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25 S. St. Clair
Toledo, OH 43604

Don Miller of GroundSpeed

Meet Don Miller, founder of GroundSpeed, a web and mobile development consulting company.

What is your company?

We are a web and mobile development consulting company. Our focus is on building iPhone and iPad apps for small to mid-size businesses.
We use technology to solve business problems. The web can be a great marketing tool, but I think the best marketing strategy is giving your customer something more useful than information about your company. Let them peak into your ability to innovate. For example, if you have a local restaurant, it is natural to put up a web site that shows your hours of operation, menu, location, etcetera. Taking it one more level would be to allow online ordering, local ratings, and a way to receive feedback on certain menu items or service. The mobile application would supplement the web site, but it would also be a more useful social tool. The app could invite others to the venue for lunch or dinner and broadcast it to Twitter or Facebook to get others to join you. It is not just about static data, but about living data that entertains us and makes the experience more enjoyable.
How did you come up with the idea?

Consulting is sometimes perceived as temporary help. However, consulting is best utilized as a service that helps innovation through technology. The idea is to help companies move past there technology challenges and create something that will not just solve their problem, but handle their problem with grace and make it fun. 
What was the biggest surprise in starting your business?

The encouragement of the community. Many people seem to be rooting for the success of my company. Another surprise was the amount of work it takes to make your idea a reality. All great companies may have a figurehead that drove results and creativity; however, it is their leadership that made their success. Success is not obtained through one person alone, but through a team sharing a driven purpose.
Where did you find your first employee?

My first subcontractor was someone I knew and trusted. It is important, especially in the beginning, to build a team of people you can trust. I am still building that team and I don’t always look for a person matching the technical skillset, but a person that is ambitious, a self starter, and has the ability to learn new skill sets from their past experience. Finding people to work on projects is very difficult, because you want to make sure they have the talent and personality to uphold your brand. One bad egg could destroy the reputation your business.
What does a typical day in your business look like?

Owning multiple businesses, it is important to stay focused. I normally review all open projects on Sunday night and plan my week's tasks. Of course, each week is filled with its adversity, so it is important to be able to be agile enough to handle the adversity, yet stay focused enough to get the planned work done. Part of my weekly planning process is to look at my goals for each business and/or project. In the past, I have found myself working on projects without understanding the return on investment. This is most common with charity work. Our time is valuable and there must be a quick positive outcome no matter what type of project.
What are some of the advantages to doing business in Toledo?

Community is the biggest advantage of doing business in Toledo. There are many talented and creative individuals in Toledo. The community is large enough to sustain business, yet small enough that it seems you know everyone.
What resources or organizations in Toledo did you take advantage of and how did they help?

I continue to be involved with the community at Seed Coworking. These are some pretty creative and talented individuals. It amazes me that all this talent is here in our own back yard.  
I am also involved in the Sylvania Chamber of Commerce. It is important to support our local chambers. They are very visible and can help influence our government and our local startups. It is also a great way to network with other like-minded individuals.
I also participate in a Sylvania BNI chapter. This is a great tool for a startup. The philosophy behind BNI is to become part of a sales team to help others grow their business. The reward is the success of your business. This is also a great networking tool. Not only do you meet others, but you learn the value of creating relationships.
Can you share a funny or amazing entrepreneurial experience with our readers?

Working with a large Detroit-based client, I advised the company that the project we were building was not the best way to implement. It was very decentralized and would be a maintenance nightmare in the future. I was able to get through to the customer and propose a better solution; however, we lost the bid to an overseas company because of pricing. It wasn't too funny then, but looking back it is pretty funny. I wouldn't have changed a decision. It was worth losing the business to have the project done right. Hopefully the overseas company delivered it right.
What inspires you?

Many people and things inspire me. However, showing people that technology is not as complicated as they imagine is definitely inspiring. I have been involved in technology since the age of 10. Of course, technology has changed drastically since then, but there is always one common thread from the users experience -- the ambition to change and learn. We have to be open-minded enough to know that technology is not the enemy, but the tool to make things fun and productive. 
I teach an iPhone, iPad development class for the University of Toledo. I am absolutely amazed by the students that take this class. It is an elective class, so we have students that are craving the knowledge to build apps. Their work ethic and entrepreneurial attitude is very inspirational to me.
What founders do you admire and why?

Local founders Jamie Wright and Gene Powell. These are some very smart guys with high energy and passion for Toledo and the tech community.
Steve Jobs has been very inspirational to me. He had some rough spots, but his innovation and ability to deliver is good inspiration for anybody.
Interview by Joe Baur

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