30 Years. 30 Lessons Learned.
Published by Linda Rolf on 2/9/2021
Do you remember when you were a child and heard that someone was 30 years old? They sounded really old, didn't they?
That's a little how I feel as I look back 30 years. When I started Quest, I never imagined I would be here 30 years in the future writing this post.
It's impossible not to reflect back over those years. The road has been a winding one with its share of potholes, but the trip has been worth every bumpy mile.
Here are 30 random souvenirs collected on the trip.
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- 1. The imposter syndrome is real. I knew we were becoming a grown up company when our first startup client said, "You're not feeling like an imposter anymore".
- 2. A client once said, "We always tell you that your employees have done a good job. But who tells you that you're doing a good job too?" I got a little misty when I realized how right she was. Take time to tell someone who leads her company everyday that she's doing a great job.
- 3. Kindness matters. Every day.
- 4. Run your own race. When you let your stride and your pace be set by anyone else, you compromise the purpose that inspired you to begin the race.
- 5. Ideas are the inspiration that keeps us showing up for another day. Don't be afraid to have crazy ideas.
- 6. Every idea isn't going to be a winner. Write down every one of them. Say them out loud. Then do the practical, responsible analysis before you invest valuable time and resources.
- 7. Sometimes the best plans don't lead us where we need to go. It might be market timing, lack of resources, a thousand valid reason why this isn't the right direction right now. Give yourself permission to kill the project. There's no shame in changing direction when the signs are clear.
- 8. Be kind. Business is competitive. Passionate founders are a driven bunch. Never let your inner success voice shout louder than your deeper empathy.
- 9. Do one small thoughtful act every day. Congratulate someone on his success --- even your biggest competitor. Encourage an employee who is struggling. Small random acts of generosity leave everyone feeling better than they did when their day began.
- 10. Be humble. Achieving a success milestone is what we all strive for. We want to share it. If you give yourself a big, loud social media shoutout, remember that someone else might be feeling stuck and discouraged that day. Share your big moment in a thoughtful wrapping of gratitude for those who helped you get there.
- 11. People we believed were supportive are going to disappoint us from time to time. It's human to feel abandoned. Find an opportunity to give them an unexpected private thanks or a social media thumbs up. You've let them know that their relationship matters to you. The rest is up to them.
- 12. Every person we meet won't become a sustainable relationship. Know when it's time to let it go.
- 13. Trust is the cornerstone of every client relationship. Guard every word, every thought they share with you as if it were your company's most valuable secret. Because it is.
- 14. Every client isn't the right client for your company. It's tempting to focus on how many clients we have. The better measure of success for everyone is how our clients let us contribute to their success. If it doesn't feel right, it probably isn't. Say goodbye graciously.
- 15. Learn something new every day. Reading opens our minds to exploring new ideas, considering possibilities we might have missed when we stay in our carefully curated corner.
- 16. Become comfortable with uncomfortable differences. Ideas, philosophies, cultures. Take a deep breath and thoughtfully, deeply listen. Even if you don't agree, you will learn something that expands the edges of your experience.
- 17. Create a culture of active learning throughout your organization. Don't just say it. Continuously lead discussions with a topic that encourages curiosity. Support sharing new discoveries without judgement.
- 18. Share your company vision with everyone in your organization consistently. Why are we here? Who do we serve? How do we make our customers' lives better? Your team will eagerly share your vision when they understand it.
- 19. Hire the best people you can from the first day.
- 20. Continually ask yourself "Who is the best person to do this job?" The answer won't always be you, and that's the way it should be. Commit to yourself and your team that you will contribute your best skills to the company. You give them permission to do the same.
- 21. Build trusted partnerships. Your customers and clients look to you for solutions to their problems. You won't have all the answers yourself, but a strategically crafted team is a valued asset.
- 22. Ask your customers what they really want from you. Their answers might surprise you. More than 25 years ago a client said, "The value that Quest brings to Cotton States is far greater than the software they develop." This simple statement has been a steady reminder that we should never assume we know what our clients value most from us.
- 23. Don't be afraid to change your company's direction. "We've always done it this way" is a feeble excuse for becoming stagnant.
- 24. Your clients aren't spending much time thinking about what you do. What they want to know is "How will you solve my problem?".
- 25. Share your knowledge openly with your clients. The curse of knowledge is a cognitive bias that occurs when we assume that the person we are communicating with has the same depth of expertise that we do. The need to be educated is often overlooked and so easily overcome.
- 26. If time, money, and resources weren't considerations, what would your company look like? Ask yourself, involve your team. It's an excellent exercise for discovering the opportunities right in front of you.
- 27. Everyone gets stuck. We have too many ideas, not enough ideas, too many client demands, not enough clients --- the list goes on. When you're stuck, grab a piece of paper and a pen. Write down everything that is on your mind. Don't censor your thoughts or critique your writing. This is for you only. You'll discover where getting unstuck lives.
- 28. Give yourself permission to stare out your window every day. I call it the Thinking Time Rule. The days can quickly become a series of busy to-dos. It feels good to check tasks off your list, but they are the obstacles to strategic thinking. You are the trusted leader.
- 29. Reward yourself with one success every day. Commit 5-10 minutes at the end of each day to write down the things you accomplished that moved your plans ahead. You will be amazed at how this simple activity keeps you focused and energized.
- 30. What do you want your company and your life to look like a year from now, 3 years, 5 years? We've all heard this so many times. It's easy to nod "got it", and then go back to today's life. Don't let the time to answer that question slip away. 1 year becomes 30 years much faster than you can imagine.
Tags: Business Strategy
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is a lifelong curious learner. She is fueled by discovering the unexpected connections among technology, data, information, people and process. For more than four decades, Linda and Quest Technology Group have been their clients' trusted advisor and strategic partner. They actively contribute to each client's success through mutual collaboration, thoughtful business analysis, enterprise software development, technology integration, database design and management, opportunity discovery, business growth strategy, and marketing initiatives.
They believe that lasting value and trust are created through continuously listening, sharing knowledge freely and delivering more than their clients even know they need. As the CIO of their first startup client said, "The value that Quest brings to Cotton States is far greater than the software they develop."