The latest entry in our “Meet the Team” series focuses on Brian Tolleson, whose first job required dealing with some unusual customer requests.
Position: Founding Partner/CEO
Started working at Loop: 2009
Hometowns: Atlanta and Cincinnati
Current: Cornelius, N.C.
Education: Northwestern University, (B.S., engineering), Wake Forest University (MBA)
Family: Wife Christine; daughters Ella Grace (9), Emilie (7) and Savannah Kate (4)
Pets: Two 18-year-old cats, Rocky and Randolph.
What was your first job?
I worked at a One-Hour Photo inside of a Kroger. You’d be amazed at the crazy pictures people would submit. They’d have to pick them up face-to-face, and I had just seen what they printed!
What brought you to North Carolina?
My family is from the South. I was in Atlanta through sixth grade, and in Cincinnati from seventh through 12th. My mom’s family is from North Carolina, and we would always come from Chicago to Asheboro, N.C., for Thanksgiving. We’d be digging our cars out of the snow to come to sunny, 75-degree weather. I thought, maybe it’s time for a change.
Years later, Christine and I lived in Chicago. We looked at a printout of cost-of-living comparisons between Chicago and Charlotte and … we’ve been very happy here.
Tell the story of how you and James started Loop.
We were both working at Office Media Network (OMN), which was the Wall Street Journal’s digital signage network. James got laid off, and wanted to start this business. He walked me through what he wanted to do, and my first response was, “Absolutely not.”
But after thinking about it for a few weeks and refining the model, I felt differently. I wanted to make sure that we weren’t always chasing the next gig, and wanted a recurring revenue model. I had just finished business school, and was up for trying something new. James and I have great cross-skill sets – we work really well together, and have done that in two different places.
In the beginning, he worked at it full-time while I worked other jobs full-time. It worked out well, and the rest is history.
What do you like best about your job?
I like the variety – I never know what’s going to happen day to day. I get to use all my skills, whether it’s my engineering background, application development, or business.
I think what made me transition more into a business role was the strategic side, which I really enjoy. The ability to control our own destiny, think of the strategy of where we want to be in five or 10 years, and incrementally make our way toward that.
Where do you want Loop to be in five or 10 years?
We’ve been working on growing the channel, getting MSP partners. That’s been a great model for us, and we hope to expand our nationwide presence. We’ve been focused on the Southeast, and I’d love to see partners in all 50 states.
What’s your best professional attribute?
I think I’m best at thinking of a strategy, and then parsing it down into steps so we can achieve the goals. I can get into the weeds and do the work – especially if it’s technical – but I’m good at seeing the long-term picture as well. The ability to transition from high level to low level … I like to think I’m pretty good at that.
So, the Tollesons were a finalist for Au Pair Host Family of the Year?
Yes! Our au pair, Toni, nominated us. We didn’t win, though, but top 10 is pretty good!
We’ve had great successes with au pairs – our fourth is coming this summer. They’re all (randomly) from southwestern Germany. When we’re finished hosting au pairs we’re going to take the kids to Germany, and have a bunch of different families to visit.
What is your favorite place to vacation?
Aruba, where Christine and I went for our honeymoon.
Place you most want to visit?
We’ve always talked about a trip to the Mediterranean, and see all the countries there. I’d also like to see New Zealand, which doesn’t have the deadly animals that Australia has. It doesn’t have all the spiders and snakes – Australia has all the top deadly things, and New Zealand doesn’t.
I like to play basketball; I’ve been in a league with the same group for 12 years. I also like to play poker and go mountain biking when I’m not hanging out with my family.
What superpower would you most like to have?
Flying seems like the most fun, and makes you less likely to damage anything else.
Who would play you in the Loop movie?
Christine says I look like Joseph Fiennes from Shakespeare in Love, which may be wishful thinking on her part.
If you could have dinner at a table for four with three people from history – living or dead – who would they be?
Ben Franklin, Richard Branson and Mike Birbiglia. I figure you need a comedian to help break the ice a little bit.