Daniel Adamany did not need to fix his business. At a time when many businesses were struggling to survive, Ahead LLC’s revenue had risen from $3 million in 2007 to $130 million in 2010.
But Adamany wanted to shake things up anyway. He looked at his 100-employee business, which provided IT products to its customers, and felt like he could be doing more to help them.
“We’re really changing the product we’re selling from a hardware product to a consulting-based solution,” says Adamany, founder and president of Ahead. “It’s been challenging. We’re getting through it and we’ve been successful, but it’s a lot harder than I thought it was going to be.”
One of the toughest parts was convincing employees that even though what they were doing was working, they should jump on board his plan to dramatically change the business.
“When I come to them and say, ‘Hey, we’re going to change,’ a lot of them question why,” Adamany says. “Why would we do this when we went from zero to $130 million in 4.5 years? It seems like what we’re doing is working. Why change it? It’s one thing if we’re losing money and we have to do this or we’re going out of business. We’re the best at what we do and they feel great and they know what they’re doing. It makes it even more difficult.”
Adamany says he has made some mistakes in trying to fix a business that wasn’t really broken. The first misstep was when he brought in people who had expertise on how to build a consulting business.
“I allowed them to come in and communicate to the team, but there was such a disconnect between how they were used to running their business and how we ran our business that for the average guy, it was too much,” Adamany says. “They couldn’t process it. In hindsight, I would have sat down with them and understood the model better and then communicated it in words that my guys would understand because that’s where I came from. Prepare a little bit before you communicate. That was an error that I made.”
You may have a vision for your business. It may look like an easy path to achieve that vision. But you’ve got to remember that you have living, breathing human beings who need to be engaged with your plan rather than just blindly commanded to follow a set of directives.
“All of these guys know their vertical better than me,” Adamany says. “So for me, my goal is to understand what they have to say. I also have a broad perspective that they don’t have, because they run within their vertical. My job is to listen to them and then try to understand how that applies across the verticals.
“When people feel a part of what’s going on and what’s happening and they feel that they are contributing, then that also stimulates thought and creativity and ideas,” Adamany says. “They obviously need to be comfortable enough to share those with you.”
What Adamany has learned is that it’s OK to admit, as he eventually did, that you don’t have all the answers or prescient knowledge about whether something is going to work.
“I just told everybody, ‘I didn’t really get this, but now I do,’” Adamany says. “These are the principles and we’re still going to experience some pain, but ultimately it’s the right direction. Getting them in the boat with you seems to be the best way to get through it.”
Adamany’s efforts have accomplished what he wanted. The company is now an even more valuable asset to its customers.
“From a consulting standpoint, we’re going in much earlier in the cycle to determine if they need anything and if they need it, what they need,” Adamany says. “We develop a solution to fulfill whatever they want to get done.”
How to reach: Ahead LLC, (888) 992-4323 or www.thinkaheadit.com
Time it out
Daniel Adamany identifies two big mistakes he made trying to turn Ahead LLC into a technology consulting business. One was the way he initially sold the plan to his people. The other was in how he set timelines.
“I wanted it to change much faster,” says Adamany, founder and president of the 100-employee company. “I put timelines in place, but I think I was a little bit too aggressive because I really didn’t understand what it was going to take to make the change. I would have been better off saying, ‘We want to make this change and we will put a timeline together once I understand it more.’ We failed to meet our timeline. Maybe it’s not a big deal financially, but you don’t want to communicate something and then not hit it.”
Milestones and realistic timelines give your people a good foundation to take the steps your plan needs to succeed.
“We kind of dove in headfirst and said, ‘Hey, we’re going to be successful at this and we’re going to be transitioned within a few months,’” Adamany says. “Reality is, it will take more like a year, because we didn’t know what we didn’t know. So it’s taking more time upfront, making sure we convey the right story and message and taking more time to put the plan together.”