Automationnth recently celebrated its 20th anniversary since Automation NTH President Brent Thomas co-founded the company on November 1st, 1999.
Brent was destined to become an entrepreneur. Growing up he started a landscaping business in high school and a computer repair business in college. Brent also found inspiration from his dad, who started and ran an architecture firm.
After graduating from University of Tennessee with a degree in electrical and computer engineering, Brent turned down a higher-paying job in electrical design for buildings to pursue a more challenging job at Wright Industries, a large machine builder in Nashville.
After spending 7 years at Wright and progressing to technical lead for some of Wright’s largest projects, Brent decided to pursue his entrepreneurial ambitions and co-founded Automationnth with Denis Jones, a colleague he had worked with at Wright.
Brent and Denis came up with the company name by considering that they could handle automation projects across a wide spectrum, from very simple to very complex. Automation to the 3rd degree didn’t quite have a ring to it. Automation to the “nth” degree, or NTH for short, was the winner.
Despite concerns about finding enough work to pay the bills, Brent and Denis made a leap of faith and set out on their own. After its founding, NTH grew by word of mouth as people learned that they could rely on Brent and Denis to deliver excellence in automation. Colbert Manufacturing provided the company’s first big break by hiring NTH for a large project. Colbert continues to be a customer today.
Along the way, NTH added employees and partners who helped build upon the foundation and expand the company to deliver bigger projects and new capabilities. NTH now has over 70 employees and is growing rapidly.
Of course, it wasn’t all smooth sailing along the way. The NTH team had to persevere through many challenges and demonstrate the “Game On” mentality that characterizes the company’s culture. There were lean times where the company would hire employees and then not have enough work to keep them busy. At one point, Brent had to use his personal credit cards to fund the employee payroll. In the recession of 2008, the company was fortunate to skate through the tough economy by riding a wave of solar work that was booming in the US at the time. That party came to an end one day when NTH engineers showed up to work at the solar company and found its doors locked because the company had suddenly closed.
NTH was sustained through these 20 years by the shared belief that if NTH was providing a valuable service and putting its customers first, then good things would happen. This belief is articulated by the NTH “customer-centric” core value: we care deeply for our customers’ success, follow through on commitments, and proactively find ways to make them more competitive.
When asked what he’s most proud of about the company he co-founded, Brent responded that he’s most gratified by the family environment that is embedded in the culture and that NTH does its best to treat every employee fairly and how they want to be treated.