Category

Inspiration

Creating a Better Way Through the COVID-19 Crisis

By | Blog, Inspiration, News

Wow.

A month ago we would have never predicted the situation we’re all in with the COVID-19 pandemic. Suddenly the streets and offices are empty. Classrooms hold only echoes of their usual inhabitants. And our favorite bars and restaurants are doing all they can to serve loyal patrons from a distance.

That’s what the powers that be are urging us to do. Distance yourself from other people. Social distancing. I suppose it’s a good enough term for drawing back from everything familiar, everything comforting, everything routine. How else do you put a spin on a new way of encountering the world when it’s the opposite of your instincts and usual way of navigating your days.

But it’s the way it has to be right now in order to preserve what we can for our families and customers. And we’ll comply because the stakes are so high. But, I’ll tell you right now that it doesn’t end there for us. The underlying code of our business is to “find a better way” and that’s what we intend to do now and long after this pandemic is behind us.

We’re patterning after what national and local officials have determined is the better way for Americans right now. Who would have ever thought that cities becoming ghost towns is a better way? But it is. And can it be a better way to ground airlines? Yes. And dare we say it, can it be a better way to limit toilet paper purchases? You bet.

But the American spirit remains strong. We see it in musicians playing soothing music at their front doors so their neighbors can be transported to other places in their minds if only for a little while. It’s in caravans of teachers driving through local neighborhoods so that they can see their students waving from their front yards and the students can see love, dedication and some sense of security in those familiar faces. And it’s in checking on neighbors to see what you can do for them because they may be hesitant to ask. Those are all better ways of living and probably things we should have been doing anyway.

Maybe the goodness will continue. Who knows what will happen from this point on. But one thing is for sure. For the first time ever in our history, we are all the same—people who share the same fears because of a universal risk. This disease has become the great equalizer of our population. We’re all at ground zero.

But that won’t last. There will be a way out of this. A better way to live and interact with the world. But for the time being, we have put some things in place to support our customers.

We are here to help. This is always number one with us. Let us know what you need and we’ll find a solution.

Our workforce is working remote. We’re in different places but we’re all connected. And our same phone and email support process is in place. Call or email at any time and we’ll respond.

We’re teleconferencing. We can still meet with you but for now we’re doing all meetings via Zoom. We can stay in touch without any health risks for customers or employees.

We have more payment options available. The world is topsy turvy right now so we wanted to provide some payment flexibility that may work better for our customers. We’re offering electronic payment options such as ACH or wire transfer. We can work with you on setting up an electronic process in place of checks as needed at your request.

If you need additional assistance or a better way of doing something, please reach out to us so we can work with you. Rest assured, we will continue our overreaching strategy to find a better way for our operations and customer solutions.

This disease will not stop us. It’s forcing us to look at things differently and somehow that part of this nightmare sits well with us. Because it takes people who can find different perspectives and vantage points to make viable changes. To find a better way.

How to Create a Better Way

By | Blog, Insight, Inspiration, Success Stories

How. How. How. Everywhere you turn, there’s more information on how to do this or that to improve your business, your hairstyle and even your morning latte. So, why, you’re asking, does this blog start with another blasted how? Well, it’s because the how’s are important and at Calyx we’re fueled by how to create a better way for our clients. But there’s something that comes before the how’s and it’s how (see what we did there) we arrived at our “create a better way” business driver. We’re talking about our why.

You can’t get to how unless you master your why. Why do we do what we do? A seemingly obvious question that is often overlooked is why do you do what you do? Out of all the things you could be doing today, why are you working where you are? Why do you keep trying to eclipse your last success? Why does your business matter? Why does your role matter?

Getting to Why

Getting to why isn’t as easy as you might think. Why you do something is not driven by money, celebrity or influencers. It comes from inside. It’s a pretty deep dive but that’s where the good stuff is. It’s what makes you want to see other people succeed. And even better, what can you do to facilitate that success. It’s coming from a place of abundance; there’s no limit on success. There’s plenty to go around, and if we can help you grab a healthy handful or more, that’s what we’ll do.

So our “why” is the need to see our clients succeed. And in order to make that happen, we work to create a better way. A better way of thinking about your business. A better way to integrate technology. A better way to think about the future.

Does a better way mean better efficiency, productivity and tighter security? You bet. We especially love it when we can identify and work hand in hand to resolve pain points for clients. Sometimes they’re unsure where a bottleneck is located because they’re just too close to their business.

A Better Way: Example 1

One of our clients was experiencing inconsistent user experiences among their three locations. Remote site users felt left out in the cold because they had an outdated method of accessing apps and data. The tension between remote offices and the headquarters was palpable. Nobody wins in cultural battles like that so we worked to design and implement both short- and long-term solutions. Now they’re working with faster connections and a unified, high-performance solution that works well regardless of location.

A Better Way: Example 2

M & A situations sometimes generate lots of confusion that doesn’t need to be there. We’ve been able to help deliver clarity when businesses are merging and quickly create logical and relative solutions. In these situations,  we employ a number of strategies including the following:

  • Quickly onboard new users and sites onto a common platform
  • Flatten network and simplify connectivity
  • Converge email and file access
  • Deploy enterprise line of business apps
  • Remove on-premise single points of failure
  • Provide secure, easy-to-use remote access
  • Enable flexible work schedules
  • Facilitate greater employee satisfaction with work from home option
  • Remove leadership concern about remote work security

We love bringing order out of chaos. That can mean technology initiatives or simply helping clients look at their businesses in a different way. No matter the situation, if you keep viewing things in the same way, you’ll continue to get the same results. That’s not what we want for ourselves and it’s not what we want for our clients. We’re driven to create a better way.

A Better Way: Example 3

Sometimes that means inviting clients to take a helicopter view of their business. Just seeing things from a different perspective can launch new initiatives full of fresh energy and innovation. We really get excited when we can help with strategic planning to help identify major challenges like we did recently with a manufacturing client.

Each business unit at the company was operating independently and we helped them understand the benefits of working with a common goal. Naturally, there were blind spots that the BUs were unaware of when it came to understanding where they were not in sync. We were able to help them understand the concerns of the business leaders for the overall management of the business and the identification of common goals has them on a more unified, successful path today.

We’ve also helped companies shorten their ROI with some simple workflow improvements. One of our clients is realizing better ROI today due to the discovery of major time and labor savings. We helped them return the total investment in less than six months with the automation of labor-intensive, repetitious data entry. Employee satisfaction is a cherry on top because workers can be moved to more business-building work instead of monotonous data entry tasks.

You may be surprised to hear us say that what we do is not really about the technology. That’s not what drives us. We want to create a better way.  We want to get at the core of why you do what you do. And we’re going to speculate just a bit that you want to create a better way too. For your customers and your employees. So, let’s do some helicopter thinking. Let’s see where you are and where you want to be. Let’s create a better way.

Got Rocket Sauce?

By | Blog, Insight, Inspiration

The most beloved brands exhibit attributes that make those brands exceptionally unique — something that’s highly valued by their audiences and not easily copied by competitors. Starbucks consistently delivers a relaxing and enjoyable experience. Apple provides its hardcore fanbase with luxury and style that’s more about emotion than the products themselves. FedEx delivers uncompromised reliability to businesses and consumers.

These brands each possess a potent formula — their “secret sauce” – delivered with obsessive detail to their operations, personnel, messaging, and packaging to ensure consistent, exceptional brand experiences. Each represents an idea and expectation from their audience that’s ultimately bigger than the brand itself.

What if I told you that the Coca-Cola brand is worth nearly $227 billion? (And that’s the value of the brand alone. It doesn’t account for the factories, bottling plants, fleet of trucks, or their inventory. That’s just the brand.)

To build an emotional connection (which brands like Apple, Harley-Davidson, and Amazon do so well) requires a deep understanding of your audience. It’s Marketing 101, yet often overlooked. It’s why so many industries get a bad rap for being out of touch and failing to address the real needs of their stakeholders. The IT solutions business is no exception.

Our Secret Sauce

From our own experience, building a beloved brand at Calyx has taught us to listen carefully and truly understand what customers need and expect. We know that many companies view IT as an expense. And every three or four years these companies gleefully acquire new hardware, revisit software, and maybe add a few new services, all through multiple IT vendors.

We asked, “What if IT was way bigger than that? More broad-shouldered. What if you could leverage technology to increase your company’s productivity? And efficiency? Even help your company achieve its business goals? What enabled Calyx to pull away from the “IT vendor pack” years ago and win respect was helping C-level executives understand where their IT expenses were coming from — and understand how they could better leverage technology to create a better way to do business. Doing this required some deep business insight.

We responded by creating our own secret sauce — aptly named Calyx “Rocket Sauce.” It’s a potent blend of people, processes and technology to create better outcomes for businesses. It’s how we make clients’ lives easier — and their businesses more productive and profitable. We’re doing something that no one else does: essentially creating a new service category independent of the managed services provider (MSP) group of commodity resellers.

What’s in IT? 

We’ve built Calyx with the best people and processes, redefining what customers can expect from an IT partner. Rather than demystifying the many variables that go into a complete IT ecosystem, we set out to simplify everything. Here’s one complete package, with no loose ends and no self-administration. Everything’s covered, which means you won’t have to call us up in another year because you “need more IT.” We ensure accessibility, reliability, scalability, and security — all with one simple fee per user, and no hidden costs lurking in corners.

Our process of digging deep in the initial groundwork, or “discovery,” phase enables us to gain a holistic view of a business, so our recommendations are grounded in reality. We work to understand our client’s processes and nuances so we’re not adapting a business to technology, but the other way around, as it should be. We educate and prove value through objective analysis and comparison of information. We set out to establish fit by evaluating financial, philosophical and technological alignment between us and a client.

You hear much about core values these days, yet all too often they are little more than inspiration on corporate walls. We’ve made a very conscious decision to ensure that our values become the code by which we operate. They really are the most essential ingredients in our rocket sauce. No variations. No substitutions. Our core values are: Challenge everything. Do what’s right. Own it. It’s all about being better on behalf of the client. We’ve proven time and again that this is how meaningful relationships are built.

Then there’s the tech — or the “how” part — of the recipe, which varies as technology advances and better solutions are created. What doesn’t vary is the quality and support we provide. Our solutions are enterprise-grade, always with business continuity built in. Again, we remove the complexity of IT by ensuring that the user experience is effortless, backed by support that we believe is unrivaled by anyone in the industry.

So, that’s our recipe for success: “The best people + proven processes + technology = better outcomes for our clients.” But don’t tell anyone. It’s a secret.

Your Secret Sauce

Which factors make your business unique and enable you to deliver something exceptional? They certainly don’t need to be as multi-layered as ours at Calyx. But what they must be is relevant. The harsh reality is that no one really cares what you do. It’s true. Just as there’s no shortage of IT solutions providers, there are plenty of companies who do what you do. The real questions are: Do they do it how you do it. And do they do it as well? It’s a critical question to ask of yourself and your business leaders because the “how” is what defines a valuable user experience and sets future expectations. It’s the “how” that enables you to differentiate.

Think Starbucks versus Dunkin’ Donuts (although we might argue that while the Starbucks experience is better, Dunkin Donut’s coffee is superior). Or Google versus Yahoo. Think about the user experience you deliver versus that of your competitors.

At Calyx, we’re big advocates of regularly taking inventory of everything that makes up who we are: our values, skills, strengths and weaknesses, passions and goals. Just as technology changes faster than ever, the needs of our clients also change. It’s important to do a self-check to make sure that what we offer is meaningful and of value.  We always consider what we can do to enhance our clients’ experiences and serve them better. That’s how the very-great brands maintain relevance over time.

Your secret sauce may be in your people, your products or services, or your unique processes. Or it may be a combination of all of these. What matters most is that you and your organization are crystal clear on what distinguishes you from other competitive options, and how to consistently deliver that distinction. When you have that part figured out, you have the recipe for success.

P.S. We even animated our rocket ship. 😛

The Power of the Soft Red Bat

By | Blog, Inspiration

Do you struggle with being your own worst critic and judge, like me? Is so, read on and I hope my story can help.

I have struggled with self-judgment for a long time. However, through the help of a personal friend, I recently learned how to visualize what “bat” I should be reaching for in my mind when I beat myself up. Doing this in advance has made it easier for me to reframe my thinking, change my perspective, and improve my own self-acceptance. It’s had such a significant and positive impact on me that I want to share my story with others who may struggle with self-judgment as I have.

If you’ve ever read the popular book The 5 Love Languages then you’ll understand when I say I’m an “acts of kindness” person. Meaning, I share and also derive my strongest feelings of love from doing things for other people, and vice versa. When my friend asked me what I would do for a friend in need, I didn’t hesitate to respond by saying, “anything!”. He then followed up by asking what I would specifically do and I began to ramble on about how I would listen, how I would provide them with compassion, how I would share my own similar experiences, and how I would ask them what they needed from me.

My friend then asked me what I do for myself when I have a need. His question was met with uncomfortable moments of silence, then a dim light bulb in my mind growing brighter and brighter until I said out loud, “F#%&!”.  In that moment that it became apparent that I freely and easily provide to others without any judgment whatsoever, but do the complete opposite with myself.

My friend asked me to close my eyes and imagine a line of baseball bats in front of me. All the way at one end are those big, heavy professional bats. You know the ones — the Louisville Sluggers made out of the hardest ash and hickory. I was asked to scan my eyes down the line of bats and imagine their size and shape growing smaller and smaller. Midway down the line, I had imagined that yellow hollow plastic ball bat from my youth, the one you used to hit that crazy white whiffle ball with the holes punched into it. Now it’s certainly not as tough as the Louisville Slugger, but I’ve got to be honest, it’s still something I wouldn’t want to get hit in the face with because it would still hurt like hell.

My friend encouraged me to continue scanning down the line of bats until I got all the way to the other end. It was here that I was asked to imagine that small, wide, and soft red toy bat — the one you’re comfortable giving to a three-year-old because it’s not going to hurt them. My friend told me to remember which bat I should use when I want to beat myself up.

I wasn’t asked to not beat myself up. That would be impossible! I was just asked to be a little kinder to myself when I do. The soft red bat I imagined in my mind doesn’t hurt anything like the Louisville Slugger that I had been using. The soft red bat made it easier for me to remember that everyone has faults. I now try to think about how I would feel if I were looking at myself from another’s perspective.

As I look at my friends, or if I were looking at myself as I look at a friend. Would I be harsh and unforgiving in my judgment from this different perspective? No, is usually my answer. Is my thinking irrational? Yes, is usually my answer. I now have an easier time of laughing at myself and being self-deprecating in a healthy way, because the reality doesn’t match the perception, and it’s not as bad as I’ve made it out to be. The red bat reminds me…

Oftentimes when I see someone struggling with self-judgment, I share this story. When a friend, colleague, client, mentor or anyone else seems to be unable to stop, I find myself taking a trip to the store, and picking up another squishy, soft red bat for them. Delivering one of these to a professionally employed adult may seem silly, but sometimes having the right tool, in this case, a foam covered Nerf bat, makes the job easier, and having a visual reminder leaned up in the corner of your office reminds you to be kind to yourself too.

While it took me almost 50 years to begin to understand my struggle and the peace that I have found with a new perspective, I share my story in the hope that others may learn sooner to be kind to themselves. Sometimes we want to hit ourselves or others with a Louisville Slugger, and sometimes we need a crack upside the head to sort ourselves out, but the safer, easier and less damaging approach is to pick up the squishy, soft red bat.

What I’ve also learned:

  • Better clarity and control of my thinking
  • Stronger empathy for myself and others who judge
  • Increased feelings of self-worth
  • Greater self-acceptance
  • More peace and happiness with myself

 

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.

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.