This week, LinkedIn let me know that I am “Celebrating 7 years at HawkPoint Technologies”. It does not feel like I’m celebrating, but that is definitely more of a character flaw, than a reflection on the company I have helped build for the past seven years.
Truth is, I should be celebrating. We have accomplished a lot in seven years. Back in 2013, when I started, HawkPoint was not HawkPoint. We were Operon Systems. Operon was a small software company that had just started thinking about doing IT services. We lacked direction and discipline. We struggled to manage the business, as a business and we lived paycheck to paycheck. Operon was a lot like I was, personally, at 22 years old. We were unsure of who we wanted to be when we grew up and we were not really doing anything intentionally. We had good ideas and good employees and no idea of what to do with either.
It’s an interesting thing running a business. Early in my career, I saw executives similarly to how children see parents. You genuinely think that they have all the answers. As a 45-year-old parent and executive, I can assure you that we don’t. Not all the answers. Like parenting, being an executive is a combination of leveraging experience and managing risk. Sometimes you know the answer; that’s experience. Sometimes you want to play it safe or sometimes you say go for it; that’s knowing the big picture and, again, leveraging your experience to know what you can or cannot afford to lose (and if the potential gain is worth it). When we’re pushing, we are in a constant state of rebound. You aren’t throwing things at the wall to see if they stick. You are throwing things at the wall and preparing for the rebound. If ideas stick, great. If they don’t, you watch that rebound to plan your next move. I call that owning the outcome, which is crucial to owning the work, as a whole. I learned much of this around year three at Operon, which coincidentally, is about when we changed our name from Operon to HawkPoint.
In the latter half of 2018, I was promoted to President of HawkPoint. It was a relatively unceremonious event. Troy called me on a Sunday and said, “hey man, you’re the president now”. Cool…thanks. What followed was two years of continuous improvement for HawkPoint and for me. We had been improving year after year, but this was a focused, full court press. We identified goals and then worked toward them. Reducing debt and our reliance on those who provided funding. We improved processes, which led to a better overall product for clients. We analyzed our costs and made changes, which would minimize those costs, as well as increasing rates and profitability. We became intentional and our intent was customer satisfaction and profitability. For the remainder of 2018 and all of 2019, this was our goal. We didn’t know exactly how to communicate this goal, as it was a feeling and an effort but still was not entirely conscious. At least we had intent.
I like audiobooks. More specifically, I like the self-help style business audio books. This started back in my Plexus days with Getting Things Done, by David Allen. At Lawton, I was introduced to Crucial Conversations by my then mentor, Kurt Hahlbeck. In 2018, Troy’s father, Duane, introduced us to Greg Sliwicki, who recommended They Ask You Answer, by Marcus Sheridan. I’ve become semi-addicted to these types of books. I don’t take them literally. I don’t even pay that close of attention when I am listening. My goal, with these books is inspiration. I find that is how I learn as I get older and progress in my career. It comes in waves and impulses. I hear a sentence and am inspired with a completely unrelated idea. For me, successful learning is not completely understanding the subject matter, as to take a test. It’s applying the knowledge learned. It’s using what you’ve learned to become better and to help others become better. I ended 2019, by reading/listening to Thank You For Arguing by Jay Heinrichs; a recommendation from my friend and colleague Chris Rand. From there I found Scaling Up Excellence, by Robert Sutton and Huggy Rao, on Harvard’s list of business books. Excellence…. I like the sound of that.
Fast forward to 2020. Aside from the craziness of the world outside of HawkPoint, we are grown up and managing the business, as a business. Most of what we do is intentional, because we now have intent.
I spent years asking Troy (Dunsirn, HawkPoint’s owner and CEO) what he wanted for HawkPoint. “Where are we going? What is the five-year plan?” He could never answer. Neither could I. The honest answer was everything. We wanted everything. Happy clients, a profitable business, growth, happy employees, to be a household name, an island in the Bahamas, to be taller and better looking… you know… business stuff. All that stuff can be the outcome of intent but those things, alone, are not intent. We want happy clients. Great, how? We want profitability. Great, how? Interestingly, those two things are directly connected, which is probably why we didn’t have either as Operon. With no direction and no intent and no ownership of the work, the work wasn’t very good. In hindsight, and to no one’s surprise, our clients didn’t much like paying for poor quality, unintentional work. Unhappy client’s equal unsuccessful business. Makes sense.
Earlier this year, we began to formalize our intent, into a communicable mission, leveraging our experiences and inspirations. I was really stuck on the word Excellent so that became our Mission:
Excellence: At our very worst, we will provide exactly what was promised. At our best, we will exceed all expectations.
Missions are often accompanied by a Vision and Values. Our values are our C.O.D.E.
Products and services that are worth it, provided by knowledgeable business professionals, who always act in the best interest of HawkPoint and HawkPoint’s customers.
Communication: Know your audience and speak to be understood. Listen to understand and retain knowledge. The goal of all communication, spoken or written, is to ensure a mutual understanding is gained.
Ownership: Work as though you own HawkPoint. Own the task and all possible outcomes. Be proactive and always contribute your own ideas.
Direction: Give and insist on being given proper direction. HawkPoint needs thinkers. Respectfully challenge direction given, but also respect decisions made and work toward our common goal.
Ethics: Act in HawkPoint’s best interests.
We not only have intent; we have a mission. We have clear goals and expectations. HawkPoint has grown from the disarray of Operon Systems, to a successful business and I was part of that. Celebrating seems appropriate. We’ve accomplished a lot in seven years, and we are on the right path to accomplish so much more. I’m proud of our team and of HawkPoint.
Please join me in celebrating seven years of working for a great company, with a great team.