On the Fast Track
By Debby Denehy
Junab Ali '94 BBA knows when you're on the soccer field, you don't score goals all by yourself. Ali, a business major who played UIW soccer in the early '90s, says achieving goals is all about teamwork. And he has managed to take that winning spirit from the field to the board room leading Möbius Partners Enterprise Solutions into its seventh year on goal.
Making news as “one of America's fastest-growing companies,” Möbius Partners ranks among the top technology integrators --- see for yourself in business headlines and top tiers of industry surveys. But it wasn't long ago Ali was working from home making phone calls and deals, coffee in hand and dreams in tow. It all began with a team approach.
Ali and high school friend, Jay Uribe, shared a vision of building a successful information technology (IT) company. While employed at the same tech company, Ali and Uribe started talking about what they could do if they teamed up. In 2000, they took a leap of faith and set up shop in Ali's home. Knowing her husband had always wanted to own a business, Ali's wife Denise (Rosenberg) '96 BA agreed, “Let's do it!”
“The first few months were quiet,” says Ali. “Jay and I sat in our makeshift office for hours making hundreds of cold calls each day.” Denise recalls, “At 9:00 a.m., Jay would knock at the door to start work. He and Junab would retreat to our guest bedroom, spread papers everywhere and start calling.” A communications major, Denise pitched in helping them develop proposals and design a logo. “And, for lunch,” she said, “I'd make ramen noodles to save money.” She always knew they would succeed and said, “failure just wasn't an option.” The calls worked -- they drew all the sales in the first two years.
But it was challenging to convince financiers they were a sound risk. Ali remembers having an $80,000 credit card debt to finance a customer purchase order -- in addition to the burden of a $90,000 loan. “We had to convince bankers, vendors and potential business partners to work with us young unknowns,” says Ali. “We had to build credibility one customer at a time.” It paid off, literally. The company currently has no long-term debt slowing it down.
It wasn't long before Möbius Partners started building upon the foundation of its name. Möbius is derived from mobius strip, which means "continuous closed surface" --- like an infinity symbol. Ali says, “To us, this represents never-ending partners.”
After only a month, Möbius left the confines of home, leased office space in north central San Antonio and started hiring. Denise stayed at home to take care of their toddler, Anjulina. In 2002, the company expanded into the space next door, and in 2004, broke down walls to add space next to that. By year five, Möbius Partners surpassed its goal of six employees and $6 million in revenue by having nine employees and revenue totaling $31 million. The duo started spending less time on the phones and more time refining the business.
Whether linking a new server to a complex IT environment or creating and installing an entirely new network, Möbius Partners keeps adding Fortune 500 companies to its elite list of clients in the market for large enterprise servers and complex business applications. Getting them up and running requires a dedicated support team that lives up to the company's name.
Each year, the enterprise adds more partners -- and locations. With 20 employees now at offices in San Antonio, Houston and Dallas, the company's growth has skyrocketed 785 percent in the last three years alone. But Ali says upward growth is not the priority; building a championship team is. He's doing that with some help from fellow UIW alumni.
The team proudly includes two more UIW graduates: Jeff Blankenship '02 BBA and Louise Rogillio '04 BA. Blankenship also played UIW soccer, but when academics took center stage and pushed sports aside, he joined a local recreational team to stay 'in the game'. That's where he met Ali. “We became good friends,” says Blankenship, an information systems major. Soon, he was brought on as a solutions architect and was met with quite a surprise. “On my first visit to the office, I ran into my old college friend, Louise Rogillio. She was the office manager!”
Denise (Rosenberg) ‘96 and Junab Ali ‘94
Blankenship and Rogillio were buddies at UIW but had since lost contact. After graduating with a major in sociology and minors in communications and business, Rogillio found a home at Möbius Partners. She thinks people there have something special: "They're interested in others, both on and off the job. Even though the company has expanded, the feeling of 'family' remains and grows even stronger as more people are added.”
Ali says, “We look for people who have integrity, are reliable, have a strong work ethic, high energy, and a desire to learn and be challenged. Ours is a rigorous culture that requires our business to withstand the ups and downs of a tumultuous economy. When we started up, we experienced the challenges of conducting business during the dot-com crash and 9/11 time period.”
Whether a disaster recovery plan, an email archiving solution or a powerful computer server to run an accounting system, the team collaborates to find creative solutions for clients. Like soccer, each player counts and when the company scores, everyone wins. Ali recognizes that the employees are responsible for the company's rapid success. He adds, “We empower them to do their jobs as they see fit” -- to play their positions, so to speak.
Ali and Uribe are proud their employees are able to maintain successful personal and professional lives. In the past year, four employees bought new homes and two became pregnant. They've attended education and training classes all over the U.S. and continue to provide customers excellent service. Rogillio adds, “It is well known that we need to get our work done right and on time, but once it's done, we like to relax with one another too.”
Ali ‘94 and Blankenship ‘02 examine demo hardware setup.
It's hard to imagine Möbius Partners does much relaxing. As the number-one large HP enterprise reseller in Texas and recipient of numerous awards, it doesn't stop there. Möbius Partners also gives back, supporting charitable organizations with volunteer hours and dollars. Ali is a devoted Junior Achievement volunteer and serves on its board. He also actively encourages UIW alumni to stay involved by lending support to their academic majors. Ali is on the advisory panel of the university's
H-E-B School of Business and Administration and is helping build links between its educational programs and local businesses. “There's so much alumni can do to help,” says Ali. Möbius Partners' employees also volunteer with the Family Service Association of San Antonio, Transplants for Children and the Komen Foundation to name a few. And Möbius follows those employee-supported efforts with contributions to each organization.
The Alis have known each other since high school. This June, they will celebrate 10 years of marriage with their two daughters, Anjulina, age 6, and Liliana, age 2, as the company heads for its seventh anniversary in October. “I feel a great sense of pride knowing we [Denise and I] came from UIW,” says Ali. “I had great professors who challenged me to think about what I was learning, and that has made a big difference.”
He adds, “Many people talk about starting their own business. My advice is to stop thinking about it, find others to help you, and head for your goal. It's so easy to think of all the reasons why it might not work. Instead, people should be thinking: 'That person did it, so can I! Now how do I get it done?' In my opinion, success often comes down to those who want it more.”
Möbius Partners on the Move in 2006
- #1 Largest Computer Hardware Retailer in San Antonio, San Antonio Business Journal
- #4 on Fast Track list, San Antonio Business Journal
- #7 on CRN Fast Growth 100 Solution Providers
- # 127 on Inc 500 list
- #168 on Hispanic Business 500 List, Hispanic Business magazine
- #435 & Newcomer Award, 12th annual VARBusiness 500, VARBusiness magazine
- # 8 on Hispanic Entrepreneur 100 list, Hispanic Trends magazine
- # 44 on San Antonio's Top Private Companies, San Antonio Business Journal.
- Rising Star, San Antonio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Annual Business Awards