by Garrett Hill, CEO, X2nSat, Inc.
In the telecommunications business, like many other businesses, sales and executive team members spend a lot of time, money and energy attending industry trade shows and expositions.
To those who aren’t burdened with regular attendance at these long weekends manning booths in conference mecca cities such as Las Vegas and Washington, D.C., the concept conjures images of suits trading business cards, exchanging logo-emblazoned schwag, admiring one another’s fancy displays, and probably drinking a lot of booze at sponsor-hosted parties.
Some of that happens. I’ve attended my fair share of trade shows over the decades, and, well … all of that happens. And it’s not necessarily bad. It’s important for businesses to network, to see the latest technology, to vet new suppliers, and to learn. Maybe even to socialize – drink in hand – with a potential new client or vendor.
But it’s not, deep down, why I believe trade shows are important. Most recently, X2nSat staff attended two behemoths in the telecommunications trade-show circuit: Channel Partners in Vegas and the Satellite Show in D.C. I attended the latter the second week of March. Since then, I have been putting a lot of thought into why these events are important.
And I have come to the realization that something much deeper is going on for me, something more than just merchant capitalism. Something essential to my life and to my legacy as a business owner. Something connected to what I’ve seen brilliantly articulated in author Simon Sinek’s “Golden Circle” TEDx Talk (the third most-viewed video on Ted.com) and his “Start With Why” concept.
But before I sing the praises of Mr. Sinek, I have to go back to my old friend and favorite American industralist Henry Ford, who is rumored (a bit of an exaggeration, it seems) to have once said, “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said a faster horse.”
Although Harvard Business Review researched this famous phrase and could find no record of it, everyone agrees Mr. Ford held this sentiment. And history proves that he did. As the HBR article intimates, his true genius was “his vision for the first durable mass-market automobile.” Cars are very obvious to us now. We can’t imagine modern life without them. But before the automobile as we know it today was created, it wasn’t obvious. It was scary, actually. Something moving that fast made of machinery? Something that wasn’t a train or an ANIMAL?! Ludicrous.
One of my favorite banned writers known for breaking the rules of existing literary forms is Henry Miller. He once wrote an oft-quoted line that also applies to what I’m getting at: “One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.”
Speaking of destinations and Henry Miller, I highly recommend a visit to the Henry Miller Library in Big Sur next time you happen to be on Hwy 1 in California. You can learn more about him at this quirky little museum/library that used to be his home, feel inspired about changing the status quo, then go have an amazing meal with an incredible view of the ocean at Nepenthe. You can thank me later.
Back to Sinek’s golden circle. I really recommend you watch his 18-minute video. But if you’re not intrigued enough, I’ll summarize it for you: People don’t buy WHAT you do. They buy WHY you do it. Sinek draws a circle with the word “WHY” in the center; the word “HOW” in the middle circle; and the word “WHAT” in the outside circle.
“Every organization on the planet knows WHAT they do; some know HOW they do it; very, very few people or organizations know WHY they do what they do,” he says. Knowing the why is how all of the world’s great leaders think, act and communicate, according to him.
Using Apple as an example – who else? – Sinek points out that if Apple were a typical company, their marketing would be communicated as follows: “We make great computers. They’re beautifully designed, simple to use, user-friendly. Want to buy one?”
Of course, as he points out, that’s “incredibly uninspiring.” He goes on to articulate why Apple is so successful. Why Apple is in the hearts of its consumers. “Here’s how Apple actually communicates,” he says: “Everything that we do, we believe in challenging the status quo. We believe in thinking differently. The way we challenge the status quo is by making our products beautifully designed, simple to use, user-friendly. We just happen to make great computers. Wanna buy one?”
Obviously, that is much more powerful. Much more meaningful. And moves beyond just selling “stuff.”
OK, so what is this all about for me? It’s about knowing the purpose of my business. The purpose of X2nSat. The purpose of satellite communications solutions as an industry.
Why does my organization exist? Why do I get out of bed in the morning? Why am I excited to drive to work and go into the office every day? It’s not to make money and get rich, although of course that is a nice byproduct of any successful business. Money is just a consequence. The “why” for me is that I truly believe the world is a better place if everyone has access to all of the information possible throughout their organization. I believe the world is a better place when the unconnected are connected. I believe the world is a better place when health and medical care are significantly improved through Internet access and communications.
X2nSat is me. It is the culmination of my experience and vision. I am passionate about delivering new and creative technology solutions to fulfill our customers’ critical needs. I’ve done my best to create and foster a team culture to deliver those solutions. When I’m presented with unique opportunities, my gut reaction is to ask and explore the answer to the question: “How can we make this happen?!”
So, this translates to trade shows … how?
The reason I go to these types of events is to find the partners who share X2nSat’s WHY. To find others who want to be in the “thought leaders” club, so to speak. Not just those who are there to find the latest technology and the latest versions of software, but to find the people trying to build better satellite communications vehicles. To find people with the same values, who share our vision, who have the same dreams. I’m maybe sounding a bit like Martin Luther King, Jr., here, but I’m being sincere.
Sinek says, “People don’t buy WHAT you do; they buy WHY you do it.” That’s the place we all need to operate from: From within the golden circle. I want to focus on the “why” and I want to shout it from the rooftops.
We’re trying to build a better vehicle, a better option. A better world. Not just a faster horse.
The 2016 Spring Channel Partners Conference & Expo will take place at the The Venetian and Sands Expo on March 23-25, 2016. Satellite 2016 Conference + Exhibition will take place at the Gaylord National Convention Center in National Harbor, Maryland, on March 8-10, 2016.