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xmas2013

Looking Back on 10 Years…

Christmas is right around the cornerand yesterday was the 10th Anniversary of Stelzl Visionary Learning Concepts…

It was just about 11 years ago that my wife encouraged me to seriously consider leaving Dimension Data to start my own business – doing something new.

At the time I was running the North American Security Practice, working hard to build a presence in the U.S. for a company whose primary business was in South Africa, with a strong following in the Asian markets under the name, DataCraft.

Traveling almost 100% of my time, our practice had grown from a start-up division, to over 30 Million in just 3 short years!

I joined Dimension Data as part of 7 acquisitions made by Didata to enter the US market in 2000.  My role with Premier Systems Integrators (one of the 7) had been one of helping rightsize and prepare for this acquisition – which meant streamlining the business, downsizing some of the groups, documenting some of the processes, and working on a business plan to demonstrate our vision to perspective buyers.

After the acquisition I was looking for a new opportunity inside this global company.  Having worked with a team in the past to build a 75 Million Dollar Reseller (with a strong focus on security – and later sold to Forsythe), I was interested in getting back into the security market.

I’ll never forget the senior management’s response to this idea – “Is security still an opportunity for growth?”  Short sighted to say the least – they let me begin work in this area as a one man team.  Within a few months I had 7 on my team, and 33 Million Dollars later we were off and running.

Three years later it was time to move on and do something new – and more profitable to me personally.  I spent the next 6 months talking with peers, exchanging ideas, getting counsel, and develop a program to help sales and marketing professionals overcome many of the obstacles that had developed in the market between the 90s and 2000 – if you recall, the 90s were booming with respect to high-tech companies and the reseller market!

It was December 17th, 2003.  I was to meet with my manager at Dimension Data – he was coming in to visit our office in Charlotte NC.  But I was sick…fever, headache, the whole works.  So I called in sick, and asked that we meet by phone.

At 10 A.M that morning, we got on the phone to meet – he and one other person – and unexpected guest from HR.  I was at 150% of my number for the year – but for some reason it dawned on me – and I said, without hesitation,

“Today’s my last day isn’t it?”

My manager, surprised by my words, mumbled, “Yes, how did you know.”

I simply replied, “I don’t know, but I’m ready to go…thanks for everything, it’s been great, but I am ready to go.”

They didn’t have any real explanation, but it didn’t really matter…I was ready to launch and I took it as providence and announced to my family, “We’re starting Stelzl Visionary Learning Concepts, Inc. – today!”

(Note: Since that meeting my previous employer has hired me to come back to conduct training, provide coaching, and has recommended that their sales organization read my books…and even asked if I would be interested in coming back…I’m not.)

Changes can be hard – but this change was the launchpad for ten years that I am extremely grateful for.  There were hard times getting started – as there always are with start-ups.  When things looked bad, I would just check in with colleagues from the past and ask them how business was going – more often than not I would hear complaints about compensation plans, being passed over for promotions, company politics, and more…I always left these calls encouraged and determined that we would make it.

Only about 4% of the entrepreneurs out there actually make the 10 year mark…and I’ grateful to be sitting here in my office looking back over a very profitable year.

I want you to know I don’t attribute this to my own brilliance – but rather to the encouragement and prayers of my wife and children when things were hard, the sacrifices they made in years where I traveled extensively, and to the many friends and family members who have given me wise counsel, and to those clients who have stayed with me, recommended me, and who have benefited from the work I’ve done with them – encouraging me to keep on building, developing, and innovating.

So to all of you who regularly read and participate in my programs – or who at some point, will,… thank you and have a Merry Christmas. I am looking forward to more amazing things in the coming year!

© 2013, David Stelzl

P.S. Don’t forget you can access a number of FREE business building tools on my website at this link;  (CLICK)

 

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Photo by Hannah Stelzl

I am focused on entrepreneurship!  When my wife and I first started homeschooling our children we caught the vision for a different kind of education.  One that would build the not-so-academic side of those we are raising, but still equip them with the essential reading, writing, and arithmetic skills needed to succeed.

My schooling history has made me more risk adverse than I’d like.  It’s taken me twenty-five years to unlearn the principles of:

– Mastering the No. 2 Pencil

– Only submitting what was asked for

– Never thinking outside the box – putting away all creativity

– Thinking that wisdom is somehow related to memorizing a certain number of biology terms

(and the list goes on)…

Photo by Hannah Stelzl

With this in mind, my kids are working on businesses – all the time, thinking about how to create new opportunities, serving the basic needs of those around us, establishing value, setting fees, and selling.   This year marks another year of Sarah’s annual Valentine’s Day Cookie bake.  This year she sold over 200 cookies by cold calling with a compelling message.  Some even gave additional money or donated without accepting cookies!  Of course she had help from Tiny-Tim who enjoys cooking (and perhaps even more, eating the left overs.)

Through this project we’ve studied how to discover a new opportunity, how to avoid working at McDonalds for mininum wage, how to sell to strangers (cold calling), how to develop a message that sells,…but also, how to count the cost of goods sold (COGS), the difference between sales, gross profit, net profit, and losses due to wrong or canceled orders.  Fortunately we have not had to deal with customer service issues on this particular project, but we’ve covered that in other projects, and hope to minimize this in the future.

Photo by Hannah Stelzl

What are you doing today to extend beyond what you learned in school – to think creatively, and to find business opportunities where there don’t seem to be any?

 

© 2011, David Stelzl

In 1995 I was working with a small group of guys to establish a profitable, strategic business in systems integration, support, and services.  One of the most important investments we ever made became known as the Park Hotel meeting.  At the start of each quarter I set aside an entire day with my leadership team to work on the business (rather than in the business).  As the company grew, it became more and more difficult to set aside this time, but we did it anyway.  We set the date for our next meeting while in the current meeting, picking a date that worked for the group.  This date was written in stone – it was non-optional.  We talked about strategy, personnel, futures, profits, ideas, etc.  Things that would make our business not only work, but work well. Looking back, those four days were worth every minute.  We could bill or sell that day, however the plans we set in motion multiplied the profits of our company.

In 2003, when I started Stelzl Visionary Learning Concepts, the business I run now, I set out to do the same.  My leadership team is just my wife and I, and often I schedule my “Park Hotel Meeting” alone, yet it has the same result.  Fresh ideas, a broader view of where I am headed, and a rest from the daily grind.  This week I am doing something a bit more extravagant.  I’m spending not just one day, but 4.  No vmail, no email, just focused time…

If you’ve never done this sort of thing, I highly recommend it.  One of Rockefeller’s habits includes this sort of planning and strategy time.  In fact, many great leaders did this – why do we have such as hard time stopping our wood cutting to sharpen the saw?