Setting His SYtes High: Cyber Sytes CEO David Goldflies finds a link between passion and IT
Talking technology is music to David Goldflies’ ears. In fact, for the rock ’n’ roll musician turned CYber SYtes CEO, music and interactive technology are inextricably linked. “I never separate the disciplines,” Goldflies says. “Whether I’m working with a band or on a website, I ask: What are the elements? What can I do with them?”
Bay Corridor Experience Speaks
Setting His SYtes High From the crazy world of rock ‘n’ roll to the fast-paced e-universe, David Goldflies has his sights set on success By Zandra Wolfgram Originally published in the June/July 2010 issue of 850 Magazine
Talking technology is music to David Goldflies’ ears. In fact, for the rock ’n’ roll musician turned CYber SYtes CEO, music and interactive technology are inextricably linked.
“I never separate the disciplines,” Goldflies says. “Whether I’m working with a band or on a website, I ask: What are the elements? What can I do with them?”
Born in Oxford, Ohio, in 1956, Goldflies grew up in a musical family. His grandfather was a musical director for the Old Chicago Theater during the vaudeville era, playing music for silent films. He taught Goldflies the violin when the latter was just 4. Goldflies’ father was a piano tuner who taught music lessons, played in a band and ran a music shop. However, music wasn’t young Goldflies’ only passion.
“I was a child of ‘Star Trek,’ ” he beams. His interest in science and technology was further shaped “by hanging out in the computer room at Miami University.”
As a teen, Goldflies began playing electric bass and guitar in local bands. In 1978 he was asked to join the band Great Southern, led by guitarist Richard “Dickie” Betts, formerly of the legendary classic rock group the Allman Brothers Band. While playing with Betts, a remix of “Black Betty” with Goldflies on bass came out under the band name Ram Jam and was a national hit.
When the Allman Brothers reunited in 1979, Goldflies was invited to become the group’s bass player. Though given the nickname “Rook,” as in Rookie, the level-headed Goldflies took his leap into the national musical scene in stride.“I never thought of being a cool rocker,” he says. “That thought never crossed my mind. As a musician, I was focused on practice. I wasn’t starstruck.”
Goldflies played on three Allman Brothers albums and left the group when it disbanded once again in 1982. He then played original music, New Age jazz and R&B for several years. When his band, The Duos, was booked at the U-Turn Sunburn Saloon in Panama City Beach in July of 1992, he was instantly hooked on the area. After returning for a six-week gig, he moved to Panama City Beach permanently in 1993.
“I wanted to live on the beach, play and record,” Goldflies says. But after a few years of music nirvana, he wanted more.
“You change as you grow older, and the things you want change,” he says. “Life isn’t formulaic. I’m different than what I thought I’d be, but I find what I’m doing now interesting.”
While eating a hamburger at the Sunnyside Grill in Panama City Beach, Goldflies noticed an ad in the paper selling Internet connections for $25. His father had already encouraged him to look into the Internet for several years, so Goldflies got an Internet connection. With his window to cyberspace opened, he soon began working for a local Web company, selling connections “to anyone who would listen.”
Goldflies played music at night and would prop up a book called “Internet for Dummies” on his speaker to pique interest from those in the crowd. It worked.
“At the time it was new and edgy, and people would see the book and ask about it,” he says. Soon, more and more of his accounts began to inquire about getting online presence, so Goldflies began to create simple Web sites.
In 1997, Cindy Klauss, now a partner and CFO of CYber SYtes Inc., located in Panama City Beach, was working in accounting for a major resort.
“I love books,” she says. “I saw the Internet as a giant online library, and I knew it was going to be big, but I didn’t even have an Internet connection.” A friend introduced Klauss to Goldflies after he played a jazz concert in Seaside, and the two clicked.
“I did his billing for free in exchange for learning about the Internet,” Klauss confides.
The two teamed up; after contracting their services to a few local Web companies over the course of a year, they decided to incorporate.
“We knew we wouldn’t be any less terrible than the companies we had worked for,” Goldflies jokes. The next day, they incorporated CYber SYtes.
“If we had had a napkin at the time to write down our mission, it would have said, ‘Make cool websites,’ ” Goldflies says with a chuckle.
The company has lived up to its mission and then some. CYber SYtes now is a full-service interactive agency offering custom website design, hosting, management, analytics and optimization; e-commerce solutions, database integration and custom Multiple Listing Service (MLS); e-mail hosting, blog design and social media services. Though the company has clients all over the globe, the majority are local real-estate management companies.
Starting the business was as easy as maneuvering a mouse. The hard part, Goldflies earnestly admits, is staying power.
“A good-quality product is a given; the key is building staff to ensure long-term customer support and service to your clients,” he says. He and his sales staff routinely place personal calls to clients, just to touch base and make sure they’re satisfied.
Twelve years later, CYber SYtes is the largest interactive company in Northwest Florida, with dozens of industry accolades gracing the office walls. Klauss says Goldflies’ unconventional background had contributed to the company’s success.
“As a working musician, he saw how to run, and how not to run, a business venture,” she says. “He’s entrepreneurial by nature. Musicians have to learn to promote themselves for self-survival.”
The yin-yang partnership of the two executives gives them balance.
“He never worked in a corporate environment, so he doesn’t have limitations,” Klauss notes. “He thinks anything is possible. I came from the corporate world, so I understand what rules need to be followed.” If the partners disagree, Klauss says, one tried-and-true rule is gospel: The best idea wins.
Whether he’s in rehearsals with the Panama City Symphony or brainstorming in the “bullpen” with his 20-member staff, the mild-mannered Goldflies enjoys working in small groups.
“A manager is like being a conductor of an orchestra; what’s important is that you read from the same page,” he says. “It’s everything.”
The CEO says his company’s viability comes back to supply and demand.
“What drives our success is that people like the Internet,” he says. “It addresses something basic for people, and CYber SYtes is simply facilitating the fulfillment of that desire.”
As for the employees who make that fulfillment possible, Goldflies is quick to make a personal connection.
“I’m orchestrating a band of rogues, just like the album (‘Enlightened Rogues’ by the Allman Brothers, 1979),” he says, smiling at the correlation. “Some of them literally just stumbled in the door … I just need to give them a chance to be brilliant and to excel. You have to let it evolve, just like a good jazz tune.”
From where did you get your entrepreneurial spirit? My father had a profound influence on me. I also read a lot. I like Peter Drucker and give “The Daily Drucker” to my employees.
What have you taken away from Drucker? He talks about two critical components to business: customers and marketing. You have to cultivate, nurture and care for your customers, and you have to effectively communicate to them what your products are. That, and having knowledgeable workers, is critical.
What makes CYber SYtes competitive? We have a factory of great talent. I am able to attract smart and motivated people. I don’t know how, but it’s a gift.
How do you stay relevant in an environment of expanding competition? You try to avoid obsolescence. You have to be observant. Five years ago, we noticed video and icon links online, and we knew social networking would be huge.
What kind of boss are you? It’s dangerous to be a boss people defer to. I want people to challenge my assumptions. I don’t want a bunch of cows nodding their heads in agreement. You have to create a culture of independent and knowledgeable people.