GETTING TO KNOW TIM LAWTER AND FIBERRISE, A Q&A SESSION
Following the July 2022 acquisition of FiberRise, ENTRUST Solutions Group has teamed up with FiberRise to expand our presence in utility broadband communications. We were excited to speak to Tim Lawter, Vice President of Operations, to learn more about his background and passion for the industry.
Q: Tell us about yourself and why you chose this industry.
A: I do not know that I chose the telecommunication industry, but rather, I think it chose me with help from the United States Air Force. Back when, I knew that I wanted to do something in the electronics field. My thoughts were on computer technology, but the Air Force had another idea and helped guide me in a direction that I did not know existed. That direction was microwave radios, tropospheric scatter radios, satellite radios, and terrestrial radios that are referenced as ground radios. Little did I know that the Air Force was preparing me for the breakup of AT&T. Meanwhile, the Air Force allowed me to gain experience by helping to operate and maintain one of the largest, if not the largest, telecommunications network in the world, and at the same time, experiencing the pleasures of doing the job in a remote location in Turkey or other mobile telecommunication systems around different parts of the world. Fortunately, I liked what I was doing, just not where I was doing it; therefore, while still in the Air Force, I pursued getting an FCC license that allowed me to operate and maintain these types of radios in the United States and its territories. It just so happened that a company by the name of MCI was getting its start and competing with AT&T in the long-distance segment of the telecommunications market. In 1985, MCI started the transition to fiber optics from microwave radios. I was blessed to be part of that transition.
Q: What are your interests or hobbies outside of work?
A: I am a sports fan, especially football. However, I still play softball, competitively. I’m currently playing in a senior softball league. People would be surprised by the competitiveness of senior softball. Although we are older, we are still just as competitive as we were in our 20s. I am also an avid racquetball player.
Additionally, my wife and I like to take cruises. We have seen most of the Caribbean via cruise ships. Thus far, I have been on 27 cruises.
Q: What are the top three things people should know about FiberRise?
A: FiberRise is a solutions company. We enable Electric Cooperatives and Municipalities to enter the broadband business and become broadband service providers. We also help Electric Cooperatives, Municipalities, and Investor-Owned Utilities (IOUs) with Smart Grid solutions.
Q: What are you most passionate about with FiberRise, and why?
A: There are two things that come to mind. Our ability to give back to the communities that we serve and our people. FiberRise was founded on the principle of giving. We give back in many ways, but I’ll name a few. During the pandemic, we accelerated build plans to facilitate remote work. Furthermore, the growth rate is accelerated in the communities where our clients provide high-speed broadband.
Additionally, these rural communities are typically scarce of health professionals. After the broadband network is built, people in these communities have instant access to Telehealth, which means they gain access to some of the top-rated health professionals.
Our people are as passionate about giving back as I am. They truly desire to help others, and they know that the people that live in these rural areas see an immediate improvement in the quality of their lives. Without the talented FiberRise personnel, we cannot provide services or give back to the communities that we serve.
Q: What are you most proud of?
A: That one is easy. I’m most proud of our people. They work extremely hard every day to ensure each project is delivered within specs, on time, on budget, and delivers the quality of service expected of a Utility Grade Broadband provider. There are many moving parts in building a broadband network from scratch. Our people are dedicated to ensuring each of these networks operates effectively and that each individual subscriber is getting the level of service they desire and deserve.
Q: Your website talks about the importance of your culture and the “servant’s heart attitude.” Could you tell us more about that?
A: A servant is a person who meets the needs of others. We serve our clients selflessly and humbly. We choose to serve them, and we consider them before ourselves.
Q: What differentiates FiberRise from its competitors?
A: The service that we provide. Our outlook is much different from our competitors. We understand that we are responsible for the entirety of the project, no matter who is contracted to whom. For example, if our client decides to use a material provider that is not in the FiberRise EcoSystem, and amid the project the material provider cannot deliver a specific material, our viewpoint is that it is a FiberRise issue. We dive in and help locate the material needed.
Q: What similarities does FiberRise share with ENTRUST?
A: We are very similar in three areas: people, business, and community. People are the key ingredient to our success. FiberRise personnel are very proud of our culture and the products and services we deliver to our clients, with a servant’s heart. With that said, employee retention is one of our top priorities. During the merger, one of our most valued employees gave notice to leave the company. ENTRUST’s management heard about the employee’s departure and immediately took action to retain the individual.
We are very similar in our approach to business. We both want to grow the business by providing products and solutions that are of value to our clients, while at the same time, focusing on safety, integrity, product/project quality, and most importantly, business ethics.
I’ve already talked about giving back to the communities we serve by providing those communities with access to high-speed internet, as well as some of the benefits that high-speed internet rewards those communities. ENTRUST is dedicated to creating positive change in the communities they serve by partnering with community development organizations to create local job growth and charitable giving.
Q: What goals do you have for FiberRise?
A: We must position ourselves to become a trusted partner for grid modernization. We are faced with many challenges as we move forward, but one of the biggest challenges is our aging electric and other infrastructure. How can we manage those infrastructures to maintain the quality of life that we are accustomed to while at the same time controlling the demand on the infrastructure? We believe that Smart Grid solutions will help bridge the gap as we move to improved infrastructure and that fiber optic technology and solutions are key to the grid modernization process.
Q: What challenges does FiberRise face?
A: I think most businesses face the same challenge in today’s job market. It is extremely difficult to find and retain qualified employees. It is more challenging to find and retain technical talent. We are taking a different approach by hiring highly motivated individuals and training them to accomplish entry-level tasks while growing into more advanced tasks over time. This approach helps us cultivate local talent and provides opportunities in our local communities.
Q: What do you find most interesting about this new partnership?
A: The most interesting opportunity about our partnership is our ability to deliver a holistic grid modernization/Smart Grid offering. Today, ENTRUST has the capability of designing/engineering where the Smart Grid devices are physically located. FiberRise has the capability to connect those Smart Grid devices via optical networks. Together, we have the unique capability to deliver an end-to-end grid modernization/Smart Grid solution. This unique capability is very much desired by our combined clientele.