A New Chapter – (Re)Launching Straight Path

by | Jul 13, 2016 | Career, Consulting, Personal | 20 comments

It was February of 2012 when I made an announcement to the world. I had joined forces with some brothers who started a company with a vision, a dream and a disruptive business model. I told you all about this change in a blog post. I had actually joined Linchpin People a bit before this announcement and became the first “non-equity-owner” Partner with the company (only Brian and Andy have/had actual equity). I quickly thought we would meld and kept Straight Path around but just as an entity I would bill this new relationship through.

Well I’m here to make an announcement in the same style, today. Only a little different…

A Little History & A Story

Four years ago, I decided to put all of my eggs in the Linchpin Basket. It was a good basket to put my eggs in at the time for me and for my clients.

I was new with the  “business world”.  I was an experienced SQL Server expert and MVP. At that time, I had about 12 years of experience in the SQL Server space. I was really good at the day job. I had a bit of a clue about what I was doing and I was ready to try and help other folks out on their quest to run a different kind of business which put integrity and values first.

Linchpin was sort of just Christened not long before I jumped out on my own. It was started by a couple folks I’ve prayed with, gotten to know and trust and it had a vision that sounded quite different than other visions out there. I wanted to be a part of it. I was ready to sort of put ice on my dream of trying this out on my own and heading up my own concern and put that energy into Linchpin. It took a year or two for me to really move from idle to 6th gear – but it definitely happened. As the first partner I was there when we added other partners. I was there when some left. I was there when we really started shaping up the more permanent vision of Linchpin and I was really feeling like my identity, my brand and energy and emotions, were turning into Linchpin. This was a good and wonderful thing mostly. The business model. The integrity. The talk of what we called “Service 2240”. The families involved. So many great things.

Along the way, though, we had some small bumps. We stayed busy with core relational engine clients. This is my sweet spot as a SQL Server consultant. I worked hard helping to stay out there in this way and feel like I really helped create a couple services that were after what I really saw myself helping customers with and wanted to build a team around. I really had the ear of the equity partners who actually owned the company and felt like I was at least in the bridge at times with them, helping with the charts and plans. I worked my tail off helping talk to prospects and bring in a solid book of business for the company. Kept myself busy being billable to survive and it was good “killing what I was eating” and trying to help bring work and margin into the company.

The past year we went through some changes. Linchpin has provided excellent service throughout these transitions, and we still do. But some of the leadership team changed. As we talked about in various blog posts. Andy Leonard left to try some of the things he wanted to focus on more. Tim Mitchell for the same reason. I was the last of the class of non-equity partners, yet another reason this is a difficult, though right, choice.

In recent weeks and months, I’ve been thinking about what I want my future to look like. There were really two paths that kept coming out. A path where I am part of a leadership team shaping the future of an existing company, someone else’s vision and dream which I largely bought into and felt like I at least had some level of influence in the direction chosen. Or really putting my efforts and energy into my own dream and vision. The differences, while minor, are still substantial enough when thinking on the longer term scope. Five years was put into Linchpin. That’s a lot of time to align my brand and expertise and strength and values with someone else’s vision! And it was wildly successful for me. It was a great five years, I’ve learned a ton and felt like we had a lot of wins as a core group but through time and pondering and pondering more in recent weeks it became clearer to me, I want to try this thing on my own. Well with my own company. I wanted to set the vision, the direction, narrow the focus a bit, build the same sort of high caliber team of experts and move forward on specific targets..

The New Straight Path

This is a work in progress, heck even the site changes are a work in progress. It’s a work that is made a bit easier because of the lessons I learned from the two founders and owners about what really works well and what doesn’t work so well, and really all of the partners and teammates through the years at Linchpin Such great friendships and life lessons. I learned a lot of great tips and techniques. I was given some latitude to try things and see what works. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about services and how we could execute. I’ve thought about how things would be if I were given the chance to not just be in the bridge, but be the one deciding on the course and actions to be taken.

I plan on keeping a lot of the “Linchpin Way” things with me at Straight Path. The things that originally attracted me to put my name and my heart into Linchpin:

  • The integrity
  • The honesty
  • Putting the team before the leadership
  • Putting the clients before ourselves
  • Striving to put the best resources on the best projects
  • The business model of having a diverse group of teammates serving clients in their specialties
  • Affordable and sustainable delivery model
  • Flexibility and having an open phone

All of the things that drew me to Linchpin. The “Golden Rule” way of doing business. The putting others before myself. The things we talked a lot about in the beginning before I agreed to be nthat first partner. Those will be with me, because they’ve always been part of my makeup. And they’ll be part of the ethos of Straight Path without a doubt.

But I want to do some things differently.

  • Focus – I want to focus on what I’m great and what the team I work with is great at. What I know and what I can manage and verify: The Relational Engine and Cloud (look at our homepage for an idea of what SQL Consulting services I’m getting at there). I don’t want to build the areas I’m not great at or aren’t my sweet spot or my team’s sweet spot. I want to focus and partner with experts in the other areas.
  • Partnerships – I want to partner with great firms, like my friend Tim’s company, Tyleris Data Solutions, for ETL and Data Warehouse Architecture, to provide trusted expertise in other niche areas. Hopefully the team at Straight Path can then provide Relational Engine services to those firms.
  • I want to keep the drive and focus and momentum – Sometimes when there are many goals, many targets,  and many leaders it can be too easy to lose focus or drive. I want to keep the focus narrower, surround myself with great advisers and folks to help enable me to get things done so the focus can be there.
  • Straight Path will still work with best of the best resources – We’ll probably even call them teammates or something along those lines. Best of the best resources. Top talent. The right person for the job. We’ll also have some folks working with us who are up and coming, and learning and growing. Maybe offering a little rate flexibiltiy for simpler tasks.

Really, I just want to try and build the SQL Server consulting firm that I’d want to be at the helm of. I want to take the skills I’ve had – both technical and business – over the past 17 years and be a consultancy that is a go to resource like so many of the firms that are run by many of my friends in the SQL Server space. I want to do business relationally. I want to have relationships that are helpful and additive with other firms where we can augment or add to a skill set or have their skill set added to ours. I want Straight Path to always give back to the community and get back to those ideals I’ve always believed in.

No More Linchpin for Mike?

Not at all the case. I will stay on with my friend Brian and the teammates he has at Linchpin. I’ll become a teammate myself. I will still do some billing of my own through Linchpin and the clients and relationships I’ve helped build and nurture through the years there on their paper. I’d love to stay and help as long as I can and as long as they’d have me. I’ve built some amazing friendships and relationships with clients at Linchpin. My wife knows many of their first names and can tell which I’m talking to when I’m on the phone. I plan on working with the other teammates to deliver amazing services to Linchpin’s great customers.  I just won’t be in the bridge so much, unless there’s some task that I can do to help Brian out with when he needs it. I’ll have a Linchpin address for a long time, I trust. And I look forward to maintaining a friendship with the company and team that is Linchpin People. But I’ll be working hard on taking on new clients, working with some great folks in the SQL community to deliver services and set Straight Path in a direction that is right for the clients, right for the folks who work with us at Straight Path and right for me and starting to shift my weight into my own boat.

I learned a lot from the leaders at Linchpin. I learned a lot about myself. I’ve spent a lot of time Praying with Andy and Brian. A lot of time doing business relationally. I’ve seen so many situations where fights were fights over who got to be more generous to the other. It was a different company run by different types of business people. I pray that Brian and his team have much success and I hope to work with them as a teammate of theirs or as a business to business partner someday.

Quick Update – so I’m going to click publish and I have butterflies. This is a big choice. It’s already made. The conversations have happened. But publishing it gives me a little tha-thump in the heart. It brought me back to this post when I decided to launch full time. I just read that post, and the tha-thump is gone. I like my words from my old self to my future self. “Your dreams, they don’t come looking for you?” Well here goes. I’m coming to find those dreams again. Look forward to chatting with you, working with you and seeing how Straight Path can work with your company to solve your challenges.

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