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  • Writer's pictureMarc LaVecchia

"Reflecting on Two Decades: Ten Key Lessons Learned"

When my partner, Barry Kunz, and I launched BMA Software Solutions as a new controls programming company, we were so focused on the first day, first job, first week and first month, the idea of 20 years was difficult to envision.

Little known truth: Our first week in business was horrifying. Virtually no one returned calls. Friday ended with a phone call to someone I was certain would hire BMA’s services. I explained our focus, mission, plan, and process. Rarely did a sales pitch flow so fluidly. When I finished, I paused proudly, waiting for our first customer to announce himself.

With literally no exaggeration, his response was, “Are you a $%!#ing moron? Why would you do something this $%!#ing stupid?”

The exalted was quickly humbled.

This memory prompts me to use this space to let you know BMA celebrates 20 years this month, to thank those of you who didn’t consider us $%!#ing morons, and to share “10 Lessons Learned Over 20 Years.”

These are not necessarily in chronological order, or even in order of impact (though #10 is my favorite). We will likely add more later, and even expound upon some of these for deeper discussions.

But for today, as we contemplate 20 years in the professional AV industry, these lessons never change. Maybe some of you – especially the new people navigating their place in our industry -- will find them useful.

1) Once you hang your “Open For Business” sign, you’ll quickly learn the people you think will hire you and the people who actually hire you are rarely the same people.

This was shared by a dear friend before we opened our doors April 2004, and proved to be frighteningly true. To that end, do not be discouraged. Do not be afraid. Be bold and confident on the outside, even when you’re not on the inside, because the outside actions beat the inside and outside doubters every time.

That first Friday was rough. The following Monday, the phones started ringing. We had our first PO in before the end of our second week. The image above has been taped to my monitor ever since.

2) Never underestimate the power of saying “No.” Every one of us knows projects, careers and companies that ended poorly, and almost every one of them can be traced back to someone who regretted saying ‘yes’ because they were too afraid to say ‘no.’

3) There are two phrases that will quickly destroy any team, and in all situations and at all times, you should never allow yourself or your team to utter these words: “That’s not my job” and “I told you so.” The only upside to these two phrases is they tell you all you need to know about the person who finds it necessary to use them.

4) Mistakes, errors, and just overall, everyday screw ups are not clubs with which to beat yourself up, but blocks upon which to build a path to improvement. When that voice in the middle of the night starts making you question yourself, remember we are all broken. Every single one of us. The only mistake you should dwell on is the one you make repeatedly.

5) Documentation and communication are undefeated. Make the time to do both, because there is an excellent chance the people you are dealing with will not, and when it comes time to square up, you will be much better prepared to deal with those who are convinced they can get by on their word and memory alone. Fortune always favors the prepared.

6) Good. Quick. Cheap. Pick two. If someone pushes you for all three, revisit Lesson #2.

7) Seek first to understand, then to be understood. This is from Stephen Covey and is a critical lesson to remember in all walks of life. But if you opt to climb the corporate ladder in the professional AV industry, your climb will be easier and less stressful if you take the time to understand and accept the roles of those around you before you expect them to understand and accept your role. The higher you go, the more critical this lesson becomes.

Bonus lesson to add here: as you climb the ladder, lose the corporate schtick and selfie stick, and ensure you continually give genuine time, respect, and maybe even bring lunch to three critical groups; the people in manufacturing, the people in shipping, and the people who cut your expense check.

8) Unwitting dependency is a very tight, painful, and costly shackle. In all your business relationships, do everything you can to ensure ‘they’ need you more than you need ‘them.’

9) You can find the answer to most unfortunate situations in your career if you ask yourself, and honestly answer, three simple questions: (1) Can you change it? If the answer is no, then (2) Can you live with it? If the answer is still no, then (3) Can you leave it? If the answer is still no, you need to spend a lot more time with Lesson #8.

10) Despite what social media suggests, most people in our industry do not rely on their job to validate their existence. Employees must know you don’t expect their job to be the most important thing in their life, but rather the means by which they can enjoy the most important things in their life.

On behalf of your usual suspects at BMA – myself, Barry, Mike Tate, Robert Senk, Wolfgang Kern, Jason Hanna, our spouses and children and families, thank you all for 20 incredibly gratifying and educational years.

If you’ve never worked with us, I will leave you a comment we often make to our customers;We’ll be here when you need us.

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