Thankful Flywheel

It’s “Thanksgiving Day” today in America. It’s a day that we pause to take stock of all the blessings we’ve received and to be thankful for them. It hearkens back to the voyage of a small group of families who set sail for the New World as missionaries looking for new land to take root and their hardships endured once here, but the blessings they found through them. It was also birthed in a couple of Presidential proclamations from Lincoln and Washington. Yes. We also are Americans, so we stuff our faces with Turkey, get into fights about politics with family, and get lost in consumerism… I’d like to pause a minute and be thankful for some specific “things” here at Straight Path. To our team – THANK YOU. To our customers – THANK YOU. To those who have given us referrals – THANK YOU. To our friends in the #SQLFamily who teach us and learn with us – THANK YOU.

There’s a great concept out there called “The Flywheel Effect” from a great series of books by Jim Collins (et al.). The concept is every business has a flywheel of sorts. Finding the flywheel is key to growth and success. I’m not a terribly creative fellow, but I have what I consider to be our “Flywheel” at Straight Path. Now, this is -my- take on it. I have a faith that is mine. Our company is made up of many folks (11 of us Full Time, and another 5-10 in our extended 1099 and “Partner Companies” family), and we all believe different things when it comes to faith. I put God at the start of the flywheel personally. And our values, our principles, our growth is first in and through Him and His principles. But these principles are sound business and good relationship principles, whatever faith you believe or don’t believe. So God is “implied” in the flywheel for me very much but not pasted all over as a trademark to steal.

Jim Collins would slap me around for this one πŸ˜‰ I just threw it together. It’s ugly graphically, too. But the point works?

I’ve read a lot of books the past few years growing Straight Path (and myself). Maybe I’ll do a “12 books of Christmas” series on the (secular) books that I think shaped Straight Path and me the most. Clearly Good to Great and Collins’ teams’ other books had a part. I’m presently reading “The Infinite Game” by Simon Sinek – and in it, he reiterates a point a few times. What you focus on first is what’s most important.  I hope our amazing clients don’t feel slighted by not being first on the thanks list below. But I posted my “flywheel in progress” that I just put to an (I’m sorry!) ugly Lucidcart today for the first time to show that it’s really an “all of the above” not a “one is better.” Our clients, though, sadly, will, over time, move on and get bought and sold. Our team is so special. So important. I had to put them first (and no! Please consider the order the team appears just to be a random order!! There is no ranking there. I have no favorites πŸ™‚ ) And again, I put God at the top of my list of thanks personally. He’s blessed this Straight Path experiment with an amazing team, amazing clients, and with success to date. I’m humbled by the growth he’s allowed in spite of the foolish and frail guy at the helm of this ship who makes a lot of mistakes.  I’m also thankful for my amazing and patient family. They put up with the work schedule of a “Working leader” who is still struggling with working “in” and “on” the business. In fact, when folks ask me, “What percentage of your time do you work in or on the business?” my first reaction is to chuckle and say, “How many hours are in your work-week in this question? If you go with 60-80, then it’s probably 50/50 πŸ˜‰ ” And for the folks whose “life ripples” touch my life ripples. Their influence, encouragement, admonishing, and advice have helped me steward our growth.

So onto some specific thanks within the company –

I’m also very thankful for…

Our Team

What can I say? I’m awestruck when I look at who is on this team. What they bring. Not just skills. But personality, friendship. I’m blown away. As I type this post and think of the team, the family, God’s grace, the clients, and our success – tears sort of want to flow, but I’m good at clenching my jaw. You all are so special and amazing. And it saddens me to know that folks do eventually move on when an amazing opportunity comes up. Some of you will someday leave, and I’d hate for it to be any single one of you. I’m so thankful for this team and what you’ve grown Straight Path to. This isn’t just “my” company anymore. It’s “our” company. And you are the best darn board of advisors a “still learning” leader/CEO/WhateverYouWantToCallme can have.

  • Jack Corbett – Your ideas, your approach to breaking problems down into simpler, smaller problems, is inspiring. You make us better every step of the way – and you are great with your clients. Thorough, on the ball and a good “owner” – you can see things to completion, and I’ve never once had to ask, “are your clients happy?”. You also helped me as the first Senior DBA/Consultant here pave the road for the others. And you aren’t afraid to confront me about the ways I can get better, and SP can be better for the rest of the team and the other clients. That is priceless. THANKS!
  • Bruce Welch – You’ve put up with the most “Mike Walsh stuff” being here the longest. You give me great ideas, and you bring wisdom, leadership experience, and a stick-to-itiveness that is unlike any I’ve seen at other jobs. If I send a note out on teams about a client issue that I saw an e-mail about -way after- hours – asking if anyone can connect with me – you reply. Every.Single.Time. THANKS!
  • Tara Kizer – You don’t stop!!! Before someone can spit out, “Can I get a volunteer” you are volunteering. Especially if it has to do with parameter sniffing πŸ˜‰ Your hard work, “give me more stuff to do!” attitude is infectious, and it humbles me every day. Your kindness, too. We don’t deserve you! THANKS!
  • Sheila Welch – Patience! You have way more than you should!!! I do not envy your role as Office Manager and my assistant. I mean. That’s a heck of a lot of work. I’m probably most thankful for the fact that you’ve never strangled me! But seriously – the clients love your detailed notes each invoice run. Your research skills and client satisfaction skills are amazing. You make us better and keep us “geeks” in line. THANKS!
  • Joe Fleming – Joe! You are a natural leader. Your ideas, thoughts, input, and influence have continued to make us a better company.  You are great at analyzing situations and coming up with the right solution. Your clients love you, and I know each of them is in good hands. We would not be the Straight Path we are today if it weren’t for you. You also are a very quick volunteer for “extra work” with nothing but a “thanks!” in return. THANKS!
  • Mike Clark – Mike – you bring levity to our meetings, you care about each of your teammates, and you care deeply about your clients. You stick to problems, and you push me to be a better leader with your coaching, advice, and insightful questions. You make us better, and your clients are blessed to have you as a lead!
  • Tom Willwerth – Tom – You’ve been here for, what, five months? But I bet it feels like a lot longer! You work hard, and you own your clients. I love the care you give to your clients and the way you are comfortable asking hard questions of me and thinking outside the box of ways to make us better. You’re a natural leader, and you have a lot of good ideas. It’s also a real treat to listen to you with your clients in troubleshooting the “dev side of things” THANKS!
  • Evan Corbett – You are my answer for any time someone complains about the work ethic of your generation. You are amazing! And I’m only joking when I say quit school. You should listen to your mom, but if you ever did, I’d make you full time IMMEDIATELY πŸ˜‰ You love on our customers with the daily checks, you learn quick, you document what you learn, and you show our customers that we care about them with the attention to detail you give to them. I’m amazed at that – and it’s good to see someone give a hard time to Jack other than me. πŸ™‚ THANKS!
  • Michael Morrison – BRAVO ZULU! You rock, man. The way you think outside the box, the way you beg for more work, the way you own an issue to completion, the way you advocate for the clients calling into support, or having “reds” on their daily checks. The way you learn and document. And the way you communicate with your clients. We’re blessed to have you. THANKS!
  • Daniel Maenle – Thanks for being here! You’ve been here a few weeks, but I can already see yours outside the box thinking. To see someone come in with enthusiasm, better ideas, a willingness to share those ideas, and the desire to “own” and build humbles me. I’m excited to see these ideas in your head come to fruition!!! THANKS!

Thanks to all of your families! When I pray for the team and think about the impact of our little company on the world. I don’t just think of the clients and you all. I think of your family members each also. They put up with weird hours at times, longer weeks at times, and probably some stress after the full day of work – and our days are FULL days. To the extended Straight Path family- thank you all. I’d name you each, and I can, too, I think of and pray for you by name, but I don’t have your permissions to do that. Spouses, children, pooches, you all rock. THANKS!

Our “Friends”

Too many to count. But from the folks like Michael, Philip, Floyd who do 1099 work with us more regularly. To those in the wings like Erik Darling and Eric C. To the people like Tim Mitchell, who calls me regularly to bounce ideas off of each other. Folks like Nick Harshbarger over at SQL Sentry, who encourages me to be a better leader. Folks in the #PassPrayers community who prays for me. Our worthy rivals to inspire me to be better – some, like Kevin Hill, who even bounces ideas off of me, and I him. Jon DiPietro, our “web marketing guy.” The folks over at EntreLeadership. The people in the SQL Server community who actively refer us business. All of you are part of our growth. THANK YOU.

Our Clients

Our clients are amazing and special. It’s humbling enough that the team would join me on this venture – many taking a cut in benefits at first to do so while we started growing – and that so many great people in the SQL Server community refer clients to us. But I cannot tell you how humbling it is to have the clients we have. Each and every customer we serve already lives out the principles we try to live out here at Straight Path. Many of them have been examples to me as I try and build our team and determine how to lead. Some have become good friends. Some have sent me private notes when I’ve been out for medical reasons. We’ve been invited to a few Christmas parties. I have a few hats and shirts I love wearing more than others because they are from customers that we love, and who love us back.

I’m so thankful for each and every one of you. Some of you started when we were just one person, and the service was “spotty” because of growth. And some of your earliest clients have been the most patient and the last to receive some of the improvements in our services because of that patience. You’ve allowed the flywheel to work. You’ve helped us grow responsibly. You’ve helped us improve our services. You’ve been here for our first (and I really would love to say last (non-inflation related one anyway!)) price readjustment as our services expanded. You’ve given us great constructive course correction. You’ve given us advice on services. You’ve praised your technical account managers to me privately. You’ve paid on time, and that helps, too! πŸ˜‰ But seriously – our customers ROCK. And not a single customer is on anything longer than an initial 3-month contract. Every single contract is a quarter to quarter or month to month renewal. You can all leave anytime you want. And you don’t. In fact, we’ve grown a bit faster than I expected, because the scared pessimist in me assumed a 20% – 30% churn rate – it’s been < 2% and those were just because of finances, acquisitions or us realizing that we weren’t the right mutual fit – we want clients who are perfect for us and us for them.

Thank you so much β€” each of you. Even the ones who are about to start on 1/1, thank you for taking your chances with us. You have so many GREAT and AMAZING choices with our worthy rivals out there in the marketplace. Firms we respect, and we’d recommend to you if we weren’t’ right. The fact that you’ve chosen us is, yet another thing that makes me sit here and shake my head with a small smile of humility and praise in my heart.


P.S. Before I started writing this post in pieces today, I was feeling weird. The holidays. Thinking of my father, who passed away in May. Some of the effects of my MS medicine are maybe increasing my brain’s susceptibility to “sadness,” thinking of my past thanksgivings and my interesting childhood. I was in a weird spot this morning. I don’t fully get it – but sort of just “sad” and almost on the verge of tears for really no specific reason(!!! that’s not me!) – I started chipping away at this post, and I found it really is true what they say about gratitude. Once you pause and “count your blessings” and think about just what you have been given without deserving it – it changes your focus. This post almost had me on that emotional verge again – but tilted the other side. A humbling, thankful, emotion of gratitude. What about you!? What are YOU thankful for? Think about it; share what you are willing to share in the comments. It will change your focus, I promise πŸ™‚

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