12 years ago today, I walked down to the Rensselaer County Clerk and invested $29 into my new business, to get a ‘doing business as’ certificate registering a fictitious name, as they call it, as a business. Groff NetWorks was born.
I have been through a lot, and so have many of my employees who have seen this business grow and stood alongside me through thick and thin. The longest two tenured of course are @Jack Garrett and @Jon Goyette. I thought today would be a good day to reflect on where we’ve come from.
Strolling Down Memory Lane
In 2005, I fixed neighbor computers, wireless, and I had about, I don’t know, maybe one business client at the time (Enfield-Wells Realty, part of local Re/MAX franchise – thanks Uncle Gordon for being my first client!) and our rates were $40 per hour. Obviously, overhead was low. I think I was still in my living room – I hadn’t upgraded to the basement cave quite yet by then.
Since then I have learned valuable leadership and business lessons. I’ve learned how to service clients well; how to say sorry to clients; how to collect on bum clients; how to find and hire talent; how to more consistently identify GOOD talent; how to fire a friend; how to ask tough questions of strangers; and how to ask tough questions of close colleagues. I have learned how to acquire another IT company or two or three; and how to have valuable conversations with prospects and clients (and honestly, I’ve learned lots of good ways and a few terrible ways – so sorry to those who had to endure! I remember reading from a script – honest!). I have learned how to inspire change in our team; how to move us (me!) make decisions faster; how to look personal and business failure in the face (and overcome!); and how to make better business decisions. I learned how to survive and overcome many “gut-wrenches” (Thank you for warning me @Brian Epstein!)
As a team and company, we’ve learned what it means to, first, sell proactive, then dream about being proactive, then push to being proactive, and now, well, actually deliver consistently, month-in month-out, more proactive than reactive service (technically with a 3 to 1 ratio!)
Just Getting Started
So in twelve years, I’ve had to learn a lot. But that’s not the end of my learning by far. I feel I just got started. To talk about my current challenge: now I am being stretched in some of my most core pieces messages and beliefs and we are pushing hard at that.
Honestly, so many of those early changes, I simply made the decisions as they needed to be made, or didn’t and let others decide things for me. Honestly, I originally just created a job for myself. The previous positions were failures of the modern at-will employment. @Textron Financial couldn’t keep my position, @PSINet couldn’t stay afloat, and Safeco FIS couldn’t stay in the area when parent @Safeco Insurance said that the Latham office lease was moving to Indianapolis.
Seed of Reluctance
So early on my personal motivations and goals for growing my business weren’t grand ambitions. It was quite simply put: I wanted to employ myself BETTER than my previous employers. And at the time, that meant longer than I had been employed to date. I only had to beat three years actually, which we surpassed well over 8 years ago.
Because of that seed of the business, I had posture of simply, “Those look like better ways of doing things, better ways for our company to earn money.” “’Managed services?’ Oh that sounds promising, let’s market and learn more about that (and yes, pretty much in that order, originally!).” “Let’s try this tool to help our clients better.” And so we did. As one of our core values today, it was always about continuous improvement, even if not quickly.
Now, we have quite a ways to go and I have much still to learn. But, we’ve come a long way as a company. I feel I have grown a lot. My current mountain to climb? Be more productive, efficient, and grow as a leader. I intend to overcome my lifelong reluctance to be accountable and my sheepishness about creating accountability culture. This is my current challenge for myself.
Where did this reluctance come from? Looking back, I’ve always carried around a fear of failure. I see looking back that I had the incomplete thought of, ‘If I don’t create real goals I need to achieve, then not hitting them won’t mean I didn’t fail, and therefore I won’t prove to be a failure’. Interesting how fears become self-fulfilling prophecies. My mentors, peers and fellow leadership team are challenging me well in this area, as I have decided that I am done putting up with that mediocrity (thank you @Dave Borland, Jack, Kat and Joe) and need all the help to overcome it (special shout out to my Winner’s Circle crew @Trumethods).
Tools to Help Overcome
So, to that end, I am upping my game on routines I am building-in to help me push my accountability, my productivity, and my effectiveness higher. One of the things that I am and have been putting in place on a daily basis is this: I am building a consistent routine of exercise (even a short routine the days I can’t commit the time to get to @Metabolic Meltdown), prayer, spiritual reading, business reading and affirmations. The next piece of the routine to add is visioning: I am currently learning about visioning/vision board (my latest ideas come from the Miracle Morning – thank you @Christian Klueg!).
After all, if we want to stay on the list of local @Albany Business Review’s fastest growing companies in the area in the next 12 years, we have a lot of work to do.