Take Five is an ongoing RBTC question and answer series where we glean insights from local CEOs and technology leaders in the Roanoke-Blacksburg area.
Mary Miller, Ph.D. is president and founder of Interactive Design and Development, Inc. (IDD), an award-winning information technology firm in Blacksburg. Under her leadership and guidance, IDD has created multimedia products, web design and development, interactive touch screen kiosks, and custom information technology solutions for a wide range of organizations, including many Fortune 500 companies. She has served on many boards and advisory committees, including Virginia Tech’s College of Engineering’s Committee of 100, the Virginia Tech College of Engineering’s Advisory Board and the Dean’s Advisory Council, the Advisory Board for the Department of Computer Science, and the Virginia 4-H Foundation’s Board. She was inducted into Virginia Tech’s College of Engineering Academy of Excellence, joining an elite group of 97 individuals out of 55,000 living engineering alumni and was named the Virginia Tech College of Engineering’s Distinguished Alumna. She was presented with the Business Woman of the Year Award in 2014, the RBTC Hall of Fame award in 2015 and has served as past President of the RBTC.
RBTC: What are some of the regional resources that have contributed to your success?
Mary Miller: Peer support has been a large part of my success. Connectivity has made this region strong and it is full of generous business leaders. I would say our human capital resources are the most valuable resources we have.
RBTC: What makes the Roanoke-Blacksburg region such a good fit for your company?
Mary Miller: Quality of life is a large factor. Lifestyle is important to me, as well as the people I employ. The more leisurely atmosphere of this region allows working parents to still have time with their families. Virginia Tech is also a great resource because we live in a region of “thinkers and doers” and all of these resources are accessible us. It is wonderful region to live and work.
RBTC: If you could give one piece of advice to a fellow entrepreneur, what would it be?
Mary Miller: Get connected. Trying to go-it alone is a mistake. There are no roadblocks to keep you from getting connected in this region. Ask questions and listen. You can even learn from people that aren’t in your specific field. Growing a business has many more similarities than differences. It is easy to get connected in this region.
RBTC: What is one lesson you have learned over time that has made an impact on your business’ day-to-day operations?
Mary Miller: Get a banker, not just a bank, but also a banker. Start building a relationship with a banker, before you need their support. One thing I’ve learned over 25 years in business, is that you can’t stay in business if you run out of money. If you own a business you need a banker. I personally think community banks are the way to go, because they are vested in the communities they serve.
RBTC: How would you like to see the Roanoke-Blacksburg region develop over the next 5 years?
Mary Miller: Transportation in and out of the region has always been a challenge, and even though we are making progress, there is more to do. I am pleased to see we will soon have increased access to rail. I frequently take the train from Lynchburg to DC. It will be fabulous to have the train come to Christiansburg, but we have more to do. Our daily flights from the region are limited and expensive. I know many creative, capable people are working on these issues and I am confident that we will continue to improve on the transportation front.
I have always been proud that the RBTC works across the region without regard to planning districts or town limits, and that is a real benefit to the region. We are maturing as an organization; with increased ability to support established companies and entrepreneurs alike. Progress is occurring at a faster pace and I believe the region is well positioned to leap forward. Regional success is more visible to the outside world, and our success is not in one sector. With our blend of companies aligned with university assets good things are going to continue to happen.
The region itself has a draw, and we hit both ends of the scale. New businesses are developing and we are ranked high on the list of best places to retire. I think a region that can support diverse needs wins. I strongly believe that the next five years are going to be exciting to watch. And, the next fifty years are going to be an excellent adventure for our region. I love this region.