Interview with Earl Williams, Entrepreneur

Earl Williams, Fidelity Solutions Founder and CEO

Earl Williams is originally from Chicago.  Williams graduated in 1984 with a B.A. in Computer Science from Illinois Institute of Technology. He started off as a software sales engineer at Greenbrier&Russel. After working there for six years, he moved on to New Data Strategies and was a partner and account executive. In 2000, he began working at Verizon Terremark as a district sales manager. Six years later, he became the district sales manager for Terremark Worldwide.  Fidelity Solutions was created in 2008 and has been running successfully for five years now. William’s company has partnerships with Microsoft, Social Compass and Fidelity Print Communications.

Why did you start your business?

I had a job and I knew that I might not have a job. I wanted to be prepared if that happens. I saw a real need in the market that customers had that wasn’t being address.

What is your actual business?

We are software developers. We write custom software to help customers to increase market share and revenues. We are a consulting firm that focuses on software application development.

­ What role, if any, does a business plan play in building and launching an arts company (as a business pursuit)?

It was the first step. I couldn’t just start the business with out knowing your target customer and your finances. There is a lot that happens going into. I still have the original [plan]. It may not look the same. It looks a lot different, but it was the original.  It may not be a blue print, but it’s a plan.

How did you front the business?

I did go to investors first and I got turned down. Then I went to a bank and got turned down. The first investor came and told me, “If you really believe in it, fund it yourself.” I made sure I had a really good plan. I ended up taking a loan from myself out of my retirement account. I took a $5000 loan and started the business.

How did you attract and build client?

1) Prior relationships with customers I sold to in the past

2) Networking

3) Referrals

4) Partnering with other companies

5) Joining industry associations and participating

What three pieces of advice would you give aspiring artist entrepreneurs about planning? 

You have to have a plan. Failure to plan is planning to fail, I always believed. Some entrepreneurs have options A and option B. And if option A doesn’t work then you have option B. Option B is only if you don’t believe in Option A. You don’t believe in yourself or your plan. You have to understand your customer, how to reach them and convince them to do it. You have to know your customer.

What three pieces of advice would you give aspiring artist entrepreneurs about planning? 

Your unique value proposition. You have to understand what value you bring to the table. Trust that you know what your doing and you don’t get advice for everything. Expect advice and even solicit advice for the things you don’t know. But don’t build your plan around other people’s advice. If everything you get is external, then “do you know what your doing?” is the question I would ask.

What do you believe are necessary qualities, if there are any, for artist entrepreneurs to possess or develop?

Necessary qualities. Uhm, Honesty and integrity as one, because people have to trust you’re telling the truth and believe in your integrity. Persistence and perseverance as one. I think those are the two important ones. You also have to believe in yourself. Focus. You have to be focused. Do one thing and do it right.

Interview by Jehadu Abshiro, B.A Journalism, B.A. Advertising.


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