NFIB Member: Joe Balsarotti
Business: Software-To-Go, St. Peters, Mo.
How did you become a small business owner, and why?
I’ve been “in business” since I was a kid, when I sold lemonade to construction workers who were widening the road in front of my house. Then it was a neighborhood newspaper, then cherries from our backyard, then custom cabling and computer work—somewhere along the line, I made it official. Business just seems to be in my DNA.
What do you love the most about running a small business?
You can do things on your own terms. Our clients are our “bosses,” but how we resolve their issues is our decision. Being able to make a positive difference in so many people’s lives is very rewarding.
What does owning a business allow you to do that most folks do not get to enjoy?
I’ve been able to meet thousands of interesting people over the past 30 years, including former Pres. George W. Bush, former Missouri Gov. Bob Holden, Steve Wozeniak, Bill Gates, and many actors and actresses.
What is your biggest challenge right now, and how are you dealing with it?
With a majority of our clients being fellow small businesses, we feel their pressures. As an IT outsource company, we become the computer department and extra staff to hundreds of small businesses that are too small or don’t need a full-time tech staff. Many times, we are most valuable as a sounding board for other business owners and managers.
What has been your proudest moment as a small business owner?
Meeting Pres. Bush and having him mention us in a speech.
What is the best part of your day?
Midnight—at that time, I finally wind down and relax.
What do you read?
I read everything from daily news to financial magazines to biographies to technical publications to sci-fi novels.
What has been your biggest mistake, and how did you learn from it?
I’ve made a bunch of little mistakes along the way and will probably continue to make mistakes as long as I’m in business. I just try not to repeat them.
Our biggest challenge, however, was when I suddenly became ill about seven years ago and was unable to work full time for more than six months. Since my staff was cross-trained, they kept things running. My best friend, who also happens to have an MBA, flew into town on his own dime twice, without my asking, to sit in my chair and take care of the business side.
What is your favorite thing to do off the clock? How about on the clock?
In our business, there is no such thing as “off the clock.” But when I can get away, I love to take road trips—especially the roads less traveled. I’ve done about 60 percent of old Route 66. On the clock, I'm very active in the online forum of our industry association, the American Standard Code for Information Interchange Group, and spend time throughout each day staying connecting with my colleagues across the United States and Canada, answering questions on business, marketing and technical issues for new business owners.
How do you define success?
Being recognized as someone who can solve whatever problem comes up.