The Desire to Help Others and Her Ability to Make Order Out of Chaos Compelled Brittany Fugate to Become an Entrepreneur

May 14, 2024 | Member Spotlight


Brittany Fugate, founder and CEO of Cenetric Network Services, always had an affinity for technology. She learned programming, website and software development starting at a young age. Her drive for innovation earned her multiple software patents for enhancing processes within a Fortune 500 company. But it was her passion for helping others that fueled her desire to become an entrepreneur, offering managed IT services to small-to-medium sized companies. Now, with a staff of 30, Cenetric Network Services serves the business community of Kansas City, Missouri, and beyond.

Let’s start with your early life. Where did you live and what were some of your dreams and aspirations?

Brittany: I’m the daughter of a military Air Force pilot. We were everywhere, all over the U.S. and in Germany. So it’s hard to say where I grew up, but I’ve been in Kansas City for 20 years now. When I was young, I had two very, very different aspirations: One was that I wanted to be a youth counselor, and the other was a Navy SEAL. Neither of those happened.

Having a father in the military, did you have discipline instilled in you, and has that helped you in life.

Brittany: I did. Knowing how to make order out of chaos and bring things together, and knowing where and how to start have helped me in my work life tremendously.

How did your career begin?

Brittany: My career began after I turned 18. It was something that my dad really had me focus my time and attention on. You asked about discipline. I had really struggled with math. One of the ways I was disciplined is that my father had me write my own computer program to quiz myself on multiplication. I had a lot of early exposure to technology!

When it came time to find a career and figure out what my job was going to be, it was just the thing that was most comfortable to me. I worked at America Online for about a year before I left and went to Sprint. I was exposed to so many different technologies and corporate structures, policies and procedures there.

All of those things, again, taught me how to bring some order to chaos. I brought them into my  business as a way to sort of bridge the gap between a corporation and a small business.

You founded Cenetric Business Services in 2008. How did that come about?

Brittany: Yes, in 2008—not the best year to start a company! There was obviously so much going on in the market and everywhere. Sprint was doing a lot of layoffs and hiring back contractors. Many of my friends were impacted by those layoffs and found themselves struggling to find work. They had kids. Things were tough.

Sprint was offering a voluntary separation program. They’d give you a severance package and pay out two weeks of vacation time for every year of service. I took the opportunity. It allowed me to raise enough money very quickly to start my business, help my friends and help small businesses. I used my background to do something different and make a career change.

Originally, we were just going to be like the IT guy on call and come out whenever somebody needed help. But then the concept of managed services came up. I’ve always equated managed services to being able to be part of the mission of all of the clients that we serve. It’s imperative that a company’s technology is up and running. If any part of their technology is down, then the whole business can be down. We really are a department of their organization. The managed services idea really changed, fundamentally, how I wanted to approach IT services in the marketplace.

From your original concept, how did you build and expand over the years?

Brittany: We had a tremendous struggle for the first 10 years breaking into a rhythm of how we were going to sell it. We were like Sisyphus rolling the boulder up hill, and we were rolling that boulder up hill for a really long time! At times, it rolled over us. Eventually, we started to gain momentum. When we did, we were really fortunate to have fantastic clients and a great staff in place. We only recently hired four salespeople. Before that, everything was referrals and organic growth.

Where did you get the fortitude and persistence to keep going?

Brittany: I have a real passion for helping people, and I just had it in my mind that it had to work. It was going to work, and nothing, nothing could derail that thought. When I was younger, my mom instilled in me a belief that every day is a new day. When you wake up, it doesn’t matter what happened yesterday or any day before. I think that’s really helped me. It established sheer tenacity in me on tough days.

How did your father, a General in the U.S. Air Force, inspire (or intimidate) you professionally?

Brittany: His achievements have been more inspiring as I’ve grown into adulthood. He did a lot of military strategy, and he taught me the basics of that framework. So much of it is applicable to technology, business strategy and basic logic. What he demonstrated for me has really translated into my business life in a useful way.

Did joining NAWBO help you in expanding your business?

Brittany: Yes. NAWBO has been critical to our growth. One of the things I love about NAWBO is that we’re part of a number of organizations, community networking groups, industry groups and other entities. Our NAWBO membership here in Kansas City is relatively small—about 100 people—but all of the members are active. That’s definitely unique.

The meetings are authentic, and the members really help each other. It is so different from any other group that I’m a part of. When we sit down, we talk about real things that are happening. Nobody feels intimidated to talk about challenges that they have. And then we all get together offline and have coffee or find ways to partner or support each other. It’s just a very strong group, a sisterhood.

I’m grateful for it for many reasons. There’s always somebody in the industry we need to align with that we can go to and ask questions or partner with. Those partnerships have been integral to our expansion.

What approach differentiates your company from others in the marketplace? Can you be specific about what that looks like?

Brittany: Relationship-building is a core aspect of our business. So, for example, during our client onboarding process, our team goes in and meets the client team. And we just mingle. We start to learn what they do, what each individual person’s role is about. We ask them about what they like to do, their interests, if they have dogs, do they have kids—getting to know them on a personal level. And then we just continue those relationships. We do quarterly check-ins. We do a special annual check-in, and we make sure that we continue to learn more about them and about their business.

In the IT services world, scalability is just kind of blowing up. As many of our competitors move towards trying to be as scalable as possible, we’ve really doubled down on relationships. It’s a unique move and strategy, and it’s working for us.

What would you say are the most important qualities that make you a good CEO?

Brittany: I think the key to being a good CEO is to be able to pull the emotion out of problem-solving and be able to look at a situation clearly. That allows me to clearly examine where the problem stems from or what the underlying process is that’s failing, or what support is needed to make this situation successful. That’s not something my brain does naturally! I’ve had to really cultivate this skill, and I work on it all the time and try to improve upon it.

How would you describe your company culture?

Brittany: It’s a mix of supportive and fun. We do a lot of fun things like parties and events. And we have a game room. We regularly get together to do collaborative games and skill-building activities. And then we do a lot of community service. We walk 5Ks for charity. We have volunteer days where everybody goes out and volunteers in the community. We also have a lot of flex time. It’s important to me as a business owner to encourage employees not to let important moments in life pass them by. We encourage people to bring their kids to the office and take advantage of the game room—especially on school breaks or during the summer. We have been fortunate enough to have a 99% staff retention rate. We’re very proud of that.

Having a small business, has it been challenging to stay competitive with salaries and benefits that bigger firms offer?

Brittany: Yes, it has. In the first 10 years, many times we had to ask people to do things out of the goodness of their heart, and they did. As soon as we were able to, we always made that right. The core staff that we’ve had over the years went through those growing pains with us. We now offer great, competitive salaries and amazing benefits.

In recent years, your company has reached a new level of success. Can you please talk about that?

Brittany: We got a substantial client several years back, and that turned everything in a different direction. We had 450% year-over-year growth that year. It was crazy, and those skills I mentioned about turning chaos into organization—I leaned on those quite a bit! Since then, we’ve had about 43% growth every year. I’m grateful that it stabilized. Now we know how to handle that type of growth.

How do you balance work and family life? 

Brittany: I have three kids: two adult children, and a 4-and-a-half year old. I make time to be present in my family life, but some days I have a lengthy task list. I’ve got to figure out how I’m going to tuck my daughter into bed and read her a story, even though I have all these things on my mind, or vice versa.

My older kids have been involved in the business. My oldest son is part of our network operations team. My middle child was with the company for a year. He got multiple certifications and went to work for another company. He was able to take a step up and fast track his career.

It is incredibly moving to me to be able to provide an environment where I can help set my children up for success by doing the things that I love to do.

How do you feel about being one of the three finalists for the NAWBO Woman Business Owner of the Year award?

Brittany: It’s a humbling and emotional thing for me. I did not finish high school. I dropped out in 10th grade, and everything has been learning on my own or having mentors who helped me. At times, it felt like clawing my way up. I couldn’t afford to pay rent or I was struggling to get food. It was so difficult at times. To come from that to being recognized on a national stage for business skills is so incredibly touching.

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