What I learned at my first REMC Conference

I went to my first conference with a group of REMC / Electric Co-Op’s from around the country last week. We were a “vendor” at the meeting so had the chance to set up a little table, meet some other vendors serving this industry, and talk to a wide variety of people from the REMC industry. I learned a number of things, and wanted to get them down here before I lose this sheet of paper. I may come back to this and embellish it later, but these are key things that I can do better at (or keep doing) the next time we go to a conference of any sort. Most of these are in the order of their occurance, or just randomly inserted because I remembered them.

  • It was a good idea to come as early as we did. We had our choice of tables, and also had easily access to electricity. Some other vendors that came later did not have any access to electric.
  • There was a wide variety of booth styles. Some people had 8 foot tall setups with great marketing slogans and images, others had a table full of tools, while still others had a setup much like the science fair days I used to love. Our table was not the only one with something on a computer screen, either, although it was one of only a few.
  • People are friendly. SMILE. Just because they know you have something to sell them (or help them buy) doesn’t mean that you can’t get to know them first.
  • People could not tell what we did from a 5 second glance at our table. Unless you deciphered the name, you really didn’t even know we were in the IT Consulting Business. A conversation was required. This was not ideal in this type of setting. I had relied on hoping the right slide was showing at the right time to capture the right person’s attention. Not so smart. On the second day of the conference, I took out almost every slide about “us” and just left in the pieces about the solutions we had to offer. We got a lot more attention that day.
  • As a second part to the previous lesson, there are ways to share what we do so someone doesn’t have to have a 60 second plus conversation with us first.
  • It’s important to know what type of people you’ll be dealing with, or at least what type you probably won’t be dealing with. We started off talking about our Ticket Management system, which really wasn’t in line with what most of the people we met on day 1 were. They were mainly from out of town and were also mainly safety people.
  • Toys. Toys. Toys. One guy had some sort of static ray gun that looked like it came out of an alien space ship on Star Trek. How much attention did that get him! It was amazing. I thought about bringing up Angry Birds on my laptop, but that didn’t seem entirely appropriate. Having somethign people can touch, feel, or simply be curious about would have been a great help.
  • Don’t expect to be able to hang something on the wall. It was made of concrete. No straight pins there.
  • I noticed that I tend to like to look busy so that I don’t look idle.

Well that’s what I have down from my notes… I’m sure there will some more stuff come to mind, but that’s down for now.

Perhaps you were born for a time such as this.

Have you ever had one of those days when the puzzle pieces just fell together? We had one of those today in our household. It’s not one of those great days of revelation, but rather some slow and steady things that have been simmering for some time but just hit 212 degrees and have started rocking and rolling.

I wrote the other day about vision. About how I’m coming to learn that vision is not something you do, but something you have. In the world that I live in, mans plans of any sort are secondary to those of my Father in Heaven. And while His ways are not my ways, and His thoughts are not my thoughts, He does want us to be able to follow him. I think I used to to believe that if you just looked hard enough, you could find God’s will. But I don’t believe that anymore; as I read in a book earlier this week, we can’t find God’s will; it must be revealed.

A few months ago, I started a set of strategic business planning and entrenprenurial leadership coaching with Mark Sturgell of the Performance Develop Network. PDN has been there for me quite a bit over the last year, and will be with me as we head in the future, regardless of where we head. As part of that process, we spent a good bit of time talking about identifying vision, mission, and values, and how those will be constant roadmarkers for me, my business, and my life as I move into the future. Through that process, I realized that a great opportunity for us to work within will be specific types of associations within some specific industry areas. I made a few contacts, had a few phone meetings, and then the summer got busy. I lost touch with a few of the people I wanted to meet, and admit I was a bit discouraged, although I knew I’d “try again” sometime.

Sometime happened a couple days ago, when I knew I just had to knock out an old to-do list. As I made calls and wrote emails, I connected with the guy I’d lost track of in May, who remembered me and also couldn’t remember how we’d lost touch.We spoke for about 30 minutes about a vendors association that serves two particular other associations; the very ones I’ve wanted to get involved with, but have been pursuing as individual organizations instead of the association as a whole.

All that to say, in about a month we may well be participating in our first convention-type meeting with both the vendor association and the association that represents around 50 small busineses around Indiana that we want to pursue. It just so happens that this particular year, there will be a special joint convention and there will be member businesses from around the entire nation there as well. Everybody from Indiana. Several from around the country. Right in my back yard. And exactly where we felt we needed to be, but didn’t know how to get to.

Anyways… we also had a great experience with the vet and our new horse. He got a good bill of health and while we have some things to work on, it’s just another nail in the confirmation coffin that God has been leading us down this path, and that we have been following Him. We wander a lot, we lose the trail, but He is faithful to bring us home.

The last thing that really pulled this all together was how we started reading Esther on the Daily Audio Bible today. The story about a woman who clearly had a very specific purpose in a very specific place at a very specific time. Had she not stepped into her role, no matter how frightening, overwhelming, and crazy-big it seemed, the people of Israel – Jesus’ anscestors – would have been wiped off the face of the Earth. There’s a verse somewhere where her uncle Mordecai encourages her, “perhaps you were made for such a time as this.” That is an encouragement to me. I may not save a nation from annihilation. I may not cure cancer. I may not even find a specific role with this association; but I feel God leading us this way, it fits with everything we’ve discovered and have sought, and it’s like my Father is telling me, “Go For It. You Have What It Takes, and I Have Your Back.”

To hear that? From my Creator? Why do I fear? Why am i hesitant? I choose not to be. I do not need to live in those lies, those half-truths… We know where we’re going, and we are going there… now.

So anyways… another rock on the pile. God is faithful. Our stories matter. Mine. Yours.

Letting go of what's good to accept what's best

Yesterday I sat down to a meeting with one our larger clients to talk about planning for the future. We talked for a while about some upcoming issues that we’ve been working on for awhile and needed to get on the calendar. I’ve recently been able to do some on-target work for this client as we’ve developed some unique solutions, and it’s been good. The guy I report to at this company is a V.P. of sorts, and wears many hats. He’s H.R. He’s I.T. He’s Operations. In other words, he’s always on the move. While necessary for the business, the computer systems seem to have become much more of a liability or necessary evil to this company instead of an investment, an asset. This led us a few months ago, as we were starting to look for new lines of business, to offer up services to allow this guy to step back from I.T. and hand us the reigns… basically, to outsource their I.T.

We’re good at this. We’ve been doing it for years at our VERY biggest client that recently closed it’s doors. It’s “natural” for us, if natural means it’s something you do every day. But it’s not where we are wanting to go with the business. Should this opportunity come to fruition and we take over this role, it would require someone on site for at least 20-30 hours a week, an on-call structure that demands a large commitment from me and my staff, and, while it would be profitable and a nice amount of “guaranteed” income each month, it is not the kind of profitable and fulfilling work we’d like to found ourselves in for years to come.

“But it’s WORK,” my head told me. Pursue it! Chase it! Negotiate yourself into it. But we didn’t. We laid our offer on the table, several months ago, and it went largely dormant.

Yesterday, after my meeting with the I.T.-guy-slash-multi-hat-wearer, we went over to meet with the president of the company as well. All good; we do this from time to time; he’s a good friend and involved in what I do there. About 5 minutes into the conversation I got the “AHA” moment as to why we were meeting… here… today… “We’ve decided to hire a full time I.T. guy. We thought long and hard about the proposal you gave us, but in the end, this is the way we are choosing to go.”

I felt like I did the moment I did when I heard that my monster client was closing earlier this year. Not anger, but peace. Not stress, but relief. I could truthfully concur that their undstanding of where I was taking my company was not “outsourcing IT departments.” That’s not what we want to do. It’s good, but it’s not best. It’s something we COULD do, but not what we SHOULD do. In fact, should this opportunity have worked out for us, it would have tied our hands once again and kept us locked into a line of work we weren’t meant to be in.

It’s enjoyable to sit across the table from someone who’s just delivered what they it looks like they thought you’d think was “bad news” and be totally fine with it, even happy with it. I’ll still have work with this company… probably a lot of the same server and networking work I’ve had before, but not “big contract.” No “big commitment.” But that’s all good! Because that’s not where I’m supposed to be. I, and my company, exist to equip and empower small businesses to step forward as a company through the use of technology. I don’t exist to just maintain equipment, fix problems, and recommend purchases. Someone has to do that, but that’s not me.

For the first time in a while, I’ll have the opportunity to look into the future with my contact, with their new IT guy, and PLAN ahead. To look at I.T. as an asset, instead of a liability. To find areas in their organation where I do have something unique to offer, and where what we offer truly IS valuable, special, and worth investing in. I’m looking forward to it.

So anyways… that’s my life lesson / reminder from a business encounter. I’m finding more and more of these, and I’m loving it. What I do each day is becoming less and less of an obligation, of a job, and much more of something I’m meant to do, something where I have a role to play. And as I encounter this, as I explore this, I’m discovering that in order to say YES to what I could do, I will at times need to say NO to what I could do. In order to say YES to what’s best, I may ned to say NO to what’s good.

How true is this in the rest of life? Oh, so very, very, very true. I’ve seen it popping up in what I do or don’t do at home, what I get involved or back out of in at church, the friends I invest myself in and those I let go, the hobbies I throw myself into and the ones I toss in the trash can regardless of their initial investment.

I have much to learn in this area. There are lots of things that I need to let go. There are others I could ditch so easily that really wouldn’t make a difference. As I continue to explore what I’m here for, I am coming to understand it very well may not be some “big” thing. It may not any “one” thing. It may just be to live my life, to find where I am to give to the world what I have to offer, and to give it wholeheartedly.

While letting things go is tough, there’s another side of the coin as well. I have to jump fully INTO what I AM supposed to be doing. This may mean doing things in ways I’m not used to, taking steps to achieve goals that don’t seem all that enjoyable, but are necessary to do in order to achieve what IS enjoyable. As I say often, the journey often IS the destination, as as I look at my entire life, all the little steps, in light of the big picture, the big goals, the huge dreams, it all begins to fall together… not into a completed puzzle, but into one where I’m starting to find pieces that fit together, then big blocks of those pieces, then a key corner, then the entire outside boundary… and soon, it all starts to come together.

My first "napkin" of new directions

I’ve spent the last several weeks doing some research over some new avenues I’d like to explore with my company. Well travelled roads that I’ve travelled with some long term clients, that I have long believed have a place in “the market.” I’ve been encouraged as I’ve done so, because not only have I heard “I think that idea would work” from every person I’ve spoken to, I’ve also seen the “buy in” in their eyes as they start dreaming along with me. Niches it could fit into. Opportunities it could create. Small changes here or there that would make a huge difference in it the value of the product we have to offer.

So today I sat down with a whiteboard and started compiling my notes. Started dreaming “on paper.” It’s both enjoyable and invigorating to see an idea beginning to develop, a plan beginning to emerge, and “the next step” beginning to make itself known.

I have much to owe to the men who have taken time over the last month to sit down with me and work through both details and big ideas of this concept. They’ve helped me see that now is the time to get moving, and that this is something that I don’t necessarily have to “perfect” before I take it to market. In fact, perfecting it in the market is going to be a huge piece of what we have to offer because it will allow our customers to have a big say in the final product, even though the core components already in place, either in code or in concept.

So what is that “next step?” I think it’s a few more days of doodling, whiteboarding, and connecting some dots to the design of the system. To start drawing out some core components and identifying places of value, based on the conversations I have had with industry insiders such as Jerry H., Bryan H., and even John H. (Funny, they all have the same last initial.) I’ve got some people interested in helping with this project, both in the design, the initial development, and possibly, even the monetary investment / funding. There is much to do, much to learn, and much to risk. But the rewards – by no means primarily simply “money” – are great. Doing what I love. Working for people and organizations that I can truly enhance. Building a future that is both exciting, flexible, and somewhat stable.

Did I mention doing what I love? Achieving things I dream about, big and small?

The sales things I’ve been learning about over the past 2-3 months are hitting home in big ways, giving me confidence that “I can do this.” While I’m sure I’m nervous, I am not afraid. Even though I may fail, I will succeed. The battle, if I can call it that, is long. But I am committed to fighting it through the end, enlisting others to fight it with me (and for me in some cases), and coming out… champions.


Core Values

I’ve been on a search for some core values in my life lately, and also for my business. Priorities, Goals, and Values. They all seem similar, yet also different. Goals most certainly change over time, and Priorities seem to be my interpretation of what’s most important in life. But Values? Those seem to be things that I don’t determine as important. They’re already there, it’s my job to recognize them, identify them, and then align my goals and priorities with them. But what are those values?

I have a client who has their values clearly listed on about every piece of advertising they put out, and I like that. JDH Contracting‘s values are:

  • Honesty and Integrity
  • Do What Is Right For Our Customers
  • Treat each other with Kindness, Dignity and Respect
  • Never Compromise Safety in the Workplace
  • Support our Community
  • Protect our Environment

I like that. Very much. But I need my own. That’s why I was stopped in my tracks during my Bible reading this morning from 2 Timothy 2:22 and the following verses:

Fleet from youthful passions, and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. But reject foolish and ignorant disputes, knowing that they breed quarrels. The Lord’s slave must not quarrel, but must be gentle to everyone, able to teach, and patient, instructing his opponents with gentleness.”

These are some of Paul’s last words to his protege, his son in the faith. Pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace. There we go. Values Paul espoused and encouraged Timothy to do the same with. So if I’m looking for core values that are out there that I want to adopt as my own, why not start here? I think I will, although I’d like to adopt them to myself, and also to my business, with a little more specificity and focus that seems to “fit” me.

So here we go. My core personal values, as nice little sentence fragments:

  • Making right choices in every situation into which I am placed.
  • Believing that I am not the one ultimately in control; trusting God, and then working my tail off to what He’s called me to do.
  • Pursuing true relationships with those who build into my life, and into whose lives I have something to offer.
  • Conducting my life with integrity, honesty, openness, and compassion.

And here are some core values for my business, subject to rewording or tweaking:

  • Being up front, honest and fair with every customer or potential customer, and seeking to help them make decisions that bring true value to their organization.
  • Conducting business in a way that provides my company room to grow and be profitable, but at the same time leaves room for the unexpected, and allows us to serve some clients that simply cannot afford our services.
  • Developing long term, personal relationships with every client. Seeking win-win situations in every deal, and being willing to give and take for the benefit of the long term relationship.
  • Building trust with clients through accountability and clear communication with my clients.

So if I were to boil those down to even shorter bits, for both myself and my business, what what I wind up with? Maybe something like this.

  • Honesty and Integrity
  • Relationships and Communication
  • Trust and Fairness
  • Accountability
  • Generosity and Compassion
  • Flexibility and Reliability

Well that’s a start. Probably a start worth using, revisiting, and adjusting over time. But I’ve never done this before, and now I have. I’m proud of me. 🙂

Where I want to get to with my business

I spent the last 90 minutes out on my deck… first doing some reading, and then doing some pacing, talking out loud, and the occasional pullup as I talked through some real stuff. And I realized some things:

5 years from now, I don’t want to be doing what I’m doing right now. In fact, I’d rather not be doing what I’m doing right now, RIGHT NOW. But as I think this through, I believe this is a transition period, not just for the sake of income, but for the sake of transitioning my company to what I want it to be, and to do.

It all seemed to start with some “I want to” and “I don’t want to” statements, such as:

  • I want to care for my own products, not someone elses. 
  • I don’t want to be fixing servers, repairing firewalls, or rebuilding spyware infected computers as part of my business.
  • I want to create “core” solutions and customize them to different markets/niches, and then maintain them. Not administer them. Maintain them. Take care of the customers, and the product.
  • I don’t want to be doing service calls, help desk calls, or “whatever you need IT” calls for products not related to the core of my business.

My initial thought is, well, that’s changing most of what I do each week! YES! I spend so much time each week chasing problems and developing quick little fixes that I don’t have the time or the energy to focus on the solutions I can provide to solve the bigger problems I know about, but simply can’t develop effective solutions to.

As I thought this, I came up with some more.

  • I don’t want to just be a software development company either.
  • I see several core products – 2-3 for starters, maybe 4-6 in the future – that I want to build, “niche-ify,” and then provide (sell/market/network) to various areas.
  • I want to develop a network of support that can support these products, both by recommending hardware and other IT services that don’t “fit” into what we do.

So what are these core products? These core “concepts” I’d like to develop? Here’s what’s on the list right now. One of these is brans spanking new from over the past few weeks, but especially today:

  • A ticket management solution for fleet and home-service focused businesses.
  • A knowledge management solution for connecting churches to public schools.
  • A goal management solution to provide electronic goal planning and organization, calendaring, task management, delegation.

Each of these “ideas” fits into the bullseye of what I want my company to do. Develop a core product, that can then be customized to various industries. I also notice that each one ends in “management solution.” This seems important. It’s the core of what we do, I think. We take “pieces” that the customer already has and help them organize, manage, and take care of them. Each of these solutions can further be focused to specific industries as we develop them. For instance, I have a client interested in a ticket management system for their contracting company that would be rather basic, but still specific to that industry in terms of work flow, billing, etc. I also have a specific geographical area interested in the knowledge management solution, a “way” the information would flow, and specific pieces we would build into it and then who we’d “market it” to.

And the goal management solution? This is one of the coolest. It’s something I think I need for myself on one level. I am making up all these goals and seeing others that need to be made, but simply putting them on a “list” one page after another doesn’t work for me very well. I need what I’m starting to call a list of “goal dependencies” for each goal, so I can see what it depends on, and what depends on it. I also need it to integrate into my calendar, my task list, and several other areas so that I can actually integrate my goals into the way my daily life works. I see this product as being marketable not only to goal-minded individuals, but also to business/life coaches, planning committees, high school sports coaches, corporations, and to anyone who wants to look at the big picture, break it down into bite size pieces, and then see what’s necessary to accomplish those bite size pieces, and so on and so forth.

As I look at these, I see an already-successful side of my business, that while not a huge portion of the business, is quite significant. I am the “IT Consultant” for a nationwide association of franchises of a large corporation, and I provide them a backoffice management solution that takes data “available” to them from the corporation and turns it into useful reports, tools, and other stuff they can actually use to run their business. This data is not easily available to them because of it’s format and where you have to go to get it, but I’ve developed a system that automates the capture and processing of that data, and then makes it very easy for them to get – to the point of it showing up in their mailbox every morning! This established line of business already brings in over $50,000 per year, and while it’s market is limited (even shrinking), it is a success story that I have accomplished in this line of work. It is very low maintenance on the daily side, solves numerous specific problems for our clients, and is well worth any money they spend on it.

I have another project right now I’m bidding on that is a customer and job-based image management solution. This one will take the “problem” of thousands and thousands of pictures taken on high-res cameras and automatically resize, store, and secure them so both the company and it’s clients can access their data when and where they need it. Again… they do their job, and we take care of the storing, managing, and presenting of that information back to them. They don’t have to worry about filing, resizing, organizing, or “taking care” of all that data.

These ideas motivate me! They drive me! Why? Because they fit into what I want to do with my life. I want to be free to take 2 weeks of vacation without worrying that one of the 20 servers I “maintain” will go down. I want to have systems in place that take care of themselves, and yes, while they’ll need maintenance and continual development, they don’t need babysat. That’s what I feel I’ve turned in to, and it explains both why it’s hard for me to justify raising rates to levels I’d like to across the board, and why I’m not satisfied. I’m tied down, I’m primarily doing maintenance and fix-it work instead of core solution development and then niche-ifying it.

So these are big-level goals for the company. There is a transition piece to it all, i’m sure, but that transition has to fit into the big picture, both for the company, and beyond that, for my life and those involved. I want to provide meaningful, useful, and ongoing products that are both self-maintaining and profitable, and that can be continaually added to to provide additional value to my clients and added markets to my company. I also want to keep things focused enough that they don’t become so generic that aren’t specific enough for specific applications. That’s why I like the idea of a “core product” that can then be further developed for specific industries or niches. It creates not only additional opportunities for us to reach specific “groups” beyond single user accounts, but also allows us to build onto what already exists for better pricing for future products.

That’s it for now. Had to get these thoughts down. The goal planning system is especially interesting to me right now, because I need some sort of scaled down version of it for my own life, and I want to integrate it with my blog, with my calendar, with the tasks I do each day, and with the relationships I build.

Making Rain

I am heading to a meeting for a networking group called Rainmakers tomorrow morning. It’s been a few years since I’ve done anything specifically geared toward networking… what I’d often look at as meeting new people I might have a chance of doing business with in a kind of random, haphazard social setting. The last group I was part of seemed to evolve into simply a social setting with little emphasis on trading referalls and trying to help each other, and from those that I’ve talked to that have used Rainmakers, it is much more deliberate and focused.

I am looking forward to this meeting. It is actually another step in the first goal I set for myself as part of my business/sales/life coaching process, and it’s fulfilling to see that the day is right around the corner. I still don’t know what will come out of it or what exactly to expect from the meeting tomorrow, but since that is out of my realm of control, I have decided that I am ok with not knowing, and coming up with expectations for myself instead of what I will find there. Such is the purpose for this writing. I have some key questions about mysef I want to have written down. Not written down so as to have cue cards, but written down so as to actually knowing the answer I want to give, and then being able to personalize that answer should I be given the opportunity to tomorrow. And from what I have heard from the leader of the group, I will have that opportunity.

So here we go. The first set are preparing myself for questions I will probably be asked, even though I have a goal to keep talking about myself to a minimum at this first meeting; I want to learn about the group, learn about the people in the group, and present myself as a person interested in discovering more about the people that I meet, along with their respective businesses, niches, and forward looking views.

Who are you?

I’m Chet Cromer, husband of Erin and father of Colton (4) and MaKenna (brand spanking new). I live out in the country about 25 miles southwest of Plainfield, but spent most of my early years growing up here and in Mooresville. I’m in a season of change in my business, as we encounter some opportunities to both find and server additional customers. I enjoy helping others develop their full potential, be it in their personal life or as a business owner and forward thinker. I enjoy doing outdoor work, spending time with my family, and working with youth in my church and local schools.

What do you do?

This one’s a bit easier now that I’ve written about it.

I help organizations reach their full potential by harnessing the power of technology and information available to them. I provide unique solutions to unique problems that integrate the complete technology system: The network, servers, PC’s, existing applications, and ultimately, unique software solutions.

That’s still a pretty long answer, but it’s thorough enough for now. The word unique is still overused, but this covers most of it. We aim to piece together the technology puzzle. We consider some of the key pieces to that puzzle to be:

  • Existing hardware and software
  • Already accessible data
  • New hardware and prepackaged software
  • Personally designed software
  • Handcrafted websites
  • And possibly most importantly, links between all of the above. So many pieces of the puzzle come to us as disconnected pieces. We aim to “see to it” that our customers are fully empowered with the technology available to them, including any special links we may be able to develop between these pieces of the puzzle.

What type of clients are you looking for?

I am looking for forward-thinking businesses with a willinness to step back and look at where they are and where they want to go, and how the technology they currently have is either helping or hindering them from getting there. We are most effective at discovering and providing solutions when permitted to work with various layers of staff, which enables us to get the big picture all the way from management to employee to the customer.

To discover opportunities with a potential new client, we like to sit down and talk about the items mentioned above, and then do a survey of what is both already available, what may be accessible with little effort, and what else may be needed that is affordable and cost-effective to add. We look at hardware, software, networks, and even non-technology items to help our customers develop a framework for what’s possible, not just what’s out there right now.

What types of clients do you already have?

Our largest base of clients are franchises from one of the nations largest privately owned businesses, Enterprise Holdings. While Enterprise itself is a huge corporation with over 65,000 employees, we work with their privately owned franchisees, who may have anywhere between 10 and 300 employees. We help these much smaller companies utilize the relatively small amounts of information made available to them by the coporation and leverage it by creating custom designed reports and tools for efficiency and access to data they could otherwise not obtain.

We also work with a variety of local clients, both brick-and-mortar, as well as web-based. We provide both basic IT support and services, as well as server and network support, custom software and web development, and forward-looking IT planning services.

We have developed a reputation as great “connector” between business-data and geographical information. For example one of our customers has employees constantly travelling throughout the state of Indiana (and soon, additional states) handling service calls and tickets based on a map-based “ticketing” system. These employees no longer have to come into the office each week, no longer need to report in each day on where they are or what they’re doing, and are able to utilize their unique software solution for almost everything they do each day.

NOW…. ON TO THE GOOD STUFF… Perhaps I should think through some of these for myself, but I think dealing with the first few things is enough for my pre-thought-out answers.

How’s business been for you over the past few years?

Have you found ways to cope or even capitalize on the economy?

How can I learn more about you and your business?

What’s your family like? What do you do when you’re not working?

What keeps you awake at night?

What’s a day in the life of <insert name here> like?

What’s your favorite part of the week?

Wow… this whole planning, goal setting, and future looking stuff is really enjoyable. It’s easy to get excited by it, but also easy to get discouraged because “nothing” has happened from it yet. But “nothing” is not the truth. There may not be money from it in the bank yet, but the attitudes and habits that are beginning to change ARE productive, WILL produce results, and I can’t wait. I’m looking forward to this meeting tomorrow, and can now print out this post and put it in my action plan as it’s taking care of some other tasks I needed to accomplish.

What Do You Do? (Part 1?)

One of the projects for my Sales Action Plan is to identify my business’ niche. What we are specifically here to do, and who we are specifically here to serve. I’m tired of answering the question, “What do you do” with the generic answer of “I do IT work,” or, “I do anything computer related.” While deep down I think I know my passions in the industry and what our company is uniquely positioned to do, I have never put that down into words. Now is the time. In this post, I want to do some writing to answer the question, “What do you do?” I want to describe our Ideal Customer. I want to crystallize our unique place in the land of business, IT, and solutions.

What Do You Do?

I’m going to start general, and move to specific. For several years, my business card has described our business’ offerings as “Data Driven Software and Web Development, Networking, and IT Support.” While that’s very true, and possibly even appropriate for a business card, it hardly answers the question I’m seeking to answer. Those may be the end products and services we provide, but I want to be able to tell someone what we have to offer them: what problems we can solve, what ideas we can transform into reality, and what efficiencies we can turn into profit. So here goes…

I help organizations transform ideas into reality by harnessing the power of the information and technology to create unique solutions.

Too Vague and too wordy.

I want something that is more specific than ideas/reality and “unique solutions.” While there are a variety of technologies and industries we have worked with in the past, I don’t think specifically naming them is appropriate, but perhaps listing them here is:

  • Corporate / Franchise relationships through reporting, data transfers, and remote access to information via the web.
  • Map-based information that incorporates geographic information unique to the organization, such as a route.
  • Integrating 3rd party products including Microsoft applications via software hooks and customized programming.
  • Creating and implementing networks that provide anyone-who-needs-it access to whatever-they-need, including VPNs, Remote Access, etc.
  • Maintaining secure and up-to-date computer systems across an office network connected to the internet.
  • Harnessing the power of available information such as public info on the internet, data available through third party applications, downloads from private sources, or even data stored in other applications / documents that can be linked / read into another application.
  • Facilitating communication between computer systems in a sometimes-connected environment (unreliable internet, employees with cellular access roaming the state, etc.).

I take an organization’s ideas that seem roadblocked by technology and develop a unique solution incorporating data-driven software, unique network designs, and already-available hardware and software.

That seems a little more specific. It’s kind of long-winded, though… also a little negative – a lot of people aren’t roadblocked by the technology; in fact, they may not even see it’s full potential. That’s where I like to step in and say “yes, that’s a great idea… and we could make that work. It would look like this.” I like to discover their ideas, how they want the system to function within the realm of their way of doing things, and then provide a solution that is efficient, fast, useful in the scenarios in which my customers find themselves, and better than other solutions out there, especially solutions that can be bought off a shelf for a lower price.

I help organizations reach their full potential by harnessing the power of technology and information available to them. I provide unique solutions to unique problems that integrate the complete technology system: The network, servers, PC’s, existing applications, and ultimately, unique software solutions.

That’s getting somewhere. Some things I like in that are:

  • I like the word help. I am not someone you throw a problem and money at and out pops a solution. We work with our customers, discovering the real problem / need / want and then working with them to provide a solution that not only solves the problems and meets the needs, but that also fits into the way they do business.
  • Reach their full potential“. I like that because I also enjoy helping people reach their full potential in my personal life. I like seeing those who think they don’t have what it takes step into what they long to be – teachers, leaders, fathers.
  • I also like the word harness. I don’t feel that my company invents everything we do. We don’t do everything from scratch. We take much of what is already there and put it to work. In fact, that’s a catch phrase I’m thinking of… “We put your information to work.”
  • I like the phrase “provide unique solutions to unique problems.” It’s kind of vague, but emphasizes the way we treat each customer as its own entity, not as something we need to fit into a box WE define.
  • I like the word “integrate.” I think we do a lot of that – putting things together, finding puzzle pieces that will make a solution work without reinventing the wheel ten times over.

I see a few problems, too.

  • I think I may be over-using the word unique.
  • I think the list at the end is a little long. Perhaps useful as additional explanation, but probably would draw the focus away from everything else if someone had to keep track of all that.

Well, that’s a lot further than I was earlier today, or even earlier in the past six years. I’m sure I’ll be coming back to this, but this has been good. I’d welcome your thoughts, criticisms, or ideas.