When putting together this week’s blog, it seemed like the perfect time to talk about the founder Robb Woolsey, and how Rural First came to be. There were many ways this could be done, but who better to tell the story than Robb himself. Luckily Robb took time out of his very busy schedule and allowed me to interview him.
The first question and what I think people want to know most is, what ignited the spark? How did the idea for Rural First come about? Typically, when Robb is questioned about Rural First he references back to the story of his mom; A few years ago, Robb’s dad walked in and discovered his mom struggling to breathe. He immediately called 911. Nearly 45 minutes later first response arrived, but it was too late, her throat had completely closed up and intubation was not possible. Frustratingly If they would have had the correct directions it would only have taken 6 minutes 15 seconds to reach her from the closest EMT station. Through the grief, frustration, and anger, Robb saw hope and determined that no one else should have to experience loss, due to inaccurate mapping.
Until I sat down with Robb and asked him what ignited the spark, I had no idea that he saw a need for the type of services Rural First offers long before the loss of his mother. “I’ve always owned companies, aside from working for Alltel, Verizon, and Sprint. A business I had some years ago struggled with needing to see the location of each of our customers. We needed a GPS Tracking system that didn’t exist like it does now. This was not acceptable, so we created our own. The system allowed us to see the routes our guys were driving. We saw that we could be more efficient, with better routing and seeing each customer stop. We were even able to see some wrong doings on behalf of our employees. Although that was not our intention, it was a plus. This was my first experience with seeing a need for tracking, and it was what lead me into the cellular industry. I could foresee the ability to see this in real time, growing massively. While I was managing government accounts for Sprint and Verizon I worked with so many different Fleet Management systems, all had good points, but I saw 2 issues over and over. They were all really complicated to use, and the mapping was extremely inaccurate in rural areas”. Seeing first hand where improvements could be made in the GPS Tracking industry, and then living through it with the loss of his mom, the idea of Rural First was born. As an entrepreneur, Robb could no longer stand by and watch this growing problem. It was then that he set out to solve it.
When it comes to Entrepreneurship and problem solving, a lot of things come into play. It becomes so much bigger than an idea. I wanted to get Robb’s perspective on Entrepreneurship and success. I’m sure that most of you will agree, that great things are not done alone. When I asked Robb how important good employees have been to his success, he replied “Huge, I worked for a year and a half alone, and there was a lot I couldn’t do. I’m not a coder, programmer, or GIS professional. You have to have people on your team that will take the mantle and run with it because there is not enough time in the day to do it all. I sometimes find it difficult to let go, because I operated on my own for so long, it is also sometimes difficult to communicate my vision properly”. Which brought up my next question; “To what do you most attribute your success”? He replied, “Several things, perseverance would be one, willingness and desire to work harder than most people, and the ability to see things from unique perspectives.” When we hear the words willingness and desire, we know there has to be a motivator. When asked about this Robb says, “The thing that drives me the most is something that happened in the 7th grade. I really liked this girl, but I was paralyzed with fear and didn’t talk to her. I think back to that constantly and I think the thing I fear the most, is the fear of missing out, the fear of missing an opportunity.”
Do you ever fear what you’re missing out on at home? “Yes, I wrestle with it, all the time. You want to raise your family and surround yourself with your children and wife, however, we have to be able to take care of our families and figure out how to grow those relationships at the same time. Seeing people achieve great things in business, but have a failed marriage has driven me to constantly seek balance. I typically go home at the end of the day and spend time with my family and once they go to bed, I stay up and work.”
Anytime we have to sacrifice time with our families, it is stressful. Obviously that is the not so fun part of entrepreneurship. What is your favorite aspect of being an entrepreneur? “Solving problems, getting to use the creative processes to find and solve problems that other people haven’t been able to solve, or solve in a better manner.” While problem solving is a huge part of any business, there is a lot that goes into starting and running a successful business. I asked Robb what he would consider to be the five key elements. His response was “lots and lots of planning, completely weighing out the risk, then being willing to take the risk, always maintaining momentum, if you stop moving you’re dead, and good advisors.”
Robb is an open book, with tons of experience and knowledge. This is just the tip of the work that has gone into getting Rural First up and running. From identifying the problem, solving it, and implementing it. Robb has successfully started and ran 5 companies, including Rural First. I hope to continue to learn, as Rural First grows. I’m sure the rest of the family at Rural First would agree that it’s hard to work with Robb and not grow, both professionally and personally.