Partner Spotlight: Army Veteran Kevin Vaughn
Veterans Day is observed annually on November 11 to celebrate the bravery of military veterans of the United States Armed Forces. In honor of this national holiday, I spoke to Kevin Vaughn, an MSP and ConnectWise partner, to learn more about his service, his personal significance of this day, and how his experience has impacted his career.
How long did you serve in the United States Army?
I was in the Army from August 1979 through to February 1983 (3 years, 5 months, and 14 days). My first duty station was 3rd Armored Division Spearhead, Frankfurt Germany. After 18 months, I came down on orders to go to Fort Bragg in North Carolina.
They wanted me to go to Fort Bragg and jump out of helicopters, I wanted to stay in Germany and drink bier! In order to stay in Germany, my foreign service tour (FST) was then extended by another 18 months, which brought my service time to a total of 42 months. I really loved Germany and didn’t want to leave, so I did not change duty stations so that I could stay on the FST for as long as I could.
Why did you enlist?
At the time, I was a serious drug user, and it was then that I suddenly realized I needed structure and discipline; otherwise, I feared I’d either die soon or worse, go to prison.
My father was in the Navy, so I asked him which branch to join. He said, “Son, if you want to see the world, join the Navy. And if you want to get to know a country, join the Army.” So, I chose the US Army.
At the time, I was living in Houston, Texas, and was wanting to escape the heat to travel somewhere completely different from what I had known; I wanted to go to Italy.
What I loved most about my education growing up was social studies; learning about different cultures and discovering new places. The idea of travel and taking on worldly adventures was always a facet I was most drawn to.
- Location of service: Germany, Frankfurt, and Gelnhausen—the latter was near the Fulda Gap. At the time, this location was of international importance for classified reasons.
- Your role during service: I served as military police (MP); I was stationed as a division MP.
Will you share a memorable experience form your service?
I remember this one Saturday morning. We had gotten up at 8:00am to pack the car before driving down to Paris. It was the first time I’d ever been to Paris, and there was a moment when I looked up and saw the Eiffel Tower—it felt so close! We then saw the Mona Lisa and went to a bunch of museums and other iconic places. For some reason, I just remember getting yelled at a bunch of restaurants for trying to speak French! The locals weren’t so patient with us.
Of all the things I’d done on my first day in Paris, it was driving down the Pont de l'Alma tunnel in Paris, France, in my blue 1970–something Volkswagen Bug—the same tunnel that Princess Diana later died in. While (my first day in Paris) was a memorable day for me, after hearing this news, my memory of this tunnel is somehow a lot more vivid. It still feels surreal to me—I can still see that tunnel in my mind.
What does Veterans Day mean to you?
It really means a lot to me. Having that extra acknowledgment of “Thank you for your service” goes a long way—it feels great. I always say thank you to those people for their acknowledgment. Occasionally I might say, “I would do it again.”
It’s a time in my life that I can reflect on, thinking about how things were in the military for me during the 1980s. At that point, I can further reflect on the several other Vaughns in my family who served. When I did my last count, there were around 20 or so of us.
And lastly, but most importantly, I reflect on what others did before me and how that helped make my time in the service a bit easier.
How has being a veteran helped you excel in your career?
In the Army, we say that we do more before 9:00am than most people will do in a whole day. We’re taught that you have to give it your best, and sometimes that also means loaning your best to others. We either all succeed as a team or fail as a team.
Now, in my business, I see our customers as included on that team, and we respect their perspective. That’s definitely helped me to develop a certain poise even when navigating through harder customer situations.
Heck, one day while driving and talking to a difficult customer on the phone, I could just sense the conversation was headed in the wrong direction, so I said, “Let me pull over, and we can talk better about this.”
Tell us about your company
A One Networks Consulting is committed to Drama Free IT™ everywhere from cloud services to data backup and 24/7 monitoring—that’s honestly at the core of all that we deliver.
Our team’s dedicated to helping business owners to save capital and better prioritize their time and energy into building the areas of their company that can actually return a profit while leaving the IT stuff to us!
What’s a big win that you’re proud of?
I have a high Type A customer who formerly owned a Windows 2000 Server. He’s very particular about how he runs his businesses. At that time, he was reluctant to embrace change and refused important services like having data backup recovery. To this day, he remembers how we saved him from his own business.
I had to meet a particularly high standard with this customer, and we needed to be flexible in our approach to meet his demands. We’re not in the business of telling people, “this is what you need.” We’re in the business of actually taking the time to listen to our customers, to understand their business situations and their individual needs. Only from there, together, can we establish what’s the best fit for their company as opposed to selling a stock-standard solution that’s just part of a stack.
What’s next for you and your business?
For myself, I wish to maintain full-time employment at a local hospital working with veterans, in particular providing cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) classes both one-on-one and in groups classes as a peer support specialist.
CBT is designed for those who are ready for change and want to change, while DBT, which was originally designed for suicide prevention, is intended for those who have more severe mental illnesses with a longer road to recovery ahead. The two are interdependent and each play a vital role.
As a peer support leader, I can say it’s all about veteran to veteran, talking to someone who actually understands what you’ve been through because they’ve been through something just like it. Instead of speaking to someone with an expert background in psychology, for example, it’s about speaking to someone who genuinely understands the emotions you’re experiencing, and they’re there to be a peer (not superior in any way). Their ultimate goal is to more personally support you along the way no matter where you’re at.
And for my business, A One Networks, my fellow co-founder and I are both headed to a place where we’ll get to manage IT support services; we won’t be headed to sites, instead we want to provide more flexibility for our staff where even working three productive days a week equates to a full-time wage. We’re really headed towards an end, which we don’t know when that’ll be exactly, where we see our business facing a smarter (not harder) future.
What do you think is the biggest challenge facing the industry?
The industry’s constantly changing and evolving, and it’ll only get harder to stay ahead of whatever the next threat or problem is, which is why we’ll need to ensure every business prioritizes end-to-end security. It’s getting harder and harder to tell a customer, “You really need this,” because it’s kind of all the same now.
More and more people aren’t wanting to take those smaller pieces. And with the industry rapidly transitioning, it’ll require us to be more flexible in our approach to implementing services so that we’re able to essentially safeguard our business.
Now, more than ever, we really need to educate and equip ourselves with the right resources that will help secure the future of our companies.
Is there one piece of advice you’d like to share with other IT solution providers?
Definitely. Write down your goals for the company, and don’t worry about the details at all. Then, learn to execute. It takes time and training to execute, so start with the small things; view everything as executable.
It’s vital to have someone to talk to about what you’re doing with someone who’s not part of the landscape, so that they can offer real and impartial advice.
And remember, you don’t need to have every product or tool available. Service providers tend to sell to others on fear, uncertainty, and doubt, and for each product that you purchase to use in your business comes both an implementation and maintenance cost thereafter.
And finally, don’t keep switching providers. If it’s not working, it’s probably you failing to execute, so invest time first in trying to make it work before you cancel.
And now for some fun!
Tell us a fun fact about you or your company
I actually named my company “A One Networks” because when I started in 2004, Yellow Pages was still a thing! So, I thought by having a company that started with “A,” you would find our business much faster than other IT companies.
No sooner than when I started, I joined a networking group for business owners, and with time and word-of-mouth, I realized I didn’t actually need to place a listing in Yellow Pages ever!
If not, I probably would’ve called it TCG to stand for “The Computer Guy,” which was actually the name of both my former company and a favorite character of mine from Saturday Night Live, Nick Burns, who was the very well-known (and slightly annoying) computer guy on the show!
What’s a country or state you’d like to visit?
Australia! My wife keeps saying it! I’ve been to a lot of places; most of Europe, Spain, Italy, Tunisia, Africa, the list goes on. But Australia’s not just a country, it’s a continent, and we think it’d be very cool to see! We remember watching the belated Steve Irwin and seeing all of the incredible wildlife and landscapes. It honestly looks like no other continent, and we’d love to go.
What is one of your bucket list items?
To speak in front of a large audience on the subject of mental illness, alcoholism, and recovery. In particular, various 12-Step groups, CBT, and DBT, and how to get help with the right medication and peer support programs available for veterans through dedicated organizations that are readily available worldwide.
And of course, when I get the opportunity to finally do this, I see my wife right there with me.
To learn more about Kevin’s journey, see his latest feature Veteran CEO Gives Back Reclaimed Time to Those Who Need It.