All Posts By

Jason Fordu

6 Takeaways from “It’s Your Ship”

By | Inspiration

Have you ever felt as if you were a captain of a sinking ship?

Captain D. Michael Abrashoff sure as heck did when he was put in command of the USS Benfold, a ship that had gained the reputation of one of the worst naval crews at sea. The ship was a top-notch vessel, equipped with the best technologies but still, the crew was not performing. The Navy wanted to get the ship in shape and fast.

In June 1997, Abrashoff set foot upon the USS Benfold. This was Abrashoff’s first run as sea command, and his nerves ran high at the sheer task of being a Captain. What he saw left little to ease his worries. The crew was blatantly disrespectful to the departing captain, a man who was known for ruling with an iron fist. It made Abrashoff cringe to see the behavior. At that moment he knew that the cold-hard leadership style of the departing captain didn’t resonate with the crew. Abrashoff needed a different approach to reach the excellence he was aspiring to achieve. Before laying down new law, Abrashoff turned inward and did some hard soul searching. He knew that this arduous task would be entirely dependent on his leadership skills. Over the next several months he honed his leadership skills, and by bettering himself built a crew of confident, hard-working problem-solvers who were eager to take the initiative and responsibility for their own actions. The slogan on board became: “It’s your ship.”

After only a few short months under Abrashoff’s command, the USS Benfold became a top producing naval unit. Abrashoff memorialized his story and lessons in It’s Your Ship, one of the top books on leadership.

Abrashoff’s compelling story of top-down change can apply to all areas of business. Companies like Calyx have taken lessons from It’s Your Ship and implemented them into our own business culture. We’ve quickly realized an increase in morale and enthusiasm. For those looking for a quick improvement on their leadership skills here are 6 takeaways to enhance your teams’ comradery and productivity.

Lead by Example

Do you walk your talk? Do you bark orders from your desk, or are you willing to get your hands dirty?  Those who lead by example create a stronger, more agreeable, and productive team.    Leaders set morale by helping to inspire and assist those around them to meet their full potential.  Great leaders rise to challenges and boost their comrades higher than themselves. To gain the trust of your employees, lay down footsteps for them to follow. Be the leader that you would feel confident following.

Listen Aggressively

Abrashoff conducted interviews with each of his 300 crew members. He got personal in his discussions while learning about their personal lives, why they joined the Navy, and their thoughts on how to improve the Benefold. He discovered that he had a crew of smart, talented, and innovative men and women, but they weren’t being heard. Abrashoff “decided that {his} job was to “listen aggressively” to his crew.

When leaders listen and act upon suggestions, employees feel validated for making a difference. You never know who will come up with the next big idea. Extending an ear and responding accordingly can profoundly increase morale and productivity.

Communicate with Purpose

Lack of productivity often results from a sense of disconnect between the employee and the mission of the organization. Abrashoff took notice that the crew wasn’t invested in the ship. “No one had ever thought to give {the crew} a compelling vision of their work, a good reason to believe it was important.” When Abrashoff made them aware of their purpose, their performance increased tenfold.

Abrashoff goes on to explain, “No matter how fantastic your message is, if no one is receiving it, you aren’t communicating.” It is up to the leader to clearly define the mission and vision of the organization and then to communicate clearly and concisely.

Go above and beyond

In business, as well as in the Navy, standard operating procedure tends to take precedent. You will never get in trouble for following basic expectations and protocols. Staying in line is safe and effective. However, following standard operating procedures rarely results in exceptional outcomes. Innovation and progress occur when employees feel comfortable and motivated to go above and beyond.

The Washington Post Test

The end goal is essential, but how you get there is just as critical. Abrashoff writes, “If what I’m about to do appeared on the front page of the Washington  Post tomorrow, would I be proud or embarrassed? If I knew I would be embarrassed, I would not do it. If I’d be proud, I knew I was generally on the right track.” Leading with integrity is doing the right thing, even when it is difficult.

Take risks

For greatness to occur, everyone in an organization must feel comfortable taking calculated risks. As a leader, ensure that your employees know the parameters in which they can operate. Let them know that thinking outside of the box will be rewarded, even if it doesn’t result in success. Encouraging perfection snuffs out your team’s desire for risk-taking and creative thinking, thus, killing innovation.

Captain D. Michael Abrashoff has shown that excellent leadership can completely change the course of an organization. You too can elevate your leadership skills and strengthen your team by implementing strategies from It’s Your Ship.

The Real Cost of Business Interruption

By | Insight

Technology can be seen in the smallest details of day-to-day business operations, from increasing productivity to creating significant competitive advantage. However, most businesses have become so reliant that downtime associated with an outage, security breach, or catastrophic event can be detrimental to the bottom line.

Have you ever experienced a technology outage? If so, what did the outage cost you? According to Gartner, the average cost for one minute of downtime is $5,600, while 98% of organizations claim that a single hour of downtime costs over $100,000.

Interruptions consume, on average, 238 minutes per day and an additional 84 minutes to get back up and running. This equates to an estimated cost of $588 billion a year in the U.S.

60% of small businesses that experience catastrophic events like hacking and ransomware shut down within 6 months of the attack. Other lesser events can cause significant downtime, loss of productivity and costs.

And while revenue is the main factor affected by an IT disruption, it is not the only. Below are the three main ways an outage will disrupt your business:

Loss of Revenue

Have you calculated what one hour of downtime would cost your business? According to Gartner, downtime, at the low end, can be as much as $140,000 per hour, $300,000 per hour on average, and as much as $540,000 per hour at the higher end. Back in 2017, Delta airlines had to cancel 280 flights due to an outage. This single outage incident cost the airline over $150 million dollars. How would a single IT interruption impact your bottom line?

Productivity

On average, businesses lose 14.1 hours per year to IT downtime, equating to 545 hours of staff productivity. More so, the average company spends over 200 minutes to resolve a single incident of IT downtime. How much time have you spent dealing with IT interruptions in the past year?

Brand and Reputation

How your organization is perceived by your customers and stakeholders is pivotal to your success. Downtime not only can jeopardize customer relationships, it can also impact sales and brand equity. An outage or breach, especially one that is not handled expeditiously, can have a long-term impact on your brand reputation and negatively impact revenue and profitability.

While no business is immune to IT interruptions there are numerous ways that you can prepare yourself for such an event. By putting a P.I.E. strategy in place you can prevent an outage and drastically reduce the costs associated with downtime.

Plan

IT outages are often avoidable with strong technology strategies and systems in place. Run regular threat and vulnerability assessments and configuration reviews. This will help your business prevent many of the system failures that can occur. More so, conduct drills and tests to ensure you’re are prepared for worst case scenarios to reduce downtime.

Next, make sure you have an effective disaster recovery plan in place. The plan should include the technology and processes required to get your business back up and running as quickly as possible. Prepare for an outage but take every precaution to prevent as much downtime as possible.

Improve Training Process

75% of all downtime is not related to a failure of technology, but rather, is caused by configuration, administration and human error. In fact, 22% of all IT outages are a direct result of human error. The majority of outages could be prevented by improved training and/or planning. Instruct employees on the proper way to report issues, how to prevent outages and breaches, what to do during an outage.

Engage a Qualified Service Provider

According to a survey in USA today, one in every 10 companies stated that they need their uptime to be greater than 99.999%. And while it is impossible for a company to achieve zero downtime, there are service providers that can come close to obtaining the goal. For instance, Calyx IT has reported 99.997% uptimes on network service — among the best in the industry. Calyx also reduces IT ticket incidents by 75%, minimizing downtime and increasing productivity.

By taking the time to understand the cost of a technology outage and putting a plan in place to address inevitable downtime, your organization stands to save thousands or even millions of dollars, as well as protect brand reputation and customer loyalty.

How to Accurately Assess Your IT Spend

How to Accurately Assess Your IT Spend

By | Insight

How do you know if you are spending the right percentage of your budget on IT? It can be a tricky and deceiving line item to manage. Many companies don’t consider the risks associated with not having a comprehensive IT infrastructure in place. But how do you know what you need? Your company’s IT budget is affected by multiple variables, including protocols, compliance, current technology, and business needs. Having a complete understanding of your industry standards, current IT requirements and spend is a great place to start.

When allocating the IT budget, business leaders need to balance the requirements along with the overall needs of the business to evaluate the opportunities for digital transformation for both long term results and spend.

Today, technology is not just a business enabler. It’s a competitive differentiator. It’s important to make sure you’re at least keeping up with peers in terms of IT spending, if not seeking ways to gain an advantage through technology.

A study by Deloitte Insights found that companies spend on average 3.28% of their revenue on IT. The study also found that of high-performing companies (those that consistently outperformed the S&P), 57% increased their IT budgets from 2016 to 2017.

Benchmarking your IT spend relative to peers is a valuable exercise to make sure you’re not falling behind. A Deloitte study illustrates IT spending as a percent of revenue, by industry.

Enterprise IT has been highly resistant to change and thus forces companies to decide between acting quickly to deal with elevated risk or moving slowly to mitigate risk. But when the cost of a security breach can cost more than the value of your company, there is simply no choice but to evolve. But where do you start?

We’ll help answer some common IT budgeting questions and share insight on how to approach your IT budget.

What are you currently spending on IT?

To first understand what you need to spend you must know what you are currently spending. Many companies to do not have an exact figure on the true cost of their IT. To begin, do a thorough analysis of your IT expenses.

Your IT budget should include everything from computers and servers to software, apps, cloud services, cybersecurity web hosting, maintenance, telecommunications, audiovisual equipment, outsourcing, consulting, travel, and of course, your IT staff.

Need help evaluating the total cost of IT to your business? Contact us here for more information and a free diagnostic evaluation for qualified businesses.

Where should you focus your IT spend?

The focus on your IT spend will depend on your industry. In years past, businesses primary spend was on automating back-end systems and maintenance and upkeep of infrastructure. Today, technology investments need to align with your business goals. Your IT is entwined with every business function and has the potential to increase revenue, performance, and competitive advantage. And while there is no right place to spend your IT budget, the most common spend is on data center systems, enterprise software, devices, and communication services.

Are you comfortable with your level of IT risk?

Cybersecurity is a significant and growing IT issue. Just look at the news. Every day you can find a large company that has experienced a security breach. Most executives have a poor understanding of the risks. Do you know all of your risks?

You need a comprehensive system for managing IT risk that assesses not only the threat and cost of an attack but an understanding of how you will restore your data and get your business up and running again with minimal downtime.

Does your IT roadmap reflect the full potential of technology to improve your business?

Technology can increase revenues, reduce costs, and lower risk. By updating and staying abreast of technology advancements and mitigating threats, companies can dramatically improve their overall business outcomes.

Ultimately, the strategy that emerges from a thorough IT assessment and integrated plan should place your business goals at the forefront. An intensive, well thought out IT plan is not merely a revised annual IT budget, but a tactical plan that should provide a competitive advantage for years to come.

Spending your IT budget wisely entails IT not only provide an infrastructure to serve data but also improving your overall business. Understanding your current IT spend and how best to leverage IT for business success is key. If your company doesn’t have internal IT staff or a CIO that can evaluate solutions, consider hiring an IT Solutions Provider.

Vulnerability At Work. Your Biggest Advantage?

Vulnerability At Work: Your Biggest Advantage?

By | Inspiration

Last year, Kevin Love of the Cleveland Cavalier’s had a panic attack on the court. He had been struggling with the loss of his grandma and the grief overtook him. Instead of playing tough or trying to hide the fact that he was hurting he stood up proudly and announced, “Everyone is going through something.”

Kevin Love showed the world how courageous he was by simply embracing his vulnerability, something many of us are often afraid to do. But why is this?

Society has taught us that being vulnerable is a sign of weakness. It exposes our insecurities, incapacity, and fears. It is like laying all your cards on the table during a poker game, we fear that we are instantly at a disadvantage. But a new wave of thinking shows that embracing vulnerability is actually crucial to success, especially in the workplace.

Jason Fordu, CEO of Calyx, states, “Growth, both personal and professional, can only happen if you are vulnerable. It is when your team is open and honest that true innovation occurs.”

By creating a work culture where vulnerability is feared, you’ve created a culture where creativity and innovation will falter. It takes great courage to be vulnerable and have uncomfortable conversations with colleagues – but it is through the discomfort that magic can happen.

Ed Grauel, Calyx’s COO, noted that their core values – “Challenge everything. Do what’s right. Own it.” – have created a culture that embraces vulnerability. Employees feel open to express their thought and ideas, which Calyx has greatly benefitted from.

Increased Trust

Trust is a key part of a collaborative workspace, yet many struggle with trust in a professional context. Trust among colleagues is not necessarily the same as trust in a personal relationship. In the workplace, trust often comes down to accountability. If you assign a task to a co-worker, will they get it done and give it their best effort? Are people in the office willing to ask for help if needed? If you don’t create a work culture that tolerates vulnerability, your people will likely be uncomfortable asking for help.

Developing trust in yourself and your co-workers can not only increase satisfaction in the workplace but also improve productivity.

Resilience

If you are going to stand up, you risk falling. It’s a consequence of vulnerability and courage, and why so many people decide to remain in the background. However, if you create an environment where colleagues help each other up when they’ve been knocked down it increases the willingness to become more vocal and vulnerable.

Talented leaders should look for people who have failed and were willing to try again. Having resilient people on your team is essential to success.

Understandable Values

Almost all businesses have some sort of company values, but far fewer actually live them. Core values define a company at the deepest levels. Jason Fordu begins every meeting by repeating Calyx’s core values. He has operationalized his values so that his team follows specific behaviors that are observable and measurable. Core values, like Calyx’s, allow coworkers to trust, rely on and respect each other more. It allows your team to admit, accept, and learn from their failures instead of getting discouraged.

Increased Innovation

Vulnerability leads to innovation. Change and growth occur when talented people feel confident to stand up and state their opinion and challenge the system.  Questioning everything only allows for answers that create more opportunity. When you create an environment where vulnerability is feared you do not allow space for growth.

By creating an environment where employees feel valued and part of the process, your team becomes more invested in solutions and more willing to contribute.

Stress Relief

Your company is only as strong as the weakest member of the team. If your co-workers are nervous or upset, chances are others in the office are as well. This causes increased stress and decreases productivity.

When employees feel free to speak out about what is causing them worry, they can alleviate that worry simply by being vulnerable enough to articulate it. By decreasing stress in the office people perform and collaborate more effectively.

Transforming Business for a Regional Law Firm

Transforming Business for a Regional Law Firm

By | Success Stories

The Challenge

A busy law firm serving three states, Mazanec, Raskin & Ryder Co., L.P.A. was experiencing the pain of growing faster than their technology could support. To achieve uninterrupted, real-time, secure network access, the firm needed more than a traditional IT network solution could offer.

Technology disruptions are very cost-prohibitive when you’re talking about billable hours and prep for casework at a law firm. Now we have consistent, real-time access to our files. – Christina M. Koeth-Bidwell, CCM

Insight

Mazanec, Raskin & Ryder was looking for a permanent, scalable solution to improve productivity and enhance security. Their aging equipment and network created speed and access issues. When one location went ofine, a domino effect ensued, where all offices would lose access. Their aging systems also made troubleshooting difcult. This led to finger-pointing between the IT services provider and carrier – all while taking hours or days to get the company back to business.

Solution

The firm leveraged Calyx Network™, a more cost-effective fully managed network solution. Calyx Network eliminates issues commonly associated with complex services like MPLS, Metro Ethernet and point-to-point connects. Instead, costs are streamlined through the aggregation of commodity internet services.

As part of the transformation, Calyx also replaced all outdated equipment. If anything goes wrong in the future, it’s immediately addressed by Calyx’s support team, even carrier-related issues. Systems are fast, secure and accessible. The icing on the cake? With Calyx Network, the firm achieved a new level of agility without making a sizable capital investment. For a simple monthly fee, everything is covered.

If any problems surface, Calyx handles it. We have all new equipment and our costs actually went down. It’s a real win-win. – Christina M. Koeth-Bidwell, CCM

Impact

Connectivity issues have been eliminated. Attorneys can safely and securely access files anytime, anywhere. The team at Mazanec, Raskin & Ryder now has the peace of mind that systems across the enterprise will perform. Better still, the transition to Calyx Network™ saved the firm an estimated $250K over three years. With no upfront capital investment and an improved experience, the company can focus on growth.

Download a PDF of this Success Story