Lessons my Father Taught Me
My father worked a great deal, and we did not “pal around” a lot as I grew up. But I was very fortunate in two respects: first, I was fortunate that he spent time when it mattered the most; and second, I was fortunate enough to have the good sense to pay attention when he did.
Life Lesson #1: When I was 5 years old, we moved to a community called West Corners. And like most new kids, I had trouble making fresh friends. Lamenting to my father about how nobody would play with me, he told me; “There are two types of people in the world – those who lead and those who follow. Go out there and lead – do your own thing, make your own fun – and people will follow.” So I did and, sure enough, other kids soon joined me. And today I continue to live a life of leadership.
Life Lesson #2: At age 13, I asked my father for a raise in my allowance from 50-cents to 75-cents. He told me to write a paper about why I deserved the raise. So I wrote about the cost of living and how 75-cents could afford me more comfort. I thought it was a good paper, but my father denied my request, saying I wrote about what I need and not what I deserve. Everyone has needs, but a person must convert that need into a want to change their circumstances. It turned out to be a great lesson. The very next day, I applied for a job at a nearby farm called Nanticoke Gardens. The owner, Donald Ferguson, gave me a job right then that paid $1.85 per hour. Since that day, I have never been without a job. These two lessons helped define my future: always be a good leader or a good follower and never accept the status quo if you are dissatisfied – for by doing so you limit your potential.
The Challenges of Change
I would love to claim that, early in my career, I had the wisdom and insight to embrace the ideals of transformation and change. But that would be making a virtue of necessity. In truth, I founded XONITEK in 1985 with the idea of assembling personal computers. But I made the tactical error of trying to make a business of assembling and selling “clones” in the birthplace of IBM, where buying such a product was considered treasonous. An additional challenge I encountered early-on was the rapid erosion of margins as hardware became commoditized. By 1990, in response to these market conditions and by necessity, I had reinvented the firm as an information systems integrator – specializing in engineering and maintaining information and computer networks, and implementing basic business systems. By 1995, XONITEK had continued its evolution and changed into an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) consultancy firm – having dropped all connections with hardware.c
There is a saying that goes, “If you love what you do, you will never work a day in your life.” Think about that for a moment. How many of us can truly say we love what we do? How does that affect your work performance? How does that affect your quality of life? If you close your eyes and imagine your perfect job – the one you would love – are you doing it now? Why not? I became restless once again by 2002. I was convinced that the reality of technology deployments never achieved what was promised – this being especially true of ERP companies and their solutions. The entire marketplace had become cynical, and being in that market became increasingly joyless. In 2005, I decided that I needed to evolve once again and developed my own “Blue Ocean Strategy.” First, I focused on the Strategy – the vision – removing all of the technology and tools – the logistics – from consideration. I took what I enjoyed most: improving company performance and the circumstances of the people who work there – and I began to build a business model around it. Secondly, I developed the Tactics – the plan – necessary to achieve the goals I defined. Witnessing so much failure in the ERP marketplace, as the result of the people being left out of the process, I knew that effective leadership was of critical importance, and that this leadership had to create an environment where true Transformational Change and Innovation could thrive.
Then, I needed to configure the proper Logistics – the resources – necessary to support the plan – and these logistics could not rely upon products or technologies, but on approaches and methodologies. I saw that by leveraging the effective leadership and the disciplines of Systems Sciences and Industrial Engineering – including those of Lean Six-Sigma – I could deploy effective programs for Continuous and Deliberate Improvement. And finally, I had to Execute – deploy the plan – and deploy the plan with vigor. It is important not to confuse study and examination with progress. Because once the study is complete, the situation remains as it was in the beginning – nothing has changed. I have mentioned that I grew up in Endicott, New York; the birthplace of International Business Machines Corporation – now known simply as IBM. Back then (in the 1960’s and 1970’s) the motto of IBM was “Think”. It was on their stationary and business cards. It was even etched into their (then) corporate offices on North Street. As a young boy growing-up, I always admired that motto, until one day I realized that, “Once you have thought all of the thoughts you can possibly think, it’s time to do.” That’s why I now prefer like Nike’s motto, “Just do it!”
As a result, in 2006 I defined Operational Excellence as: “A comprehensive, end-to-end, program for the continuous and deliberate improvement of company performance AND the circumstances of those who work there. And to pursue Operational Excellence by Design – and not by coincidence.” Partnering with client companies to help and support them in their pursuit of Operational Excellence is the value-proposition of my firm, and of me personally. It has enabled me to successfully establish XONITEK as the strategic partner for a many great companies. As you explore your own circumstances and those of your company, I invite you to get to know me and the capabilities of XONITEK. Please connect with me on LinkedIn, and let’s share a few ideas. I look forward to learning more about you.