The Year Is One-Sixth Over… How’s Your Progress?

Thomas Fox is president of Tech Experts, southeast Michigan’s leading small business computer support company.

I’m writing this month’s article in the Dallas airport, waiting for my flight home after spending three days in meetings with my HTG peer group. I wrote about peer groups before, but in case you missed it, here’s a quick refresher: Four times a year, I get together with other computer company owners for a two to three day meeting, sharing company metrics, reviewing the business, and setting goals.

We act as each other’s “accountability partners.” We hold each other’s feet to the fire. We start by reviewing how our businesses did the last quarter; we lay it all out on the line, the good, the bad and the ugly. Everyone is here to work “on” their business for a few days – instead of working in it.

A big part of what we do together is sharing goals. Most small business owners talk about setting goals for their companies, but at the end of the day, they almost always get stuck in the day to day, and don’t get a chance to focus on the objectives they have set for the business. That’s what I really like about the HTG experience – there are 11 other business owners who are holding me accountable for what I say I’ll get done.

When we report on our goals for the previous quarter, the group votes on whether we’re “green, yellow or red” on a goal.

Some of the members of HTG16 gather before going to dinner. From left, Jason Hagens from Seattle, Tim Rettig from Cincinnati, Mike Perkins from Boulder, me (checking service tickets), Alex Rodriguez from Borger, Texas, Matt Zaroff from Sherman Oaks, California, and with his back to the camera, Dave DelVecchio from Easthampton, MA.

Green means we nailed it, yellow means we’re almost there, and red, obviously, means you didn’t get it done.

There’s a lot more to the HTG experience, and I’m sure I’ll share more throughout the year. If I had to sum up the value in just a few words, I’d say that the peer group experience forces me to focus on what’s really important for my business, my team and my clients. It is accountability on steroids.

Now that the year is one-sixth over, how are you doing on the goals you’ve set for your company? Are you 10% there? Have you set the world on fire yet?

Part of our job as your IT company is to work with you on the strategic goals you’ve set for your business, and help you apply information technology in ways that will improve efficiency, increase client satisfaction, and reduce costs. Toward that end, we’ll be conducting quarterly business reviews (QBRs) with each of our business clients.

The purpose is to sit down with you and discuss the big-picture aspects of your network, computers and servers as they relate to your business goals. Chances are, there are things we can do to improve operations at your company – and there’s probably some things going on in your business and industry that we should know about.

QBRs will also give me a chance to check up on our relationship and get a feel for how the services team is performing for you. I’m excited about this new initiative and believe we’ll both get a lot of value from it.

My three goals for Tech Experts for the next quarter – we set three goals in HTG, the thinking being it’s impossible to concentrate on more – all revolve around process documentation and improvement. As Tech Experts grows, it’s critically important that we perform all of our services consistently, so that when Bob works on your network, the flow and process works the same as when Corey or I do.

I also have to admit that I have a fourth goal – one that didn’t get accomplished last quarter. That’s the thing about being held accountable – goals don’t go away when they’re not completed. They just get added to the list of things you’re responsible for in the next meeting.

Big, business changing goals don’t get accomplished in a week or even in a quarter. But being accountable to your goals should happen every day.

Are you working on your business, or in your business? When you look back at January and February, will your goals be green yellow or red?

The Value of Peer Groups And Partnering

I’m extremely fortunate to be involved in several peer groups, which helps put me in touch with the best and brightest in the computer service industry. In case you’re not familiar, a peer group is an association of business owners, usually but not always in the same industry, who meet on a regular basis to network and discuss issues they’re having in their businesses.

The Three Amigos in Orlando, Florida! From left, Howard Cunningham, David Bennett and me. I’m very fortunate to be able to call these guys friends.

If you’re not involved in some sort of CEO group or industry association, I encourage you to join one. It is invaluable to be able to network and talk with other business owners who understand my company and the challenges I face. And I’d bet you’d find the experience invaluable, too.

I was able to see two of my peer group friends at the Orlando meeting, David Bennett and Howard Cunningham. These are guys I admire a lot, not only for their business acumen but also for their willingness to share what they’re doing in their businesses that make them successful.

Dave owns Connections for Business in Hollywood, Florida, and Howard owns Macro Systems just outside of Washington, D.C. These guys share my goal of growing my business and providing incredible service to my clients. They’re at the top of their game in the IT services industry, and I’m really glad to be able to call them friends.