Three Questions with Clayton Nicholas

Vibronyx’s founder sees even more urgency in logistics

This piece was originally printed in the Summer 2020 edition of Nashville Post Magazine.

Clayton Nicholas is founder and CEO of Nashville-based Vibronyx, a veteran-owned business process outsourcing company focused on the defense industry. Located in Brentwood, Vibronyx offers strategic consulting, data management, data integration, advanced analytics and cybersecurity.

Nicholas founded the boutique company in 2018 and announced in May it has seen its contract with the federal Defense Logistics Agency extended. Post Managing Editor William Williams recently caught up with him to discuss the state of his industry.

What led you to launch Vibronyx and target working with the armed forces?

I began my career as an enlisted combat medic in the Army, and then as an officer after graduating from West Point.  I worked for IBM after exiting the service in 2000 and focused on developing technology strategy and IT outsourcing solutions. Some of my projects required creating partnerships with other contractors, especially small businesses, to sell and deliver very large IT projects to the DoD and government clients. Throughout my career, I have used data, analytics and other technologies to drive innovation.

I formed an interest in starting my own defense-contracting focused business [while] at IBM and decided to pursue that opportunity while considering a job transition a few years ago. Vibronyx was born out of the basic idea of bringing my digital innovation and analytics experience to the DoD to help support our nation’s defense, and then to develop a commercial side of the business. I used my network to further define the opportunity, develop a plan and build a team to get the business started.
We won our first project with the Defense Logistics Agency in 2018 and have successfully grown the business with them and other clients.

COVID-19 has generated a lot of conversations about supply chains. Do you see the virus creating an even greater demand for your services?

The impacts of COVID-19 are putting a spotlight on supply chain disruptions and the capabilities needed to effectively respond. Companies and governmental organizations that are better prepared to mitigate the impacts of COVID-19 have developed strong relationships with supply chain ecosystem suppliers and integrated key processes and decision-making using technology to be more responsive to disruptions in normal operations. This allows them to better understand supplier risks and enable business continuity strategies, while more readily matching evolving customer demand with production and inventory management.

However, post-COVID, what will the “new normal” look like? Consumer preferences such as how we eat, shop and seek medical care have likely changed for good. Increased adoption of telework will also change the way products and services are designed, produced and delivered. Prior to COVID-19, there was already a push to use newer data integration technologies to unlock and integrate data from silo customer relationship management and enterprise resource planning systems.

Now, there is even more urgency for digital transformation strategy and to use cloud-based data integration, advanced analytics and other emerging technologies that we help clients implement. We’re excited about the opportunity to help organizations on their digital transformation journey and better understand customer demand and preferences — and link those insights to production, logistics and customer support capabilities.

During your career, you’ve moved between big corporations such as Xerox and Walgreens to entrepreneurial ventures such as the original Change Healthcare and now Vibronyx. Thoughts?

I have been fortunate to build a broad set of experiences with great teams and have learned a lot from our successes and missed opportunities.

The structures and processes at larger organizations have often been unnecessarily bureaucratic and slow to adapt to market needs. However, I learned many best practices like how to properly manage a sales process and pipeline, develop customer success programs that improved client satisfaction and stickiness, and execute holistic talent management programs.

In the smaller organizations, we often lacked some of those best practices or we were constantly evolving the organizational structures and processes to effectively scale the business. However, from this I learned how to prioritize efforts and build small but high-performing teams — as well as be nimble and adept at using the latest technologies to collaborate and drive efficiency in how things are executed.

Your people are your greatest assets and your purpose is to drive value for clients. I try to take learnings to effectively cultivate talent in the organization, establishing clear goals and a culture that galvanizes engagement, with the vision of helping each other, our clients and communities to flourish.

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