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Greenville Business Magazine

2019 SC 25 Fastest Growing Companies: No. 4 Diesel Laptops

LEADERSHIP Tyler Robertson, CEO

INDUSTRY  Diagnostic software and hardware for the commercial truck and off-highway industries



What is the one thing that you would want others to know about your company?

What got us here won't get us there. What we mean by saying that is we must continue to innovate, create and adapt to a quickly changing market. We believe we have some really, really great new products and services we will be launching in 2020 that solidify our company as a dominant player in our market.

How important is finding good talent in your company? Have you been able to find the talent you need in South Carolina?

Finding great talent is important, but even more important is putting the right resources, culture and tools in that person's hand to succeed. For the most part, we've been able to find great talent in South Carolina. The only exception has been with certain software engineers such as mobile app development and web developers. We encourage today's youth to really look into those fields, as there is a huge shortage of local talent in the South Carolina market.

What lessons did you learn the hard way? If you could go back five or 10 years, what advice would you tell yourself?

If you are going for fast growth, you have to accept that you are going to stumble and make some costly mistakes along the way. You need to just accept this, not let it eat at you and move on. 

We choose to focus on growth—sales and marketing—so we really neglected our accounting department, network security, HR department, customer service and a ton of other areas. All of these cost us a lot of money, but in hindsight, I'd do it again the same way. 

You can't grow fast in all departments at the same speed, and you just have to deal with it as you go. We choose to take speed and growth over everything else.

If I could go back in time, I would probably tell my younger self to quit my regular job and get focused on Diesel Laptops a lot sooner!

Have you acquired or merged with a company as part of your growth plan? What advice would you give to a company considering the same?

We had one vendor where we were 95% of their business. We ended up just purchasing the rights to his products instead of paying monthly licensing fees. That purchase didn't change our growth trajectory—it just saved us money in the long-term. With how fast we grew, and the inexperience most of our employees had, I don't think an acquisition would have worked well for us as this stage.

Do you have a mentor or life coach? What books would you recommend reading? Is being involved in your community important and why? 

I don't have a mentor or life coach, but I do read and listen to plenty of business books. I'll probably go through over 75 business books this year, and topics range from all aspects of how businesses operate. The two that had the most impact on me this year was "Start with Why" by Simon Sinek and "Building a Story Brand" by Donald Miller. I want our company to be involved in the community, and we do our part through local donations and sponsorships. 

What marketing tips would you offer other companies? 

I built my company from being in my garage with me as the only employee to over 140 Diesel Laptops employees. We did this mainly through online marketing, cold calling and trade shows. The power of social media, YouTube and pay-per-click is unreal. We've had over 6 million views on YouTube, do millions of ad impressions per year online and push out a lot of content each month. It really works once you figure it out.