20 Years, Four Plans

May 2011 marks the 20th anniversary for Network Innovations!  When reaching an important milestone like this, many choose to focus on statistics:  it is true that over the past 20 years, we have served hundreds of small business customers, generated millions in revenue and supported many families through our employees.  But I believe the real legacy of our company is much more than facts and figures.  It is in the people – the relationships that have been built, the companies we have helped grow and reach their goals – the people that we have walked alongside as they struggled with life issues, and celebrated life successes.  The truth is, the technology stuff is really irrelevant.  Sure, that is the platform we use to serve our clients, but I can assure you not one of our clients from 1991 is still using their Lantastic peer to peer network.  In fact, you probably aren’t using much of anything we installed more than five or six years ago.  What people remember and love about our company is in the interaction of people – not the mechanics of business.

We have to make money to pay the bills and keep the lights on. It is important to have enough profit to make payroll so our employees keep coming to work.  But the critical component of what we do is in the serving – not the selling. It is in meeting the needs of people – in being a true part of your team.  If we take care of people, I believe good things happen. That is the legacy of Network Innovations.    THANK YOU for being a part of it.

Another thing milestones are good for is reminding use to take time for assessments and planning.  Yes, I just groaned right along with you.  Planning is hard, it’s not fun, it’s not fast.  However, it’s simply mandatory if you intend to be successful.  One of my favorite quotes from President Dwight Eisenhower sums it up well “In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable”.

You might recall that I am an active member of an IT Peer Group – I meet quarterly with 11 peers that own IT businesses around the US.  Our goal is not just to be successful in business, but to be successful in life.  With that in mind, we prepare four plans, and we choose one each quarter to review and revise.  Many (certainly not all) business owners have a Business Plan – but have you thought about these other plans?

Leadership Plan  – Answers the questions:

  • What will you do specifically to lead your company to achievement and success?
  • What will you do specifically to lead your family to achievement and success?
  • How will you achieve your commitments?  Key milestones, priorities and dependencies for success

Life Plan  – Answers the questions:

  • Why do I get up each morning and do what I do?
  • How will you battle the balance between life and work?
  • What important life priorities do you intend to accomplish over the next 12 months?
  • Should involve the most important people in your life, should include your “bucket list”

Legacy Plan – Answers the questions:

  • How will you live?
  • What will the impact of my life be after I am gone?
  • What is my PERSONAL mission statement?
  • Should include:  Will & Estate plans, a spreadsheet of key information necessary to manage your life if you are impacted by illness or death
  • Reduce stress, difficult decisions and family conflict

Preparing my four plans helped me to define who I am, and who I want to be when I grow up.  I use the plans for guidance when making difficult decisions, and they allow me to be confident that I am on the road to success in life.  If you are interested in preparing “The Four Plans that change Everything” for yourself, contact me and I’ll be happy to get you started!

Business Planning

First, good news/bad news:  Today the National Bureau for Economic Research officially declared that the “Great Recession” (the longest recession since the Great Depression”) ended in June 2009.  If everyone wants to go  out and spend again like it is 2007 again that would be fine with me!  The bad news:  The last double dip recession was in 80-82.  In July of 1981 they declared the official end to the 1980 depression as July of 1980.  July of 81 turned out to be the month that the second dip officially started.   The uncertainty is certainly wearing on us all, but I’m cautiously optimistic.

Fall is the time to start planning for next year.  This quarter my HTG peer group decided we all would take on the task of creating a brand new business plan from scratch, using the methodology of Verne Harnish, the “Growth Guru” and noted author of “Mastering the Rockefeller Habits”.

When our group chose this task, I think i groaned out load.  For one thing, this type of introspection and planning is just not my cup of tea.   For another, like many of you, my time in 2010 has been spent working “in” the business rather than working on the business, doing my best to keep sales going during these tough times.  The last thing I need to do is take time away from sales for strategic planning, I thought.  I’m glad to say that I was wrong.  I put off my homework for step one until 9 pm the night before it was due.  Once I started the exercise, I actually found new energy.  It was refreshing to take a step back and look at things from a new vantage point.   I enjoyed the process and woke up the next morning excited for our group conference call.  If you’ve been stuck in a rut this year, make some time to stop and put your business owner’s hat on!

Our first step in this process is to define your core values and beliefs.  This is the way you see the world; the guiding principles that determine how you run your business and make decisions.  While your “vision” for the company may change over time, and certainly your mix of services provided will change as you adjust to your market, your core values NEVER change.  They are part of your core makeup and keep you on track.  I’ll list my core beliefs below.

Next is to define your company vision.  Most companies already have a vision statement, and if you don’t you should.  Your vision is the picture of what you imagine your life and business to be when things are exactly the way you want them.  Your vision should inspire your employees to execute this blueprint every day.

The last task in our first step is creation of a BHAG.  This is a Big Hairy Audacious Goal that looks down the road 10-30 years.  This BHAG connects your core values and gives you a target that will be hard to achieve.  Some examples of successful BHAGS:  In the 1960s, Nike’s BHAG was “crush Adidas”.  In the 1950’s, Sony’s BHAG was “Our name will be as well-known as any in the world, will signify innovation and quality, and ‘Made in Japan’ will mean something fine, not something shoddy”.

I’m still tweaking our vision and BHAG, and will share those later.  Here are our core values & beliefs at Network Innovations:

Innovation – we know there is always a better way to do something and are determined to find it

Passion – we believe in ourselves, we take pride in our work, we care about our clients, and we LOVE what we do

Integrity – we are honest and fair in all that we do

Teamwork – we are fair and expend all efforts to help our peers, our clients and our community

Service – we execute each day by putting others first

Amy and I are busy putting the finishes touches on our Walk for Food Allergy which is this Saturday at 9 am in Shawnee.  For more info, click here:   Nate’s walk page.

For more of my rambling thoughts, check out my blog.

Welcome to my Blog

I guess it’s time I start my own blog.  Certainly there are several blogs that I keep tabs on, and I hope that mine will have some value for you.  I am NOT a professional writer, so I will be using my conversational, casual style – journalism majors avert your eyes!

I spent this last week in Dallas in meetings with my Heartland Technology Group peers.  HTG is a group of 250 IT companies from across the US, Canada, UK and Australia.  We break into groups of 12 non-competitive companies, and we serve as each other’s Board of Directors.  We meet for two full days each quarter, and this was my 6th quarter of participation.

I must say, this experience has been life-changing.  Rather than being a business owner out on an island, I have 11 great friends that know exactly the challenges that I face every day.  We share best practices, help each other with challenges, and give unselfishly to each other in the spirit of the Go-Giver (more on that another day).  Finally, we hold each other accountable to set and meet our goals. 

HTG sees to it that we have not just a vision and business plan, but all 4 plans necessary for a successful life:  A Life plan, a Business Plan, a Leadership Plan and a Legacy Plan.  I’ve benefitted more from my peers than I can put into words.  If you feel alone out there running your business, search out a peer group or simply another business owner.  I’m happy to help or answer questions.  We’re all in this together!