The Spirit of Business 2016: On Humble Beginnings
Todd Perrine spoke at today’s The Spirit of Business Event hosted by the Austin Chamber of Commerce. Below are his remarks.
Good afternoon. I’m Todd Perrine, Founder and CEO of Belston Technologies.
Belston is an Austin-based IT managed services provider with expertise in Microsoft technologies for Cloud, Mobility, Business Intelligence and Social Business. Belston was founded in 2013 and we are very proud to be part of the Austin business community.
I’d like to take a moment to thank the Austin Chamber. One of the great privileges of my role is forging new partnerships and friendships, and enjoying all the new experiences that come with them. The Chamber and its staff have been an incredible partner for us. It’s an honor that you would invite me to speak at the Spirit of Business event.
The Chamber has asked me to talk about humble beginnings. I started to think about the professional benefits that come from humble beginnings and I would like to focus on those today.
Starting a business from scratch, with little more than a passion for your vision, has been one of the most humbling experiences of my career. I’d like to share several lessons we’ve learned from our company’s humble beginning.
Lesson One: Be a Team Player
Working in established companies provides a structure of behind-the-scenes support, and this invisible support enables you to accomplish more than you could without it. Many of us take it for granted in our day-to-day work; however, take it away — like in a new startup — and you come face-to-face with your limitations.
Gaining this awareness affords a great edge in business, as well as in your personal life. It is a facet of humility to know that you depend on others. This understanding helps you work better with your employees, executive team, business partners and clients.
Appreciating that you are part of a team is the first step to becoming a great team player. Being humble means that you don’t think of yourself as better or more important than other people, which is the second step in becoming a great team player. It means embracing your gifts as equally valuable.
Without a strong team environment even the best business ideas can fail. Cohesion — underscored by appreciating and respecting your team — is essential for a new business to thrive.
Lesson Two: Let Go of Your Ego
When you let go of your ego, you can see what is best for the company and what is best for your clients. Have a plan, but don’t be so rigid with it that you miss the chance to evolve it in response to client and market feedback.
After creating your vision you have to be willing to release it into the wild marketplace and invite criticism. If you’re overly protective of your vision then you’re impeding your company’s evolution, which limits its success and relevancy.
Your business has to be flexible, so you have to be flexible. The market has an interesting way of breaking things that don’t bend, that aren’t humble enough to bend.
Lesson Three: Find Value in Giving Back
When you start a new business you are no longer a part of an established system that may be intractably bottom-line focused or shareholder driven. Instead, you are designing a system — creating a new organization — from the ground up; and you can gear that design toward doing impactful, positive, community-oriented work.
We have established a niche providing our services to Austin-based non-profits. Learning what Austin’s non-profits are doing is an amazing adventure. There are so many giving people here, trying to make life better for others — especially those most in need.
Inspired by these missions we have created unique services donations for our non-profit clients that enable Belston to participate in their meaningful efforts. Our company has become a tool for supporting non-profits. It has been humbling to come to terms with the great need of so many men, women and children in our community. And it has been rewarding to use our experience and resources to find ways to help.
Lesson 4: Celebrate Everything
Don’t take anything for granted when you’re starting something new. If you don’t know that before starting a company, you learn it very quickly. Everything is a win. Little progress takes big effort, especially in the early stages.
Instead of focusing on the contract dollar value, we focus on the long-term relationships we are building with our clients, and how we are helping them achieve more success through the right adoption of technology. Building value-based relationships — not dollar-based relationships — was one of our primary reasons for starting Belston.
Long-lasting progress takes many small wins. We have found that the market is rewarding us for our risk. Belston is growing steadily; our employees enjoy their work; and our clients refer us within the business community, which is the ultimate compliment for a services company.
Those things, I have humbly come to learn, have tremendous value and are worth celebrating.
Lesson Five: Appreciate the People Around You
In a startup, there are many ‘all hands on deck’ situations, and times when you have to take on tasks you’ve never taken on before. Facing them and tackling them can be humbling as you find yourself outside your comfort zone frequently.
This perspective leads to a greater appreciation of the people around you, of the amount of time and effort it takes to learn new things and accomplish seemingly small tasks.
Seeing your team’s unwavering commitment to achieving a shared vision — and the sacrifices it requires of everyone — has inspired me to give more to my team, to reach higher and contribute in ways that previous roles didn’t allow, which has made me a better person and a better business executive..
Lesson Six: You Can’t Control Everything
It’s age old wisdom, of course, but to really accept that you can’t control everything — and that it’s a marathon instead of a sprint — is critical to a new company’s success.
When you lost sight of this humble awareness, it is tempting to change course — expelling energy and time on new plans — well before the original plans have had the chance to play out. I thank my team for helping me learn this lesson, and for reminding me when I need to learn it all over again.Thank you again to the Chamber for the opportunity to speak today and for the chance to reflect on humble beginnings.
Having considered the benefits of humility, our company’s play is to ensure that humility is a core tenant of our corporate identity, not just in the beginning of our company, but for as long as Belston Technologies has the privilege of being in business.
Personally I’m working on everything with more purpose and focus on a daily basis, because that’s what a humble beginning demands of us: to perform outside our comfort zone. And to do that, we must have a lot of help. We must redefine success and we must be willing to relinquish some control. In doing so, we create room for wonderful surprises, strong team building and a lot of professional growth.