ARTICLE
19 April 2024

Ep 70- Navigating The Tech Industry's Evolution With Wes Cummins (Podcast)

BoyarMiller

Contributor

BoyarMiller
In this episode of Building Texas Business, I sit down with Wes Cummins, CEO of Applied Digital, for an inside look at the company's revolutionary trajectory.
United States Technology
To print this article, all you need is to be registered or login on Mondaq.com.

Navigating the Tech Industry's Evolution with Wes Cummins

In this episode of Building Texas Business, I sit down with Wes Cummins, CEO of Applied Digital, for an inside look at the company's revolutionary trajectory. Wes takes us behind the scenes of Applied Digital's evolution from Bitcoin mining infrastructure to leading the charge in specialized cloud and high-performance computing.

Our discussion also tackles the grit of entrepreneurship. Wes reflects on Applied Digital's resilience amid regulatory shifts, sharing lessons from his upbringing on perseverance and hard work. As the company grows, so does its specialized workforce, prompting insights on fostering talent retention and aligning culture with business goals.

Overall, Wes offers a compelling narrative of continuous innovation through adversity, partnership and calculated risk-taking.

Transcript

Transcripts are generated by machine learning, so typos may be present.

BTB (00:00):

Welcome to the Building Texas Business Podcast, interviews with thought leaders and organizational visionaries from across industry. Join us as we talk about the latest trends, challenges, and growth opportunities to take your business to the next level. The Building Texas Business Podcast is brought to you by Boyer Miller, providing counsel beyond expectations. Find out how we can make a meaningful difference to your business@boyermiller.com and by your podcast team where having your own podcast is as easy as being a guest on ours. Discover more@yourpodcast.team. Now. Here's your host, Chris Hanslik.

Chris (00:42):

In this episode, you will meet Wes Cummins, CEO of Applied Digital. Wes' Company is building the next generation of digital infrastructure in the United States. He shares his thoughts on how building a strong company culture starts by providing opportunities for growth to your employees.

Chris (00:19):

Alright, Wes, I wanna welcome you to, uh, building Texas Business, and thanks for taking time to come on the show,

Wes (00:25):

Chris. Thanks for having me. Happy to be here.

Chris (00:28):

So let's start by just you introducing yourself. Uh, I'll, I'll at least say, I know you're the, the CEO and founder of Applied Digital. Tell us a little bit about Applied Digital. What is that company and what is it known for?

Wes (00:40):

Sure. So Applied Digital is a company that is building next generation digital infrastructure. And, you know, the company started by building infrastructure for Bitcoin mining back in 2021. There was a large exodus from China when China cracked down on crypto mining, where a lot of the hash rate, about 70% of the hash rate was in China at the time, had to go elsewhere in the world. A lot of that came to the us. We assembled a team that had experience in the sector, which there, there wasn't a lot of people in the US That experience given, I think it was sub 5% of the hash rate was actually in the US at the time, assembled the team secured power sites, uh, because it takes a, a large amount of electricity and built data centers, which is the digital infrastructure for Bitcoin. We don't mind Bitcoin ourselves.

Wes (01:28):

We never have. We provide a data center service for Bitcoin miners. And, you know, the original business idea around that was anyone can be a Bitcoin miner if they come to us. So you need to buy, you have money to buy the miners, the servers, and you come to us and sign a contract, we put it in our facility, we run it for you, and Bitcoin just starts hitting your wallet and you're a Bitcoin miner. So that was the original business idea of what it ended up being was we signed a few industrial scale Bitcoin miners that filled up all of our facilities, our largest customer being Marathon digital, which I believe is the, the largest Bitcoin miner in the world. And so that we built about 500 megawatts of data center capacity in about 24 months for bitcoin mining. And then in 2022, we started looking at what other, uh, products or services can we offer on our sites and with our assets.

Wes (02:23):

And what we landed on was high performance computing. And at the time, high performance computing was more of a niche market, uh, that went after like geotech analysis for oil and gas, aerospace design, automotive design, drug discovery, graphics rendering, and high performance computing is typically GPU based typically requires significantly more power in a single rack, so much a much higher power density than traditional data centers. So we designed that in 22, started building it at the end of 22, our first facility. And then in October of 22, we put a software layer in place to run a cloud service out of our facility. And we started running that cloud service in December of 22. And the, the customers were initially small, mostly universities that were doing research, machine learning, deep learning out of that facility. And, and we put the cloud service in place to be our own first customer and our new style of data center to show the data center worked.

Wes (03:18):

And then we could, you know, lease out the data center capacity. And then, you know, the, the, as everyone knows the world has changed since, uh, December 22 really is when chat GPT hit the scene. So everyone got their first taste of generative AI at a, at a, at a wide scale and what it does. And then in March of 23, NVIDIA introduced the H 100 GPU, which was their next big data center, GPU upgrade from the A 100. And it turned out that the, the data center we were building was a kind of a perfect fit for the new NVIDIA gear. And we were out marketing that, and we landed our first actually cloud service customer in May of 20 character ai. And so we've leaned now, we've done two things. We've leaned into the cloud services business, assigned more contracts and more customers.

Wes (04:01):

There we're, we're basically, we own the compute and we provide a, a very specialized cloud service that's GPU based. Uh, and then the other thing we're doing is we've, we went back and initially we were gonna build five or 10 megawatt, you know, facilities on these sites. And now we're back to building hundreds of megawatts of high performance computing, high power density data center capacity, mostly right now in, in North Dakota. But we, you know, this is a, a new, kind of a new world on digital infrastructure, and we can talk about that a lot more, but that's really what our company does is, is next generation digital infrastructure. That's

Chris (04:33):

An incredible story. Let me just kind of back up to the beginning. What was the inspiration for you to, to even start the business back when you did?

Wes (04:40):

Yeah, so it's a little bit interesting. So the business model changed quickly after we started. So the initial business model was actually deploying, you know, kind of industrial scale GPU capacity to do al kind, al altcoin mining. And, and that, that goes back a lot more to my background, which, you know, I've been a tech investor for 25 years now, and really what I saw was an opportunity in that market. So altcoins are anything but Bitcoin basically, and the largest being Ethereum. And the idea was we were gonna deploy a lot of GPUs and there were, you know, many different proof of work networks that required GPU capacity to run for different altcoins. Again, Ethereum being the largest when it was proof of work before transitioning to proof of stake. And the idea was is, you know, as, as an investor, I could, instead of putting money into these different altcoins, you could actually just aim the compute power at different networks depending on which one was most profitable.

Wes (05:41):

And so we were gonna be a large scale GPU operator doing Ethereum and other alt coins, and we signed an agreement with a company called Spark Pool that was the largest Ethereum pool in the world, I think had roughly 25% of the entire hash for Ethereum at the time. And we were gonna deploy a lot of GPUs in China actually. And so we raised money for that in April of 21. And then in, at the end of May of 2020 was when China cracked down on Bitcoin mining. And our business model changed because the opportunity to build all this infrastructure in the US was pres basically presented to us. I'd already started to assemble the team that could go out and do that. Then we just accelerated that. So that was really the genesis of the company, but it, you know, when the world changes you, you have to be accommodative to that. And, and so we, we have been that.

Chris (06:29):

Yeah, that's a great point to make. And let, let's kind of stay on that for a minute. You start out with a same, an idea and a plan, and that was to kind of be in China, China, you know, without any control. You have changes the laws and, and things and, and you're forced to pivot. Walk us through maybe what, you know, how that played out for you, the decision making, you know, other entrepreneurs face that all the time, I think and, and, and some successfully. And, and as you know, some unsuccessfully. So what are some of the things maybe you could share to help someone navigate through when market dynamics beyond your control change and force you to just totally pivot your business model?

Wes (07:06):

Yeah, it's an interesting position and you're right. You know, sometimes it's hard to make it through those. So what, what we did, we stepped back because when the news first hit, I, I remember it was, I think it was the last Friday in May, you know, it was, I was sick to my stomach. It was just like with the, the entire business model we were going after has just been closed for us. But we spent some time over the weekend thinking about, you know, what opportunities does this create? And it became very clear, the opportunity it created very quickly. The thing that was fortunate for us is I had already been in discussions about building sites for our GPUs in the us We were looking at power sites, we were looking at, you know, construction. We were looking at that. And so there, there was a pretty clear path and the, you know, the, our, the, the, our partners who, you know, in China were looking for capacity outside of China very quickly.

Wes (08:00):

And so we kind of had a natural customer base and we already had kind of the, the start of looking at these sites and what we could do there. So it was very helpful to have that. But, you know, at the start, it, it was a big, you know, gut punch when we found that out. And it took us, you know, uh, really over the weekend it, it became clear for us, but then it took us a couple of weeks to really change and, and take action on the, the new business opportunity. But I, what I would say in general is typically if there's a big change, it's going to it, it definitely can wreak havoc with current businesses, but it's gonna create some new opportunity. I think that's new opportunity out.

Chris (08:36):

Yeah, I think that's the, uh, the lesson I see consistent in talking to entrepreneurs is, you know, gut punch moments cause you to rethink the business model or where the weaknesses are, but it's about looking for the opportunity. 'cause with every roadblock then, like I said, if you really take a close analysis of the situation, you can find opportunity and then you just try to figure out how to pursue that.

Wes (08:57):

Yep. That's what we did. And, and like I said, we were fortunate in that we'd already started putting some of these puzzle pieces in place prior to that news coming out. And so it was a little bit of an easier transition, but it wasn't an easy transition by any means.

Chris (09:09):

So, you know, it may be too a little bit of, of your makeup. And I know I think a little bit about you, you grew up on, on a farm, I think in Idaho, and there have to be some lessons learned in growing up in, in a rural environment that teaches you that you just keep your head down and keep plugging away. Yeah,

Wes (09:25):

I, you know, there's many lessons from farming and, and I was in kind of the last generation, at least in Idaho, of, of family farms where, you know, all the family members worked on the farm before it was much more commercial. And so, you know, generally around five to six years old, we started working on the farm. Uh, I'm sure at that age we were zero help. Uh, but you know, you, you have to get trained into it. But we, you know, we did in Idaho, you do a lot of irrigating. You, you get up at four 30 in the morning and go stand in a wet cold potato field and, and move, uh, irrigation equipment around for about an hour and a half, then you get to do it again in the middle of the day and again at night. Um, so there was a lot of lessons.

Wes (10:05):

Uh, but, you know, our, our dad taught us, you know, being self-starters, right? So self-starter was a big part of, you know, what do I, what else do I need to do? Not just the task he gave me, and then I have to wait for him to gimme another task. Obviously hard work, but I, but I always make the joke, the the biggest thing that growing up on a potato farm taught me is that I did not want to be a farmer . That, that was probably the biggest takeaway for me. But it did instill, you know, very strong work ethic. And that's, you know, farming is a hard business just because, you know, like many businesses or, or maybe the, it's the worst out of any business. The predictability is just, it's just not there. Right. It's not predictable at all. The, you know, I always tell people when we used to do an or do stock investments, you know, the, let me tell you how farming works is let's say that you're gonna invest in a, in a, a company that trades publicly, you give me all your money now and let's call now being it's April, but let's say it was March, and then in October, I'll tell you how many shares of stock you purchased, right?

Wes (11:08):

Which would be your yield of your crop. And then you have, you know, five months to sell all those shares no matter what the price. And that, that's how farming works. You put all your money in upfront, you have no idea what you have until your yield comes out, and then you don't know what the market's gonna be after that. And may maybe you're gonna get zero shares because a hailstorm comes through or something. So, you know, it, there's a a certain resiliency that that it teaches you as well because there's very lean years and there's very fat years.

Chris (11:35):

Yeah. Uh, interesting perspective and very true. So, you know, let's kind of turning back to kind of applied digital, how has the company grown from a kind of a workforce and, and a facility location in the last couple of years? Yeah, so

Wes (11:50):

We, we've went from three employees at the start to, we're about 200 employees now our headquarters in, in Dallas, uh, Texas. And we have a, a second headquarters here where we run a 24 7 network operations center. And then we have sites, two sites in North Dakota. We recently divested a site in West Texas, so now we're down to two sites in North Dakota. Uh, and we're really focused on those sites right now, you know, hyperscale size, data center, deployments, it, it specifically our, our ellendale North Dakota site where we have a significant amount of power contracted. So, so expect to continue to grow, you know, pretty significantly over the next few years just because of the market opportunity we see in front of us. It's

Chris (12:34):

A lot of growth in a short period of time. What are some of the things that you've done kind as a CEO to help manage that growth so that, you know, you're building, uh, a strong team to, to kind of execute on, on the company strategy?

Wes (12:49):

So one, one of the things I've done, and I'm, you know, I've, I've been an entrepreneur and an investor for a long time, but is I've, uh, just to, I guess the, the wisdom I've gained with age is making sure I put the, you know, the people around me that have the skills that I'm lacking. So I, you know, really focusing on the things that I do really well and putting the other, you know, other people in the seats around me that do things that I don't do well extremely well. And so, you know, the, the, as you grow, I would say the, the kind of the bigger one for me, or for us growing this quickly is, you know, having strong human resources, having strong recruiting so that we get the right people in the right positions and they're managed the right way and we put the right type of structure in place for all of our employees to be successful.

Wes (13:37):

And then, so, so we have that, that's been a, a big one. And then, you know, our financing team, we're in a capital intensive business then, so we have a, a great finance team. And then, you know, we have a, a tech team, so we're kind of a blend between a real estate and a technology business. And we're on, you know, the leading edge of this new high power density, you know, really AI, workload technology. And so we've had to attract the right talent for that because similar, when we were building the, the Bitcoin facilities, you know, it was a really shallow talent pool in the us and it's same, it's the same with, you know, large GPU deployments that, like I said earlier, that was a niche market going back to, you know, 22 and now it's just exploded. But finding the people that know what they're doing, managing these, and, and, you know, deploying, operating, managing large scale GP deployments is, is, uh, was difficult.

Wes (14:31):

We were early and we were able to attract, you know, good, really good talent in that space, but you had to go to, you know, national labs and universities to find people that had experience with really large GPU deployments. And so we've done a good job. But that goes back again to, to recruiting and HR and having a really strong team there to find the people that we need. But there's definitely growing pains, right? As you grow up as a company and, you know, putting the appropriate structures in place because when you're, you know, a three to five person startup, right? Everyone's doing everything. And as you grow, the people that were there originally doing everything need to become more specialized, you know, in a group of the company. So that's a, that's kind of a harder transition as well. But if you, you know, you find the right people and you, you know, the team all works together, you're able to achieve that. But there's a, in, in three years, there have been a lot of changes, uh, at the company, a lot of new faces, and then, you know, specializing people that started, you know, doing everything. When we built our first facility, i, I, I think it was eight or nine of us at the company, right? And we're all doing everything to, to make that happen. And, and now it's gotten bigger and larger scale and, and we've added a lot of specialty inside the company.

Chris (15:41):

Hello friends, this is Chris Hansel, your building Texas business host. Did you know that BoyarMiller, the producer of this podcast, is a business law firm that works with entrepreneurs, corporations, and business leaders. Our team of attorneys serve as strategic partners to businesses by providing legal guidance to organizations of all sizes. Get to know the firm@voermiller.com and thanks for listening to the show.

Chris (16:09):

That's great. So you talk about kind of the, the importance in the recruiting process and I think equally important in the kind of onboarding integration process. Anything that y'all have I implemented that you believe Inno that's innovative in that regard to kind of help optimize and streamline that process?

Wes (16:27):

Y you know, it's, it, I don't think there's anything particularly innovative about what we've done. It's what, what I will say about our company is, you know, you, it's kind of recruiting from two different pools. So you have nationwide wide recruiting for, you know, people that will come and, and sit in, you know, whether it's exec or you know, uh, SVP type roles at the company. And then we have to do a lot of local recruiting. That, that's another one is, you know, our sites are managed locally. We have the, the 24 7 knock that sits here in Dallas, but there's been a big push because we, we, our, our sites are typically in, in rural areas. And so that's probably one of the biggest challenges is, is recruiting and chain and training all of the, the people and the talent that goes directly to the sites. Uh, so it's a unique mix for our company, uh, in, in, in that instance is that, you know, it's, it's kind of two different styles of workforce and, uh, but we, we have two different recruiters that, that manage that.

Chris (17:27):

How do you then bring that together, as you mentioned, two different workforces and, and obviously two different geographic locations, different states. What are some of the things that you are doing as a CEO and maybe with your senior management to build and nurture a culture at the company that everyone gets behind to kind of further the mission?

Wes (17:45):

Yeah, the, so I think one of the biggest things that I promote a lot at our company and a lot of the other management promotes is what you would expect at a, at a small, fast-growing company. There's a lot of upward mobility opportunities at a company, uh, like this. And, you know, I, I love to highlight those success stories within our company and really encourage people with the upward mobility that I think is just a big motivator and a big part of our culture.

Chris (18:15):

I think it's been my experience. If people don't see opportunity in your organization, then they're gonna start looking somewhere else. Yep.

Wes (18:22):

I look, we have our site manager in Allendale. He was, he, he was like the, the, I don't know if he was the night manager or, or, but he was, you know, he was, he was working at Walmart at night in Jamestown, North Dakota when he started as an operator at our site in Jamestown. So that's one of the kind of the lower level entry jobs that you could do for our company. And a year later he was managing the site in Ellendale and he just, you know, his, his work ethic and he just shined through and he was able to, to move up very quickly and, you know, moved his family to Ellendale North Dakota and is running the site there for us now. And it's just, you know, that we, we have many of those stories inside of the company, but we do, we're, I think we're unique in that we do hire locally, we offer training for these technical jobs and, you know, they, they pay typically very well versus other jobs that are available in these locations. And again, there's uh, a lot of room for advancement inside the company and it creates a really nice culture for us. So

Chris (19:24):

You were talking about the, you know, where the business, I guess has pivoted to, in large part, is providing energy and power to fuel the AI movement. There's been a lot written and and discussed about the idea that, you know, one of the limiting factors of the power of AI is the lack of power to, uh, run the centers or the, the computer. The computers needed to run the machine. So do the learning and, and, and have that advance. What's your take on that? I where do you see the industry, uh, from, uh, the power supply and how do you see that improving over time to try to keep up with the technology?

Wes (20:04):

Yeah, it's, so it's a big issue now and it's going to be get, it's gonna become an even bigger issue as we go through this year and into next year. Just the power capacity in the us. So, so the ring in Virginia, basically out of power, that's the, the most popular data center market in the us Santa Clara, maybe the second most popular data center market out of power. If you want new power there. It's, you know, seven to 10 years and a lot of the other,

Chris (20:29):

Wait a minute. Yeah. Say, say those two things again. 'cause I don't think people have an appreciation for that issue and the magnitude of what you just said. So in Virginia and Yep. And the nation's capital,

Wes (20:41):

Yep. Santa Clara, uh, California,

Chris (20:43):

Yeah,

Wes (20:43):

Silicon Valley, two big data center markets. They're, they're, you know, effectively out of power if you want new power there, it's a really long wait time, seven to 10. 'cause you have to build the infrastructure, right? You, you need, you need power generation and you need transmission, right? And generation can be built much faster than transmission can be built. Depends on where you are, right? Some states are much friendlier to new power generation than others are. So, so what we have done to, you know, solve that is, is we focus on stranded power, which stranded power means there's a lot of power generation and maybe not enough transmission to move that power out of the location where it's being generated. And the way we solve for that is we take our product, our infrastructure to the point of generation. And so there's some other things that you have to do.

Wes (21:33):

You have to make sure that there's, um, you know, good fiber grid for fiber optic communications at the site as well. So not every site works for this, but there's a significant amount of, of stranded power around, you know, the globe. But we're, we're focused mostly here in the us And how do you get stranded power? There's really two ways that I've seen that you, you end up with stranded power in the US and one is renewables are a big source of that solar and wind. And they, the typically, you know, uh, everything we have done has been located with wind farms and it's, you know, the, there's an incentive to build where the wind blows a lot for wind farms and, you know, land is cheap. And so North Dakota, I believe is the sixth largest wind producing state in the country in their 48th or 49th population.

Wes (22:18):

That state generates over double the amount of power that they use inside the state. And so we, you know, the, at our Ellendale facility, I believe it's about two gigawatts of wind that feeds into that substation, and that's where we are located. So, so finding stranded power that way. The other way stranded power happens in the US and I would assume around the world too, is a very power hungry industry. Goes out of business, company goes out of business or closes a plant or something in a certain area, and there's this massive amount of power infrastructure that's left behind. So like, uh, Alcoa smelter plants, for example, that have been shut down. Uh, those have become, you know, bitcoin mining sites and, and probably sites that are attractive for, you know, high power density data centers as well. So we focus on that Now, that can be a short and kind of medium term solution, longer term, you know, becomes a bigger issue.

Wes (23:08):

And I've heard, you know, any kind of, there's been so many numbers thrown around. One of the hyperscaler CEOs last week at a conference, I believe said that a hundred gigawatts of data center capacity would need to be built between now and 20 just to, uh, supply the hyperscale. And so to, to put that in perspective, the entire US market for data center capacity is like 22, 23 gigawatts right now built over the last 30 years. And saying there needs to be a hundred in, in the next six years, that's gonna be, that's gonna be pretty hard one to find the power and two, you know, permitting, building all of the other things that go along with it. Uh, you know, maybe the number's not that high, but it's still gonna be a very big number. And in the meantime for electricity, you have competing priorities, right?

Wes (23:52):

So you have this new data center application, you have, you know, EVs become becoming a bigger percentage of cars being driven. You have new things like, you know, green hydrogen generation, which requires a lot of electricity as well. Uh, so there's definitely competing priorities and it's gonna be a bigger and bigger issue. And for me, you know, I've thought a lot about this, that the only solution that I see the longer term for this, if we want to do it in a, you know, an environmentally friendly way, which I think everyone's focused on, is, you know, there needs to be a lot more nuclear generation for base load.

Chris (24:24):

Okay, that's interesting. Not dissimilar from what, you know, I've heard, and you know, the other things that get talked about is a lot of powers generated through water, right? And then you have competing issues on the need for water. Is it gonna be to power these centers or for human life? Yep. Uh, so we're gonna be struggling with those over the, the years to come. Let's talk a little bit about, I guess from where you sit, where, where do you see this, this AI and power generation issue and how, what are the opportunities and or risks for the Texas business ecosystem, if you will? Where are the opportunities where Texas and Texas businesses might thrive and what are some risks?

Wes (25:04):

So the, there's, you know, the, I think there's a lot of Texas businesses that will thrive. We actually source a lot of our components and equipment out of many local Texas businesses here. So there's that ecosystem and that that includes, you know, transformers, switch gear, a lot of the electric gear that's going into to our facilities we source out of Texas. So there's a big opportunity there for Texas at large, outside, outside of us, you know, one of the largest, you know, energy grids in the country here with Ercot. And so there's a lot of opportunity there. You know, there, there's a lot of, there, there is stranded power opportunities specifically in west Texas, uh, that, that could feed into this. It needs a little bit better, you know, fiber network. Uh, it depends on where you are in west Texas, so some of those work, but there's a large opportunity for infrastructure in Texas for certain, and that'll, it's a, it's a very attractive market for that.

Wes (25:55):

But there's a lot of other businesses in Texas that are feeding into this entire supply chain. You know, it goes down, it's pretty, you know, it's a pretty deep supply chain for this business. And if you think about, so, so let's say, um, a mega of data center capacity, you know, we have our own cost that we do, but like, if you're building tier three style data centers for this type of power application, you know, you'll need about $12 million per megawatt. So for a hundred megawatts, you're spending $1.2 billion for a gigawatt, you're spending $12 billion on construction and equipment. And so if we're we're saying, you know, 12 billion for a gigawatt, and you know, the, like I said, on the high end of the numbers I've seen out there need a hundred gigawatts over six years, that's, that's a lot of business to be done.

Chris (26:41):

A lot of investment. But that, yeah.

Wes (26:44):

By the way, Chris, that doesn't include the compute gear inside of the data center. So yeah, so the, the cost does not include, you know, the GPUs or servers or networking gear to go inside the data center. And, and you should think about that being kind of, you know, two and a half to three x what the cost of the data center is. So it's just staggering numbers. So

Chris (27:05):

You're talking 30 to 40 million per gig per, per, per megawatt,

Wes (27:10):

And then times that by a thousand for a gigawatt. Yeah. And then the, the number I gave early was a, again, this was a number that was not provided by me, uh, but a hundred gigawatts over six or seven years. Yeah. It's a really big number.

Chris (27:23):

Wow. Well, let's, uh, coming off of that, I wanna turn back kind of towards you a little bit. And I always like to, to kind of talk about leadership styles. I think that's helpful for business owners to kind of reflect on themselves about how you show up as a leader, knowing that can evolve over time. So, you know, how would you describe your leadership style today? How do you think that's evolved over time? Yeah,

Wes (27:47):

So my leadership style is, you know, I, I mentor some people. I like to, you know, keep people constantly involved in what I'm doing. So they see what, what I'm doing day to day. And, you know, again, as the company has grown, right, that I don't interface with every employee on a regular basis. You know, I, I have a leadership style that is, I'm not a micromanager. I want people to be successful in their roles. I want them to take, you know, the authority in their roles and manage their part of the business for them. Uh, and I think that's how, you know, over time how you build a much more efficient, you know, big company versus a small company. You know, when we were first starting out, I, I definitely was, you know, had to be, uh, more of a micromanager. 'cause I was involved in every single task of the business.

Wes (28:29):

Uh, but as you get the right people in places, and I give them a lot of autonomy to, to run their groups, I, I think that fosters a good culture and company over time is, you know, people feeling empowered and then feeling like they, they have, you know, the destiny of at least their group. And then what, what I really still like about being a small company, even though we we're much bigger than we were, is everyone can see their own direct impact on the company, right? You can still make a big difference as one individual inside of the company. And I really, you know, I foster that culture inside the company a lot. And, and again, i I always push on this upward mobility and the fact that you're at a place where there's a lot of opportunity here at this place, you don't need to look outside of it to find opportunity.

Wes (29:14):

And I, I think it creates a lot of excitement inside the company. And we all kind of, you know, with a small business, you kind of all ride the rollercoaster together because you have, you know, you constantly have setbacks and you constantly have victories then. And, you know, we, we've had stretches where we have, you know, setback after setback and that maybe comes on the heels of a lot of victories in a row too. So, you know, riding that rollercoaster is something that everyone has to get used to. Uh, but I think we do it really effectively. But hopefully that answers the question of kind of a, a leadership style.

Chris (29:43):

Yeah, no, definitely. And, and you alluded to something that, that's part of my next question, and that is 'cause because it's just part of life. Can you think of and share with us kind of a challenge or setback that, that you've encountered could be in your personal life or in business that you learned from that made you better? Yeah, and those are always, I think, some of the best learning moments.

Wes (30:04):

I've, I've, you know, in my career I've had many of those. And, and those are, you know, those are definitely learning moments. And it's been, you know, either investments or in other businesses, and this is where I was talking about earlier, that, you know, one of the biggest lessons I've learned is surrounding myself with people that have the skillset I don't have. Right? So that's probably the biggest one. But I would say the biggest as far as running this company, you know, as you run a company that's growing fast and you're doing a lot of different things, you know, you have to be a, you have to be a problem solver, right? A lot of people get really down about issues that happen inside the company. You know, we had some setbacks recently where we had some, you know, equipment issues on one of our sites that went down.

Wes (30:48):

And then while that was happening, our Texas site, we were notified by the power provider that they were taking it down for, I don't remember if it was 10 or 14 days for improvements on their grid. It had nothing to do with us. And so you have like all of this kind of hit at the same time. And, you know, one of the, if you are the CEO or another executive, the company, you have to be a leader through that. You have to solve those problems. I'm not a person who goes and, and screams and yells at people because I don't find it productive. But that's been the biggest is if you're starting a company, you're gonna have so many challenges. You have to be a problem solver for those challenges. And especially if you have employees around you, you have to be the problem solver. And you know, I, I say this about most, you know, we're kind of an interesting blend between real estate and tech as a business, but if you're a, like a tech entrepreneur, you have to be a perpetual optimist, right? You just have to be, uh, other, otherwise you, you won't last. So you, you have a lot of setbacks and you have to fix those and grow and become stronger from them. But yeah, it's, I would say that's probably the number one is being a problem solver.

Chris (31:53):

I like that. You know, so many people I've talked to, the word I would use is as an entrepreneur, you have to have grit and you kind of, you know, it's, it's not as easy as you think it's gonna be. Yep. And expect the unexpected. Right.

Wes (32:06):

Definitely expect the unexpected.

Chris (32:09):

Kinda like when China shut your business model down. . Exactly. So, you know, Wes, this has been a really great conversation. I think we could go on forever, but I, I want to just turn to a little kind of fun personal side before we wrap up that, you know, I, I think we've already answered this question 'cause I usually ask my guest what their first job was and I think, sounds like yours was on a potato farm in, in, in Idaho.

Wes (32:32):

So Yeah, uh, my, my first job was working on the family farm and then my second job when I was in uh, college was I was a, a service station auto mechanic from skills I'd learned on the farm. And then I was finally able to get out of that with an internship institutional money management firm. I think it was my junior year in college. I was able to do that. But, and then I went to, uh, an investment bank in New York outta college. And then it's kind of been, you know, some of those through that to here. But yeah, the, the, I would say my first real job outside of working for my dad on his farm was auto mechanic at a, at a service station.

Chris (33:10):

That, that's impressive. So how long have you been in Texas?

Wes (33:14):

I moved to Texas in 2013.

Chris (33:16):

Okay. So you've been here long enough. Uh, to answer the, my next question, which is, do you prefer Tex-Mex or barbecue

Wes (33:22):

If the Tex-Mex is right? I prefer Tex-Mex.

Chris (33:25):

Okay. , I like that qualification. So we'll wrap up with this one. If you could take a 30 day sabbatical, where would you go and what would you do?

Wes (33:33):

Wow, that's a good question. That's never even crossed my mind that I would have the ability to do that 30 day sabbatical somewhere that is not a population center. Probably has a beach, doesn't have to be anything specific and people can't find me on my cell phone that that would be the requirements. That

Chris (33:51):

Those are good ones. I like those. Well, I do like the question 'cause most entrepreneurs never take the time to think about that. Right. Or have the, the, uh, the liberty

Wes (34:00):

To. I have not thought about that one.

Chris (34:02):

Well good, now you at least have a framework for it if it ever happens. . So Wes, thanks so much for taking the time. I really appreciate getting to know you and hearing your story. It, it is fascinating stuff what you and your team at Applied are doing and have done already.

Wes (34:16):

Thanks for having me. I always love talking about our company.

Chris:

And there we have it. Another great episode. Don't forget to check out the show notes at boyarmiller.com/podcast and you can find out more about all the ways our firm can help you at boyarmiller.com. That's it for this episode. Have a great week and we'll talk to you next time.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

ARTICLE
19 April 2024

Ep 70- Navigating The Tech Industry's Evolution With Wes Cummins (Podcast)

United States Technology

Contributor

BoyarMiller
See More Popular Content From

Mondaq uses cookies on this website. By using our website you agree to our use of cookies as set out in our Privacy Policy.

Learn More