Aiming High

Murray Pratt Blog, Business Insights

Aiming high image

“You’re still the same, you still aim high’

– ‘Still the Same, 1978’, Bob Seger

 

This morning while driving by two semis, driving in tandem down highway 99 to the Peach Arch border crossing, I was listening to one of my favorite songs.

Bob Seger’s, ‘Still the Same’, with its catchy rhythm, driving beat and repetitive lyrics was on the radio. He once gave advice to a fellow musician that you should repeat the name of the song as many times as possible in order to make it memorable. Well, he made a great number of very memorable songs, so I guess that worked…

I have driven to work for the 34 years of my working life – through the intense traffic of the QEW and 401 in Toronto, to Highway 99 into Vancouver – 45-minute to hour-long commutes into town to work.

As I listened to Bob Seger’s song I grooved to the rhythm while tapping on the steering wheel, passing the trucks and changing lanes to get to my exit. And along that two-mile stretch of road I thought about whether I was in fact ‘still the same’? I wondered if I was still the same person at my core or whether my work life had fundamentally changed me into something different.

As I go through the changes in my life, I found solace in the fact that I have been pretty much ‘the same’. Yes, a bit wider, a bit more mellow, more compassionate and empathetic, listening better (not hearing better!), and a bit grayer as well.

I like to think that I am fundamentally still the same… still aiming high.

I remember my first day at work at Procter & Gamble, meeting my new boss, Fred. A man, who to this day I admire, because he taught me some of the most important lessons of my working life. The importance of getting up to go to work. To be professional in all that I do.

I remember asking him in the first month when the relentless pace of my new job might slow down. I was still working on my ‘T to T’ university calendar – a reference to when you tried to fit all your classes into a box of 10am to 2pm, Tuesday to Thursday around which you could enjoy a vibrant and buoyant social life. I my case motivated by the $5 jugs of beer at our local student run pub, appropriately called ‘The Downstairs John’ (I think it was so-called because you really couldn’t discern whether it was beer or processed beer on the floors!).

He said something really important. He said that I should never expect that the pace will end or slow, that the pace of moving forward and improving is found in everything that a business does and in what you must do in your own professional life. In many respects, I think he was really talking about ‘life’ in general. It was a prescient moment for me.

This weekend one of my friends posted a commencement speech by Lou Holtz on Facebook. Holtz was not only a renowned university football coach – a legend at Notre Dame where he led his college team to numerous NCAA football championships. Among his great stories, and quick one-liners, was the same insight that my boss shared with me the first week of my career. Holtz said that he regretted that when he was in the midst of his 9-year run at Notre Dame and that he wasn’t striving for more and more improvement – that he might have become too comfortable with the status quo (I do wonder what his players might say though).

When you work, you have no choice but to constantly strive to get better. I come in every morning – as I did this Monday morning, and ask myself what I can do to improve, and what we can do to improve here at Tailwind Transportation Software. The good thing about running a ‘software-as-a-service’ business is that we are all about improving our trucking software & freight brokerage software application everyday, and quite quickly when you compare it to the traditional client server software model.

We have moved out of a realm of being a ‘product-centric’ business into the realm of a ‘service business’; one that has an ongoing dialogue with its customers – getting feedback and insight into their usage on the application so we can make continuous improvements. The old software model saw applications released every three-years with interim releases quarterly. It came across feeling like a series of ‘lurches’ that made it hard for customers and the entire technology ecosystem around a business to find some rhythm.

In a ‘just in time’, information-based economy the ‘now’ of business requires you to move forward and improve continuously. The winners in this new world are going to be the ones that welcome customer input and feedback, and respond to it meaningfully and quickly with application improvements. Providing a service means you and your customers are joined at the hip in a symbiotic relationship where your application and service move in lock step. You are more now a partner in their success than a vendor.

As such it is incumbent for anyone running one of these businesses to do the same thing. I work at being better every day – to ensure that I still aim high.

Yes, you’re still the same… you still aim high.

 

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