people ask me questions that I get to snowball those downhill. It’s the whole learn, do, teach kind of thing.
How do you project yourself and Hostirian in the future?
Ken Cox: I see Hostirian and its infrastructure services continuing to be an IT staple in the St. Louis metro area. I see our new brand, MyGoSite, being a dominating force on a national landscape for websites. I see myself working more on the creative side of the fence as technology labor becomes more of a commodity. What I mean by that is, I hope to create more content in and around the company.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Ken Cox: Everyone is my competitor. Right now, my local competitors are Contegix and Neutrality. My global competitors are Amazon and Rackspace. The competitor that worries me is the 14-year-old kid in his garage that I don’t even know yet. We plan to stay in the game by creating content that provides specific values to our potential buyer at scale and maintains an obsessive IT perfection culture.
Your final thoughts?
Ken Cox: Get to work.