Brian Domschke was drawn to technology at a young age. When the family purchased a new computer in the days before the internet, he was intrigued. Tiring of the Atari games in less than a week, Brian found himself wondering what else the computer could do. Once he discovered that he could call other locations around the world to share information and get answers, the computer become a central focus in his life.
Using what he learned, Brian developed his first business when he was 13 years old. The non-profit bulletin board system (BBS) he created allowed individuals to call in and share information and topics. They could also acquire additional software and get support. The board became very popular and when large numbers of people attempted to dial-in, the system would slow down. When several users complained about how slow it was, Brian issued them a challenge, “If you love it that much, then donate whatever you feel like donating and all of the money will go right back into upgrading the system”.
“The money just flooded in,” Brian recalls. “It started with $50 in a week and within a month I’d already received another $500. I was able to upgrade the hard drive, get additional equipment, and additional phone lines. It was amazing.”
This same inventiveness and drive have fueled the success of Brian’s current business, BDNet Corporate Networking, which he founded in 1999. BDNet is a service provider in the information technology (IT) industry providing a full-suite of managed IT service to businesses and organizations in the Washington, DC region. The services BDNet offers include purchasing, installation, maintenance, monitoring, and setup, as well as leading-edge data backup and recovery.
“We’re the vendor that helps you resolve all technology issues whether it be security, infrastructure, computer networking, or phone systems,” Brian proudly states.
Born in Louisville, Kentucky, Brian describes himself as a typical kid up until the fifth or sixth grade. But in his teen years, he admits that he became more independent and was a bit uncontrollable.
“My parents did a good job raising me. When I look back on it, I think one of the best things they did was gave me choices rather than saying ‘You can’t do that’.”
Instead his parents laid out his options, “Here’s the right way and here’s the wrong way. You choose, and you deal with the consequences”.
“Even at an early age,” Brian recalls, “there was a lot of personal learning that I was able to do because of being allowed to make my own mistakes.
Things really shifted for Brian when he entered vocational high school, naturally choosing the computer track. He soon realized, however, that he already knew a lot more than what they were learning in the classroom. After three weeks, he approached the teacher and asked her what they were going to be doing for the remainder of the year. She informed him that the class was going to go through the remaining chapters in the workbook and do the assignments. Several days later, he came back to her. “Here are chapters 5 thru 56; I’ll be at home if you need me.” Then Brian went back home to work on his BBS system.
Later his teacher would tell his parents, “He knows more than I do, I can’t keep him here.”
“It was nice to know that I was at that level,” reflects Brian, “and it pushed me even more.” Later, he would get regular calls from that teacher asking his advice on computer problems or technical issues that she couldn’t resolve.
With his near-obsession with working on the computer, getting to his other classes was a challenge for Brian. He was just not interested in anything that they did in class. It was around this time that he decided he was only going to do what was necessary in school to graduate.
“I knew that I could graduate with a grade of D and I was happy with a D or a C.” So Brian began to methodically work his plan. He would go to class only on test days, and ace the test, knowing that it would offset the low marks he would get for not doing homework. He calculated that this would balance out to the D he would need in order to graduate.
“I would think of ways to do the minimal amount possible,” he says, “but all of this was so that I could stay home and play on my system and work this little business I had. That sums up how my life was.”
As high school graduation dates neared, Brian’s father approached him and asked what his future plans were. Brian, who had no idea of what was next for him, responded “I guess I’ll go to college.” When his father inquired, “Who’s paying for that?” Brian responded, “What do you mean who’s paying for it? Aren’t you paying for it?”
Brian momentarily toyed with the idea of paying his own way through college, but was fully aware that he wouldn’t go to the class. “My dad knew that, too,” he states. Years later, his father confided, “If you had shown just a little bit of interest, I would have paid for your college, but you had no interest at all.” Brian concurred. “We both agreed it would have been a big waste of money at that time.”
That 15-minute conversation with his father, led to Brian’s decision to join the U. S. Army, which he asserts was the best thing that could have ever happened to him.
“That was the turning point in my life because I didn’t have too much ability to listen to authority at that time,” he says. “I just wanted to do what I wanted to do.”
Brian’s dad gave him some simple advice to help him make it through boot camp. “Stay out of the way. Try to listen. Don’t get in anybody’s face. And don’t volunteer for anything.”
As fate would have it, on his very first day, Brian caught the attention of the drill sergeant. “What I did could have either gotten me in trouble or been taken as leadership,” he says. Luckily, the drill sergeant took it as a sign of leadership and put Brian in charge of a platoon.
“From that point on I loved it. It changed me so much. I learned what it was like to have people under you and how to motivate them. I surprised myself. I surprised everybody. The Army gave me organization, it gave me leadership, it gave me a set way of doing things. I loved it.”
During his four years in the Army, Brian was assigned to maintain the computer network, where he continued to develop his skills and knowledge of different systems. He also started another small business on the side, building computers and selling them to officers and enlisted personnel. His tour of duty ended six months earlier than scheduled because he had multiple job offers waiting.
The offer Brian accepted was with a small government contractor. He worked with them for several years honing his technical skills even more. Although he loved being there, he realized he could make a lot more money elsewhere and left the company on very good terms. So good, in fact, that they later became BDNet’s first customer.
Straight away, Brian accepted a position with another government contractor, which almost doubled his salary. When he was finally sent to the client site, it turned out to be at The Library of Congress. His assignment was to migrate data onto a Microsoft network. In three months the migration was complete. What Brian didn’t know was that the project had been expected to take eighteen months to complete.
“Suddenly, the contract was gone. I didn’t know it at the time, but it created a lot of waves,” he remembers. Then he was offered a full-time job at The Library of Congress as a federal government employee to take care of the network he’d migrated.
“I really didn’t have much to do there. I had already done it. All they wanted was someone who was capable and available to monitor the system. They were very flexible about me taking time off when I needed to. That’s what allowed me to start my business. Things spread quickly to the point that I started pushing more toward my personal business and taking more time off without pay at my job. Finally, I told them that I needed to step down, but it was a good thing.”
Brian applauds his wife as a major influence on BDNet’s success. “My wife actually pushed me to start the business,” he relays. “I was very timid to incorporate the business, because once you’re incorporated, there’s no turning back. She told me, “You’re going to be fine. Just keep moving.”
By the time Brian left The Library of Congress, BDNet was a year old and in the spring of 2000, he hired his first employee to handle the increasing workload. The business did exceedingly well and the client list grew rapidly, successfully weathering the dot.com boom – and failure. “I didn’t have to do any type of sales,” Brian says proudly.
Twelve years after opening, BDNet now has 10 employees and is looking toward future growth. “In the first eight years, we didn’t put a lot of effort into growing the business,” Brian admits, “Now it’s just a nice clean machine moving in the direction of becoming a much larger force in the DC metro area.”
With the staff taking over more of the technical aspects of the business, Brian is focusing more on building client relationships. “I think relationships are the most important piece in life and in business.”
As CEO, Brian’s management style is similarly centered on relationships and creating a positive work environment with his team. “I’ve never been ‘the boss’. My guys know I’m in charge, but I never had to tell anybody I’m in charge. Everybody knows their part in what needs to be done; I just give the direction because I’m the one interpreting it from the client.”
But as hard-working as they are, it’s never all work and no play for Brian’s team. “For fun, we do things together outside the office, not just as employees, but as friends and colleagues. I have a house in the mountains where we often go to for skiing and we do other activities of that nature.”
In fact, Brian’s advice to new team members, or anyone else starting out in the workforce, mirrors his philosophy. “Enjoy what you’re doing and you’ll always be rich,” he advises, “I’ve enjoyed everything that I do and embraced who I am and the money just comes. Find something that you enjoy. If you don’t, it’s not worth it.
Even within a highly technical field where precision, the strictest attention to detail, and sitting in front of a computer for hours on end, are commonplace, Brian Domschke has found a way to make it fun. Blending his passion for computers, his resourcefulness, and his natural ingenuity, Brian Domschke has carved out a place for himself and has ensured not only his own but BDNet’s continued success in the future.