December 5, 2023

Episode #107: August Zehner – Mytra Consulting

Meet August, a tech maven whose professional journey reads like a captivating tale of industry evolution. From the pulsating heart of the computer industry in the late 1980s to the dynamic realm of internet connectivity in the 1990s, August seamlessly transitioned through the winds of change, leaving an indelible mark. His narrative continued to unfold in the 2000s (dot.bomb) as he explored the intricate landscapes of software, only to make a triumphant return to the forefront of telecommunications around 2010.

After getting his MBA in 2004, August was an Adjunct Professor at Anderson University for over a decade, teaching business plan development and marketing management in the MBA program. For those in the telecom know, August is more than a seasoned professional – he’s an NTCA pensioner, a testament to his enduring legacy in the industry. Post-retirement, he orchestrated a new chapter, founding Mytra Consulting after a contemplative six-month hiatus. With a team of 13 consultants, the company specializes in guiding telecom providers and rural electric cooperatives through the intricacies of business and organizational development. Their offerings span the spectrum of strategic planning, business development, change management, and other services, touching clients across the expanse of the United States.

August’s success narrative is interwoven with a keen technology literacy that has been the bedrock of his achievements. His philosophy revolves around crafting business value through the strategic application of technology. Beyond his corporate ventures, August lends his expertise to the advisory board of Purdue University Global’s School of Business and Information Technology (SBIT), adding an academic dimension to his multifaceted portfolio. In essence, August embodies the fusion of professional prowess and creative innovation, leaving an indomitable imprint on the ever-evolving canvas of the tech landscape.

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you’re listening to the self-made is a myth make a difference together show with your host coach Tim campsa where we talk with successful business owners to hear the stories of their Journeys in building their successful businesses and more importantly we recognize the folks who help them Excel because we know that achieving business success is not something we can do on our own hello everyone this is coach Tim campel and I’m excited to have a fellow business owner from Indiana with us today my guest was an Adjunct professor at Anderson for over a decade after completing his MBA in his downtime he enjoys reading nonfiction that focuses on financial history and education and he’s most proud of his Christian faith and the ability that he has to help the underserved we’re going to have him tell us a little bit more about that here in a minute it’s my pleasure to welcome August to the show today hello August hi Tim how you doing I’m awesome thank you Augusts personal story well hey let’s jump in and uh start with having you introduce yourself and tell us a little bit of your personal story like where you were born and live and about your family and some of those Hobbies well I am a born hooer so I’m from Indiana I’m originally uh from Northern India up by Chicago about 45 minutes south of South Bend or Notre Dame Grew Up Notre Dame grew up a Chicago Cubs fan uh just pretty pretty much up in the region there went to school at Ball State did my undergraduate uh uh University that David Letterman made famous and then got the masters from uh Anderson University and they’re associated with the Church of God but after I got my masters I taught in the MBA program for uh like you mentioned over a decade in the business development business formation uh Market marketing management and then uh been married 39 years I have three kids 30s and I am not 60 yet so uh started young well congratulations 39 Three kids years that’s impressive and I cut you off did you say three kids I have three children yeah two boys and a girl fantastic and what’s your wife’s name my wife’s name’s Kathy Kathy wonderful is there a funny story that your family likes to tell about you that you’d be willing to share with us today you know uh humor is a weird thing and and for uh my you got to remember my kids are in their 30s and I can remember when uh when they were younger that I would not watch I Love Lucy and you know it depends on if you like scary movies or if you like uh sarcasm type shows which we have quite a few of those today but uh I could not stand to watch The Comedy of trouble I I just you know anything that’s predictable trouble I just wanted to avoid there and uh but uh I get a lot of razing about not being able to watch that’s awesome yeah August tell us How the business came about how’ the business come about and at what point did you have the confidence that you could run your own business so I have uh been a professional employee my entire career and and my I I actually my siblings and my my family are uh self-employed and and my dad was in business for 42 years but um I I chose the path of professional management or professional employee and so I worked for technology companies my entire career my last stent was with a u a state Network which was funded by about 20 telephone companies here in Indiana and uh I I could retire at 55 and and for those in the Telecom industry I’m an ntca pensioner and I said you know what I’m going to read for eight hours a day and I’m going to enjoy next phase my kids are off roll and and uh and what I found is I couldn’t do that I I could only read about four hours a day and uh some some of those uh some of those uh companies I worked for came back and said hey would you do some projects for us so it started small and then over the course of 12 months I actually had six or seven uh companies and uh we we can talk a little bit about Telecom but uh telecom’s going through tremendous amount of expansion in fiber broadband and so with my academic back and writing business plans I was writing business plans for bankers and and uh people that actually need to document it so uh it’s grew grew out of that Family support fantastic and so your you said that your some of your family members were in business did did they uh encourage and support you in this new Endeavor oh absolutely I I think uh you know we we typically talked about uh what what we were doing in our professional careers but uh they they were shocked that I didn’t uh start start a business earlier and it was mainly because I wanted the balance uh if if uh I’m probably a very balanced person u i I have as if I had to say anything the success of being a parent being there for my kids was probably bigger than trying to make a buck or you know owning a business earlier in life but uh it just transitioned to Something That Grew uh organically grew so so tell us a little About the company bit more about the company what’s the name what do you guys do how you help folks so the the name of the company is Mitra Consulting and the spin is it’s my transition so it’s it’s Mitra so my transition to retirement and at the same time the spin is is is if companies need help with transitioning uh we’re very focused on the CEO or senior leadership so we can help people transition into the next level so uh if you’re going from a bud the boss or something like that but what we do is we offer Consulting opportunities as a side gig for semi-retired or seasoned people that uh want make professional rates and they can help company in their domain of uh expertise fantastic and is it national Where is your focus International Regional how where’s your focus so uh I actually have been very fortunate that even though I haven’t traveled uh International domestically I’ve worked for East Coast West Coast companies in my in my career and so this last uh opportunity uh worked primarily in the Midwest and we would work with uh State networks that were associated with us but uh the company actually had a financial investment in a national carrier uh and they operated in 37 States so I I actually had a little bit of exposure to these State networks and and I actually do U State Network business formation where if there a state that doesn’t have a state network uh like New Mexico we can we can actually help do a little bit of formation there and and help the the phone companies get organized but uh uh a little a little bit more on what we do is we do uh strategic planning we do uh Business Development we do leadership development we do change management but what’s nice about this is uh we we have a little to no risk because we are uh semi-retired I do have our president is actually a full-time employee today that’s working as a day job but most of us want to work 20 30 hours but we still want to be very focused in in what our what our offering is to the to the uh clients yeah and is there a certain type Ideal client size of of client or um size of company that is ideal for you yeah we’re uh you know I don’t want to uh limit us but uh We’ve written business plans where we went after $100 million Grant but most of the organizations have assets of less than 75 million so uh we’ll work with anybody that can afford US first of all but uh but primarily we’re in this small medium business and we’ll work with either entrepreneurs that need some help or we’ll work with uh small business we we specialize in both for-profit not for profit so there’s a lot of Co-op ownership in the utility and uh telecommunications area so we got organizational experience in that as well fantastic so for everyone listening Inspiration make sure to check out the company in the link in the description and uh visit their LinkedIn and tell them that you saw interview so August share a story where someone pushed you or inspired you that you could do it even though maybe you didn’t think that you could and the impact that that person had on you yeah so um you know what I I would say as a as a professional employee I was was I was not a big risk taker okay so I’m not a bet the farm so uh I’m a big believer that timing is everything so you got to make sure that that you take that right step but um um uh I I think that there was a uh a a couple people it’s it’s hard to hard to the the really uh say one or two but the previous CEO of ifn he came in from a very large organization his name is Jim turer and uh I learned a lot of of uh large corporate type things from him and uh when I told him I was going to do uh retirement uh he sort of told me goes I wonder how long that’s going to so so I I think over the time of talking with him he’s been very encouraging uh there’s other other people but I I can remember uh when I told him I was going to semi-retire I know that there was a little chuckle because I like to be have things on my plate as well but one example what’s your biggest learning as a business owner um I I I sort of think uh uh depending on others I think uh there’s a lot of a lot of entrepreneurs or a lot of people that want to get in business that they think they have to be the person that actually does the work I think it could be a resource issue it could be a quality of the work issue but if you’re going to scale your business you really need to have uh people around you uh people like yourself that can actually coach people to help grow that business and uh the biggest thing is is you don’t have to go alone uh we set up our company to uh we actually have four Partners now so uh we do not I do not want to have sole ownership I I I look for divide and conquer and having Equity ownership among a larger group of people fantastic and um how did you Partner or Not navigate yourself through that in terms of deciding to have a partner versus not a partner I’ve heard heard different people we’ve had on the show talk both ways so H how how did you get to the point of yep makes sense to have a a business partner or in your case four yeah well in in in the business Consulting world that we do we don’t do any type of heavy lifting like engineering work or anything like that we but we focus on uh business formation or expansion uh if there’s uh any type of uh Revenue issues and and those are very unique skill sets so we have a lot of uh U Executives that uh have not been the CEO but we also have Executives that have uh you know they’ve been CEOs for decades right so uh that skill set is not something that you can hire and so part of it is is is uh we want to have uh Fair equity for our Consultants as well as we want to have Fair equity for our partners and and a very diverse uh skill sets so I might I might be more of the sales and marketing management side op sales operations we have uh uh executive uh mentoring type Bud the boss type things that that you know I’m not going to be that that person to handle that yeah makes sense though August we Biggest Challenge know that business success doesn’t happen in isolation so tell us um you know one of your biggest challenges during the years and maybe a fellow business owner who came alongside you to helped you through it so uh getting into uh semi-retirement or retirement and doing something new I think that’s the better term uh I I think there’s uh a lot of a lot of different uh people that I can look look to uh I think uh a gentleman that is actually a partner his name is Bill Bell and he was a chemist at Eli Lily for 30 years and then he retired and and by the way he retired before he was 60 and so he took a couple years off and and uh it’s sort of like wow you got somebody that’s in Pharma and somebody that’s in telecomunication what are you doing starting a Consulting business that’s focused in Telecom but what we found was there’s a lot of regulatory issues that are similar there’s a lot of compliance and U he actually was a great sounding board so that that partnership relationship and I’m very fortunate I I have people that I’ve known for you know 30 years that that are now part of not only the owners ownership structure but that works with us so um it it’s not a a oneman b here at all so fantastic I’m gonna put you on Most Grateful People the spot here a little bit if I was to ask you to pick three people in your business owner Journey that you’re most grateful for them being there for the business’s growth who are those people and how they help you so uh I’m probably going to say four people because I’m going to include my parents as two but it’s really you know it’s so uh my my dad was self-employed for 42 years he’s he passed a little bit before covid and he had a great life he he was the type of guy that uh he was my dad not my best friend right but he was my dad and he uh showed me how to operate on a technical level within a business structure so knowing your business and skill set my mom actually was the financial arm of that business so she took care of all the financial structure and that so you can see the different dynamics that we’re working uh as as they partnered in in their business and a lot of a lot of people don’t get uh out of business unscathed right so uh watching them able to grow their business raise a family um uh my siblings are uh you know I have a a sibling at CPA I have a sibling that’s got her Ms in education uh I have a sibling that passed early so that sort of tell told me I need to retire a little bit and focus on the personal side of life but uh very very well educated and and I think from a standpoint of doing well for you as well as Society so I I give my parents credit uh the next person is uh you know I want to say my wife my wife was a hospice nurse before she retired and it’s tough to come home talking about business problems when you hear what’s going on in people’s lives okay so the keep a horizontal perspective about what’s going on in your business you you know is this going to matter a year from now or or how how you handle that super important and so uh and then the last last gentleman his name is John vest and he’s from ifn uh the company I retired from and uh he he actually helped me qualify business okay which sounds like a weird skill but there’s a lot of times when you’re in business you have a lot of chitchat conversations with people and if you don’t get into a thinking conversation with your prospect with your customer you’re really not building value he he would not work on you know a lot of these projects that we got into uh there it was capital investment so there was a lot of money that we’ put out in order to build this fiber for for uh you know the cities or towns in Indiana we went through 450 cities uh towns R rural communities so uh you know making sure that the businesses there could afford our service as well as it would build out but he helped he helped me qualify uh to make money I mean it was very interesting it’s clean money and dirty money and I always tried to focus on uh clean money so that’s awesome I Helping The Underserved love it a couple times uh during this uh interview you’ve talked about balance and and enjoying life and in the intro I I mentioned that one of the things you’re proud of is the ability to give back so tell us a little bit more about what you’re doing to help the underserved so um you know the underserved we used to call them indigen but but now we call it underserved and and for I’m actually going to age off the board of Jane Paulie Community Health Center but uh for about a decade I’ve been working uh on their board and tried to understand uh how underserved needs health care so you talk about Primary Care behavioral health and dental and if people have an Outreach in their Community uh a federally qualified Health Center if you don’t have one in your area you should really check it out but uh people people that are underserved can go to to these federally qualified Health Centers and get uh taken care of from a health perspective and you know healthc care um it’s it’s we’re going through a lot of transition and but I think it’s it’s uh Lexus doeville talked about Democracy in America and he and he talked about uh health health is probably going to be something that uh you can’t have democracy without equality of condition and that’s that’s the health service area so uh being on the board I I saw a lot of uh stories every month of where we made an impact and uh I think I was aware that I I couldn’t do the Hands-On within within some of these Outreach but I could definitely serve and be a sounding board uh for a business perspective as well as uh supporting the the the mission um uh the second one is is uh when I when I got done uh and it was probably transition about um I’m really uh big on education so we have a lot of a question whether or not people should get a formal education but uh Classic Education is sort of transitioning so uh I don’t necessarily uh see it going away but um I was an Adjunct professor at at Anderson University and then I’m a a board uh on the U technology uh Advisory board for the School of Business and it at uh Purdue University Global so I’ve been doing that for a few years and and here again uh some of this is not heavy lifting but it’s it’s really interesting to see the type of education that people can get online or virtual in today’s world so wonderful so as it kind of Segways into the you know the next three to five years what do you see the world’s changing significantly what do you see as the biggest challenge that you’re going to face in reaching your goals and who are the types of people you’re going to need to solve those so Tim I I think what you are offering people is a high valued service so a lot of times people can’t get out of their own thoughts so as a business owner we we really need to be able to uh associate affiliate with people that can help us Elevate our game so uh I think uh as people uh in in if I go to my business as people retire especially if they’re uh they have a unique skill set either operations or uh accounting or or any type of marketing management uh there are the opportunities to do Consulting work and you don’t have to get lower wage pay so how that gets Affiliated or Associated into the marketplace um we’re we’re still sort of small we only have 13 Consultants but I I think that what you’re going to see is people uh they’re going to start wanting to work it’s not a financial issue as much as they want to have high value and I think it’s it’s really about doing high value impact type activity so um how you assimilate to that um I think uh it’s it’s here again it’s it’s about changing if you need to adjust you need as a business owner you need to say hey I really do need help and I and I call uh your type of work is pulling people into the boat their heads a little bit or they have motivational issues or they question whe what they’re doing and and they need to have people that can actually help them do action right so uh we’re we’re uh I don’t want to say we’re unique but we’re in a very small Niche okay so I don’t do a whole lot of marketing we don’t brand with our clients but uh uh it’s it’s also nice because we’re not this is not uh the people that that I work with it’s not their career it’s their next phase of Life yeah and that’s good and bad but uh I think uh from a technology perspective what AI is going to impact uh the business environment and some of the tools that are uh that I consider uh a lot of the software tools free today U and and companies are not using these free tools because they’re free you know there’s a mentality if it’s free I don’t want to use it because I’m the product and and I don’t think that’s quite right but uh as far as for us the challenges the next three years is actually just finding uh reliable uh skilled uh I don’t even want to say retired semi-retired or people that want to do something new that want to monetize their their their focus uh the federal government has a $42 billion grant program coming out in the next it’s announced but it’s going to take another couple years before the funds get fully developed but in Rural America as we get more fiber Broadband that the uh the education and the skills that these workers are going to need and the mentoring and the coaching I I think there’s an opportunity there as well for us so um it’s a balance you know the Balan life perspective yeah yeah I really like what you you guys are you What Makes Mytra Unique said it a couple times but the idea of as people are are you know getting closer to considering retirement they can still have a high value um position where they can make a difference in the world or in a company and get paid you know fairly for it so the things you’re doing is it does sound pretty unique and different in terms of you know allowing folks who you know are later in their years that want to still add value and have a a meaningful career but maybe only want to work 20 hours instead of 50 hours a week yeah we we have uh Consultants that only want to do five hours a month so you know our structure is such where if we find a you know a match between a client and a consultant they might only talk to them uh you know 30 minutes every other week yeah right so but uh on the on the consultant side it’s nice because there’s not a lot of homework right so they can listen listen and and a lot of times it’s U Been There Done That Type uh you know talking regulatory issues these Consultants have regulatory experience to talking decades and then if it’s uh people Personnel u a lot of CEOs a lot of Executives need confidential uh they don’t need a friend they need somebody that they can get a spin on what what they should do next and that’s what we try to offer uh we’re we’re very focused on business formation and uh expansion within the uh Telecom utility renewable energy and those types of things and then technology but uh technology uh tends to be younger people so so you know we we have some uh clients in in that space but uh they’re they’re still not listening to uh SE senior seasoned Consultants so that’s unique space but uh you know we we hope to expand in that area as well fantastic Advice for Business Owners well last question here August Jim ran an incredible business Guru one of his quot quotes as we become the average of the five people that we spend the most time with so as you reflect on that quote what advice would you have for business owners who think that they need to do it on their own and and aren’t aren’t willing or or don’t believe that uh people will help them if they ask so uh I think it comes back to uh you know as as much as people think they’re relevant uh they have to chase things a lot of the time so uh if they think that they can go growing a business on their own uh I think you need to look at how how successful you’ve been the last 12 months 24 months uh I’ve been very fortunate because uh I’m the third son of my gener my my family so I never had to look outside I could look at my older brother and say I’m not gonna do that I I think Tim not to plug you but as an action coach um people that need your service uh May it’s possible that uh you know you find them that it’s sort like oh they should have called me six months ago 12 months ago yeah so uh I’d really encourage people to to discover your services earlier rather than later because in the business cycle if you’re you know you’re trying to save it it’s maybe too late and then you might need to start a little earlier on some of the actions where you thought you knew but maybe you don’t uh hub hubis if I’m saying the word right you know is is a tough term because people are very confident about their ability what I find is is people don’t want to know how much money I have or how successful I’ve been they want us to focus in on them and that’s what we do as a consultant and I’m sure that that’s that’s what you’re doing as well you know and and sort of like hey I’m here to help you but you at least got to give me a chance and selling the intangible is very tough indeed yeah I I’ve also heard folks talk Networking about you know their reluctance to to just ask other business owners right and so you know go to a networking event or ask somebody for a cup of coffee um what’s been your experience with that as you’ve reached out to others and you know just to ask for their opinion or give you five minutes or a cup of coffee to share thoughts oh yeah I I I would probably say during during my career uh I did that a lot because I wanted to Spirit information I wanted uh the plan for the future uh you know if I say it as a baseball analogy um you know you need to run the bases and a lot of times you don’t know what’s happening unless you talk to people in the field yeah so having people that you can have a cup of coffee with or anything like that I I think it’s super important I I don’t know if that’s what you’re looking for Virtual Coffee but yeah well a lot of people are I’ve heard them say well I don’t know you know I don’t want to bother August he’s really busy you know I’m not g to ask for a cup of coffee and what are your thoughts on that in terms of yeah you know we we have uh uh pretty much on our LinkedIn and our website we actually have a link where you can schedule uh calls with our Consultants so you know we we until we got an engagement we don’t really charge for any of that so if somebody wants to talk to me for you know 30 minutes or an hour and have a virtual cup of coffee I’m all about that uh I think it’s something that uh it’s it’s really tough to know if we identify as people as well as what I can do to help but but there’s a lot of unique stuff that we help clients with that you would be like ah that’s you know you don’t need to do that and then and it’s sort of like well it’s not getting done and I’m more than happy to sweep the floor for you going to charge you for it but I’m more happy to help you but yeah the virtual coffee I i’ open to that very much on my site so fantastic well hey it Gratitude um August it sounds like you’ve been blessed with some incredible people who have helped you along your journey if they were all on the show here today what would you want to say to them you know what I I I show gratitude whenever I’m with people so I I I think they know because I’m one of those that uh if you know if I never saw you again what what how would I want you to leave and uh I think it’s it’s more of uh if I haven’t said that I’m thankful to you you know somebody that’s I’ve known but most of the people that I work with we transcend the work environment so over the years and and I’ve worked for tech company so you know telling somebody they’ve had 15 jobs over the time of your career they’re sort of like what’s up with that but um I I go back to the people that I have met uh in my first job and I still stay in touch with them and and and that’s that’s basically about you know you got to build uh the balance in your checkbook with people and it’s not a money it’s a monetary uh uh thing in the sense that they’ll help you uh with business and that but I think at the bottom of the day it’s it’s truly about caring about others and and and supporting them as well wonderful August it’s been a pleasure having you on the show today thank you so much oh Tim thank you and good luck on your business as well thank you so much enjoy the rest of the year and finish out strong yeah thank you thank you very much thanks for listening to the self-made is a myth show with your host coach Tim csaw please help spread this Movement by liking and subscribing to our show and following us on Facebook and Linkedin or wherever you listen to your favorite podcast to join our movement go to bead okay folks that’s a wrap please pay it forward and be sure to tune in next time to the self-made is a myth podcast