Chris Nicoli is a technology professional with an entrepreneurial spirit who helps small to mid-sized businesses and non-profits understand the positive impact and ROI that technology can bring.
His company, Teltek Systems, Inc., gets involved with all aspects of technology relocation or office build-out, including sourcing and coordinating internet and phone services, designing and installing low voltage infrastructures, design and installation of the LAN/WAN, computer, telephone and security camera relocation/installations and advising on the selection of other related vendors.
Chris has worked in the technology space most of his life. He started young, running cable and helping install phone systems, computer networks and other types of technology. By 2006, he became minority owner of Teltek, and by 2019 he purchased the company from his parents.
Outside of helping businesses with technology, Chris actively invests in real estate (5 properties in Maryland so far) and holds a real estate license. He lives on a homestead and has an orchard and large gardens. He used to also have chickens and bees, but took a break from that after recently becoming a father. Realizing that we are shaped by those around us, Chris recently joined a group, GoBundance, where men mentor and help each other be more successful, not just in business, but in life.
Why we love Chris
Chris has a can-do attitude. He’s hard working and focused. He’s driven and goal-focused. But he also lifts his head from the details to look around and determine what matters most, in business and in life. He not only works hard, he works smart.
When we learned Chris launched his first business at age 4, collecting rocks from a local creek, painting faces and gluing ears on them, then going door to door to sell them, we knew he was a kindred spirit.
We also love the interesting ways Chris has arrived at where he is today. Case in point: Chris jokes that he met his wife on Craigslist when looking for a roommate – 12 years ago. They’ve been married for 4 years.
Q&A with Chris
How did you get into telecommunications?
I joined the Army National Guard in 2000 when I was in high school to “get my degree tuition free”. The plan was 1 weekend an month and 2 weeks a year after training, but 9-11 happened when I was in Basic Training. As a result, I was constantly deployed for several years and college didn’t happen.
The parents of one of my Army buddies were helping a nonprofit open in Carroll County and they needed help with the phone system/computer network set up. My dad was supposed to come with me to a meeting to discuss the project, but had to cancel last minute. I attended the meeting by myself with little to no experience. Somehow, I convinced them to hire my dad’s business and I left with a $10K check. I was 18 at the time and giddy with success. I was hooked and decided that I would join the “family business” so I could pay for college and afford to live on my own.
My father preferred being more of a technician, so I learned the business side. I had no training or guidance. At the time, I did not know sales could be a career, but I liked it. I learned everything I could about sales and marketing by renting books/CD’s from the library, googling everything I could think of, and eventually joining the local chamber of commerce.
Before long my dad and I hired my mom to do the books/admin work, then our first employee, then our second. After having multiple people working out of their house and having meetings in the conference room (kitchen table). We decided it was time to get an office, I found a 2-unit building for sale by owner next to a customer in Westminster, and bought it. That’s when I was bit by the real estate bug.
What inspires you and keeps you going?
My family, employees, and customers. I became a boss/leader two decades before becoming a father, which is a strange dynamic. I had a lot of failures and struggles due to inexperience and being young, but the past 5 years have been great.
We have some very dedicated employees and it really makes me proud. I have very good relationships with our customers and like to be involved in their businesses. I generally enjoy what I do and learning about other small business owners and industries I know nothing about. I joke that in one workday I have toured a mortuary, Styrofoam manufacturing plant and a Chinese restaurant…. That is pretty cool.
I have big goals in life and when I get an idea in my head I just go after it hard until I achieve it. That just seems natural to me but I have been labeled as “intense” over the years. That use to bother me, but now I like it; too many people want to complain about things instead of finding the grit needed to change their circumstances.
Cowork Frederick members tend to be a little unconventional. How does that apply to you?
I just love business, numbers, and continuous improvement/motivation. I am in a lot of different business groups and like to talk strategy, investing, etc., this is really what keeps me going. I approached this business as business owner, not a technician/”IT Guy”. That is what enables me to relate to our customers and communicate various aspects of technology differently than most of our competitors and ultimately is what has made Teltek successful. I have always had a work hard, play hard attitude and enjoy working long hours and hard work.
Which of the guiding values defined by Cowork Frederick members speaks to you?
RESILIENCE. I often say the song, “Tubthumping (I Get Knocked Down) “ by Chumbawamba is my life’s anthem. I have been knocked on my butt so many times it is unbelievable. I once had someone look me in the eye and tell me he was going to destroy me and my business. He tried very hard and was close to succeeding…I was surprised at how far he took it, It sucked, bad, but I did not give up. I just get back up and hit it hard every time.
After this experience, I was pretty upset for a period but eventually saw the lesson that was there to learn and how much stronger it made me and my business. This ultimately led me to embrace failure and see it simply as motivation; I look at it as a necessity to change. It is just the step that exists in between today’s reality and growth/becoming better. I have come to realize that the only way I can learn is to fail at something the first time, figure out what I did wrong and then do it right the second time.
Why Cowork Frederick?
I’ve rented big, fancy and expensive offices spaces in the past, but we moved to a distributed workforce about 5 years ago to enable our staff to work remotely from home or other locations that were more efficient than coming to an office every day. Fast forward 3 years and I had my first baby and realized how small my house was when trying to work from home. I realized I needed a place to get away from the house to focus on work. I knew I wanted to be in Frederick because of the proximity between our clients in DC and Baltimore. I looked at Regus and Cowork Frederick and liked the culture and location of Cowork Frederick the best. It has more of a family feel than a sterile corporate environment. You guys have been super easy to work with and accommodating, everyone is friendly and I love the close proximity to downtown Frederick.