When you face a business challenge, where do you turn?
By: Brad Farris
Owning a business is difficult because there are so many things you need to learn. Sure you know some accounting, and marketing, you’ve learned about customer service, banking, insurance, employment law, sales… but thencomes a curve ball. Some new issue that you’ve never faced hits your doorstep. Who do you call?
Every business owner needs a set of informal advisors, a kitchen cabinet, a community to call on when you’re in unfamiliar territory. Who is in yours?
We asked several business owners where they turn when they face a business challenge:
“When I face a new challenge, I turn to the people I have surrounded myself with that have been there before. Rather than trying to solve every problem as if it were the first, many times I can find easy answers from people that have built businesses in the past. Whether it is with a formal mentor or with a network of industry colleagues, there is great knowledge and information to be gained from these connections. “
– Phil Murphy, Next Door Storage
“I have found that professional social networking sites often have discussions that can provide valuable insight into many of the problems small businesses face. A couple of times, the online discussions have led to telephone conversations where I have been able to brainstorm with other professionals in a way that surpasses internet dialog. These conversations have often led to business referrals and contacts that have proven valuable in the growth of my business.”
– David Kelly, Apartment Guys
“With two business partners that I have the highest possible level of trust and respect for, support and advise is always close at hand. Their trusted counsel – on any range of challenges – provides a fresh perspective and clarity.”
– Jonathan Finer, Cloverleaf Innovation
“When our company faces a business challenge we do whatever we can to resolve the issue in-house. If we encounter an obstacle that we cannot resolve with our management, we have a first class team of professionals readily accessible. Depending on what type of issue on which we need advice, we always feel confident in one of the following: our banker, accountant, insurance agent, attorney, and marketing company. It pays to do business with those in whom you can put your trust.”
– Ann Collins, RW Collins
“When I face a business challenge, I turn to both market research and my strategic problem-solving skills. Most business challenges can be traced back to the 3 C’s – customer, company, or competitors. The 3 C’s are factors that need to be addressed (and work well together) to succeed in today’s business environment. I first identify which ‘C’ the business challenge is most closely related to, and then I design a strategic plan of attack to ensure that particular ‘C’ is positioned to succeed in the marketplace today.”
– Dana Sloane, Insights in Marketing
President Obama famously said that “if you were successful, someone along the line gave you some help.” and I have to say that’s true for me. I got a lot of help along the way, from other business owners, and from business communities. You can’t go it alone and be successful.
Where are you getting your help from?
Brad is the founder of EnMast, a community of business owners committed to being better leaders and growing better businesses. He is also principal advisor of Anchor Advisors, with experience leading businesses & business owners into new levels of growth and success. Through his work with over 100 Chicago area small businesses he has experience in guiding founders and business owners through the pitfalls and joys of growing their business. Prior to joining Anchor Advisors, Brad spent over 10 years managing business units for a family-owned conglomerate with sales of $2 million to $25 million. When not working Brad enjoys cycling, cooking and the NFL. He is married with 5 children and lives in Chicago, Illinois. Connect with him on Google+, Twitter and LinkedIn.
How innovation is transforming government
According to Washington Technology’s Top 100 list, Leidos is the largest IT provider to the government. But as Lieutenant General William J. Bender explains, “that barely scratches the surface” of the company’s portfolio and drive for innovation.
Bender, who spent three and a half decades in the military, including a stint as the U.S. Air Force’s Chief Information Officer (CIO), has seen action in the field and in technology during that time, and it runs in the family. Bender’s son is an F-16 instructor pilot. So it stands to reason Bender Senior intends to ensure a thriving technological base for the U.S. Air Force. “What we’re really doing here is transforming the federal government from the industrial age into the information age and doing it hand-in-hand with industry,” he says.
The significant changes that have taken place in the wider technology world are precisely the capabilities Leidos is trying to pilot the U.S. Air Force through. It boils down to developing cyberspace as a new domain of battle, globally connected and constantly challenged by the threat of cybersecurity attacks.
“We recognize the importance of the U.S. Air Force’s missions,” says Bender, “and making sure they achieve those missions. We sit side-by-side with the air combat command, intelligence surveillance, and reconnaissance infrastructure across the Air Force. There are multiple large programs where the Air Force is partnering with Leidos to ensure their mission is successfully accomplished 24/7/365. In this company, we’re all in on making sure there’s no drop in capability.”
That partnership relies on a shared understanding of delivering successful national security outcomes, really understanding the mission at hand, and Leidos’ long-standing relationship of over 50 years with the federal government.
To look at where technology is going, Bender thinks it is important to look back at the last 10 to 15 years. “What we’ve seen is a complete shift in how technology gets developed,” he says. “It used to be that the government invested aggressively in research and development, and some of those technologies, once they were launched in a military context, would find their way into the commercial space. That has shifted almost a hundred percent now, where the bulk of the research and development dollars and the development of tech-explicit technologies takes place in the commercial sector.”
“There’s a long-standing desire to adopt commercial technology into defense applications, but it’s had a hard time crossing the ‘valley of death’ [government slang for commercial technologies and partnerships that fail to effectively transition into government missions]. Increasingly we’re able to do that. We need to look at open architectures and open systems for a true plug-and-play capability. Instead of buying it now and trying to guess what it’s going to be used for 12 years from now, it should be evolving iteratively.”