As a seasoned veteran of both golf and business, Michael Mosel knows firsthand that both can be fraught with frustration. His solution—literally for the former and figuratively for the latter—is the driver club. Even today, decades after he picked out his first woods, he still recalls the look and feel of his Powerbilt Citation persimmon driver dating back to 1986. “When you tee off with a driver, it’s the one shot in golf where you’re truly in control,” he explains. “You have a level lie, you control the height of the ball on the tee, and most importantly, you are in control of how you envision the golf ball flying. When I used to teach golf, I’d help people overcome their anxieties with the driver, giving them insight into how simple it can be to use it to give yourself the best opportunity to hit a good shot.”
For Mike, the driver is a relic of growing up and developing a strong relationship with his father through time spent on the golf course as youth faded into adulthood and the classic woods of the past were replaced with the metal golf clubs of today. And now, as Cofounder and Principal of Velarity, the driver symbolizes the achievement of the two forces from which his company gets its name—velocity and clarity. “In business, I think of a driver when I visualize how I want certain scenarios to play out and achieve specific outcomes,” he says. “It lends a measure of control and fortitude amidst the unpredictable forces at play, leading to optimized outcomes.”
Mike and his partner, Larry LeDoyen, felt that small and mid-sized enterprises often struggle with clarity as to what their problems are and which they should prioritize. They were also acutely aware of the value of each day in the life of a small business, so they wanted to bring velocity to identifying and solving these challenges. Velarity was incorporated on February 1, 2014, and landed its first customer within the month.
Now, Velarity specializes in assessing a business with an eye for the core elements of leadership, organizational structure, financial health, ownership issues, sales and marketing, and business development strategy. Mike and his team start by spending three to five days inside the client business, interviewing senior leaders and getting a feel for the internal dynamics. Through a lens of experience and objectivity, this intelligence is synthesized into an operations proposal, providing a platform for implementation in which Velarity works side-by-side with key employees to achieve results. Once its specific goals for a client are accomplished, Velarity stands ready to serve in an official advisory capacity, providing an important thread of support within the fabric of the business.
Mike and his team know how to solve business challenges because they’ve seen most of them before. Whether it’s negotiating lines of credit, cultivating relationships with customers or vendors, making critical decisions about strategic or financial initiatives, or tackling leadership challenges, they generally see results within several months. “When we engage a customer, it’s critical that we don’t add to their expense line or detract from their bottom line,” Mike affirms. “We have the ability to make a positive financial impact that more than pays for itself.”
As the Velarity approach has the biggest impact on smaller enterprises in the shortest timeframe, the company is currently focusing its efforts on clients with revenues of up to $20 million that are generally between three and seven years old. “We can really add value when a leader has carried a business as far as they can but have hit a wall,” Mike says. “You can’t run a $5 million company the same way you run a $1 to $2 million dollar company, and sometimes it’s hard to visualize that difference and make that leap. We give leaders clarity about the future if they’re really looking to break down that wall and grow their business.”
When Mike considers the fundamentals that make Velarity successful, he sees the legacy of his father. In the retail world of the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic, before Wal-Mart and Target trampled the competition, Mike’s dad was a top-notch fixer for regional players Jamesway and Ames, rescuing struggling stores and opening others. This meant frequent moves for Mike’s family, with new schools and new friends, but it also exposed Mike to his father’s work—and remarkable talent—in the business world. His greatest skill, one that still echoes today through the management style Mike himself has crafted, was simplification.
“My father had a way of simplifying what makes a business successful,” Mike says. “He would distill a business model down to its fundamentals to see if they made sense. It’s pretty easy to watch the dollars in and dollars out, in terms of basic mechanics. At Velarity today, I do the same thing. It’s easy to get bogged down in the minutia. But my talent, like his, has always been seeing the bigger picture, and analyzing how the pieces fit together, both immediately and down the road. Sometimes that can be as simple as comparing our revenues to our costs, and sometimes it’s much more than that.”
Growing up and seeing his father open new stores and turn around failing businesses, one after another, gave young Mike a macro-perspective on business. Witnessing a series of cross-sections that revealed individual stores at varying points in their lifecycles, including both successes and failures, contributed to Mike’s ability to see the big picture. These experiences together constituted an awakening—one of many—that would stick with him for life: the realization that the business world was his dream.
“When I was 11 or 12 years old,” Mike remembers, “I would go and work in my dad’s store. He would put me in the toy department or the sporting goods department and tell me to fix things up and get them in order. At that time I thought I wanted to be in retail business like him, and that idea later evolved into a larger dream of the business world.”
Eleven years old is an early age to develop a yearning for a future career in business, but by that age, Mike had developed a wisdom beyond his years. When he was in first grade, his younger brother, Matthew, was diagnosed with a rare and terminal illness that completely redefined the family’s dynamics. Through the next several years, Mike grew accustomed to hospitals and complex medical terminology, and even stepping into the role of an additional support figure for his mother. It wasn’t until decades later that he came to understand that his father was grieving, as well, in his own way.
Mike was nine years old when Matthew passed away. “I had grown up and learned a lot of street smarts early on,” he remembers. “I learned a lot about the curve balls life can throw at you, and about the dynamics within families. Because of my dad’s work schedule, I had to be there for my mom. And when she had another child, he was my brother, but I still felt a somewhat fatherly responsibility toward him.”
While moving around so much and seeing his father’s work instilled in Mike an appreciation for business fundamentals, rising to the unique challenges he faced after his brother’s death helped develop his other key ability: perceiving the complex dynamics of relationships among people and truly connecting with them. “Leadership demands empathy, and it requires an ability to really connect to people,” he remarks. “It’s natural for me to understand these relationships, and that makes me a better leader.”
The furnace of these trying times forged in Mike a great resourcefulness as well, which was strongly influenced by his mother’s industrial resilience. “She was a stay-at-home mom when I was younger, and she really taught me to make things work,” he remembers. “She taught me to be able to ask for help when help was truly needed, and to not be shy about it. She, too, taught me to see the whole playing field.”
The earliest awakening for Mike, however, would not be larger than life, like a dream to succeed in business, or as morally serious as truly connecting to another human being. It would come in the form of something far more mundane, and yet it would help drive the plot of Mike’s life nearly all the way to his entrepreneurial leap. It would be a game called golf. “I grew up playing golf with my father, starting at six years old,” he explains. “It was a singular way to connect with my father. Growing up, I appreciated that he would bring me along to play, even though I was so young. This was my first real taste of adults, and of the value in connecting with people in business.”
Coupled with Mike’s first dream of business, in fact, was golf. From the beginning, he was a talented golfer, but while he played on his high school team and thought he could have competed at a higher level with the proper commitment and resources, the real draw for him was the business side. Later in college, when Mike encountered academic difficulty his junior year at George Mason University and had to take a semester off, the business of golf was there for him. “When I had the pleasure of a dean’s vacation in 1993, the spring of my junior year,” Mike explains, “I was either fortunate, or unfortunate, to work at the golf operations of Lansdowne, in Leesburg, Virginia.”
Mike worked at Lansdowne that spring, and then through the rest of his college career after returning to George Mason, where he earned his bachelor’s degree in Management. His first job out of college was as a golf pro. Golf was there for Mike, and he was passionate about the art and science of the game. It was a thread that had run through his whole life up to that point. It was a window into his father’s business relationships, and beyond that, a window into business itself. But Mike soon realized that he still had an important lesson to learn from golf: that, ultimately, it wasn’t going to be the thing that defined what he wanted to do in life. Rather, he himself would be that thing.
“I had invested so much of myself into training to be a club professional, including being proud of the fact that I had worked my way up to $9.50 an hour from my initial $7.50 hourly wage. I felt like I was getting somewhere,” Mike explains. “But then I took a careful look at my expected earning potential, and I eventually awakened to the fact that this path was never going to align with what I wanted to do in life.”
With that, Mike was done with pursuing his life as a golf pro. But in looking for his next step, he saw that golf had one more gift to give him. A guest of a member at one of the golf clubs Mike had worked at was the VP of sales at an internet startup. It was the late 1990s by then, and dot-coms were exploding, full steam ahead. “I knew I had the right skills for it,” Mike says. “I could talk to people, connect with them, and sell. I interviewed, and I was in.” In his first year, Mike made his first $100,000. “This was amazing to me,” he affirms.
But it wasn’t enough. After transitioning through a few more positions in the industry, Mike was ready to move on to something not only bigger, but greater. “It was 2002,” he recalls. “I wasn’t married yet. In fact, I had just started dating Brett, the woman who would become my wife. And it was at that point that I thought, I gotta take a chance. What fruit will this tree bear?”
From his time in the dot-com world, experiencing both the boom and bust, Mike was equipped with more than a little wisdom regarding the promise of the Internet. There was great potential, but also great risk. Still, he could see that wireless and mobile technology would be a major driver in the coming years, and would quite possibly shape the decades ahead. Mike saw his opportunity there, and he had his greatest asset at the ready: fundamentals.
“I had seen it at the internet startup companies where I was selling,” Mike recalls. “It all came back to the fundamental question: how does this company make money? I had seen a single startup practically light $30 million in venture capital on fire in just sixteen months. I look back and think, wow, all that cash spent on dot-com related companies that really had no business plan at all. How were they going to make that money count? The fundamentals of business went awry.”
With the fundamentals of success at the forefront of his mind, Mike and his two equal-share partners founded Optima Network Services in 2004. “If you’re young and you have any thoughts of starting a business, then don’t wait,” he says, reflecting back on that experience. “If you’re going to start a business, go at it 100 percent. In my opinion, there’s no such thing as owning your own business on the side. When I hear people say, “Oh, I do real estate on the side,’ that says to me that they still need to take that final leap that’s really going to make or break it.”
Thankfully, Mike’s leap made it. He and his partners built a company that would capitalize on the information technology boom, but without dealing in information, per se. Rather, Optima’s focus was providing products and services to build wireless infrastructure for cell carriers, wireless network operators, and state and local governments. It was an industry where Mike’s mastery of the fundamentals was destined to shine.
After seven years of growth and success, the company was acquired in 2011 by MasTec, an infrastructure construction conglomerate. Mike stayed on for two years, honing his business acumen and learning key leadership lessons in the context of a large publicly-traded company. He observed the value of financial systems within larger organizations and how they can impact efficiencies within a business. He saw the tremendous value of making tough decisions instead of not making decisions at all, and of delivering on one’s word. “It was a tremendous experience,” he remembers, “but I was interested in exploring ways to work with business owners, connecting with their struggles and frustrations and finding ways to give back a piece of my knowledge and experience as a business owner myself. That’s the kind of positive impact I love to have on the lives of people around me.”
Through that time, Brett’s support became integral to his success. “When we had our first daughter, Avery, we decided to move back to Northern Virginia so our friends and family could be in her life,” Mike reflects. “Through my work at Optima and then MasTec, I had to travel a lot, and Brett did an incredible job taking care of Avery and our second daughter, Reese, while I was working crazy hours and managing those pressures.”
After leaving MasTec in September of 2013, Mike connected with Larry, a friend he had met through Vistage International back in 2007. Both were interested in refocusing their expertise to small and mid-sized companies, they met in Mike’s basement in early December and came up with the concept and name for Velarity.
As a leader, Mike underscores the importance of direction and clarity of purpose. “Through Velarity, we help business owners and executives address those fundamental questions and assess their ability to lead people toward the desired outcome,” he points out. “Confidence is one of the most important traits in a leader, and we help them develop the certainty to make a choice and move forward in a certain direction. That confidence will allow you to push past the edge of safety to enter those situations where you can try your hardest and possibly fail. That’s an extremely important place to be sometimes—a lesson I’ve learned that has changed not only the way I lead in business, but the way I connect with my wife and the way I’m a father to my kids.”
In advising young people entering the business world today, Mike underscores the importance of service jobs. “Go wait tables or bartend,” he says “Understanding the value of service is key in the business world, as is real world experience. I see a lot of people turn to education as a safety blanket, when what they really need is to get out on the court of life and play. Make mistakes, learn lessons, and try as many different things as possible.”
Mike also stresses the importance of a professional pursuit that balances passion with pragmatism. “I think, fundamentally, that it’s very possible to make money by following your passion if you’re clear about how to monetize it,” he says. Velarity itself is a product of this philosophy, mirroring volunteer work Mike does through the Loudon County Small Business Development Center. Since 2011, he’s offered his skillset and insights to small businesses facing problems he’s uniquely qualified to analyze for the simple joy of being in the conversation of business. “I think it’s incredibly difficult to predict how business ownership or entrepreneurship will affect your personal life if you haven’t experienced it,” he remarks. “People who have a stable paycheck often haven’t asked themselves the right questions in thinking about leaving to start a business, so I connect them to that alternate perspective.”
Perhaps the most inspiring theme that permeates Mike’s success is the fact that the awakenings upon which it’s built are self-perpetuating. One inevitably paves the way for another, creating a lifetime of transformation that keeps him continually evolving into a better leader, a better business figure, a better family man, and a better person. “I have a sticker on my computer monitor with the words, What are you going to create?” he says. “So many people these days are asking, what are people going to give me, or what am I entitled to? Instead, they should be concentrating on what kind of real value they can bring to the world, and they should be fearless about chasing that. It’s about standing on that green, holding the driver firmly in your grasp, visualizing the outcome, and taking the swing, wherever it leads you.”