At Phase 2 we have five “rules” that are our guiding principles for running our business. These rules are by no means applicable only to a technology company. In fact, they are simply good, general lessons for any organization to follow. I hope by reading our rules, you’ll learn a little bit about our company and our philosophy.
Mark Towler, CEO
1. Everybody you meet is Brian Blake.
Phase 2 was formed in January of 1998 as a spin off from The Rock Island Group. At that time, we inherited some customers from The Rock Island Group, but it wasn’t until May of that year that we got a call from Brian Blake, who was with Little Giant Pump Company. Little Giant turned into a marquee account for Phase 2 providing us with our first large account… an on-going customer that we could reference into new business. This was an important break for our new company. Once the project got underway, we asked Brian how he had heard about Phase 2. It turns out that Brian had interviewed for a graphics arts position with The Rock Island Group back in 1996. Although Rock Island didn’t hire him, he was so impressed by how he was treated during the interviews that he kept our business cards. When it came time to find a web firm for Little Giant, the first company that came to mind was Rock Island, which of course led to him finding out about Phase 2. Had he not had that good, positive experience with Rock Island, Brian probably would never had heard about Phase 2 and we would never had worked with Little Giant.
Thus, it’s important to remember that in all things we do – business meetings, interviews, involvement in youth sports, etc. – everyone you meet could be another Brian Blake.
2. Never forget the bottle of whiskey.
In the spring of 1999, I was reviewing our financials with Dr. Rod Evans, Dean of Business at OU and a long time friend of the company. We were profitable for the first time and it was an occasion to do a little bragging to Dr. Evans about our progress. Dr. Evans acknowledged that this was a good thing but went on to warn me that where most companies get in financial trouble is by not paying attention to their expenses when they’re profitable and things are going well. He looked across the table at me and summarized his remarks: “So, before you spend any money, what you have to ask yourself is this: Do you want to spend that money or keep it and buy yourself a bottle of whiskey?”
Whenever we think about spending money, we should always consider that bottle of whiskey as a way of maintaining fiscal discipline.
3. Remember the Dub Grissom Rule.
I once worked with a gentleman from west Texas named Bill Grissom. Although Bill was a financial guy, he had a strong love of folk music thanks to his father, Dub. Dub taught Bill many lessons over the years including how to strum the guitar.
One of the other things Dub taught Bill was something we came to call the Dub Grissom Rule:
“It is not enough to communicate to be understood… you must communicate in such a way as to not be misunderstood.”
Too often we say things that we understand and we think that the person we’re talking to will also understand exactly what we mean. However, to communicate effectively with our employees, customers, prospects, etc., we need to communicate in a way that absolutely cannot be misunderstood.
4. Fix your leaky faucets.
Through a business organization I belong to, I met a gentleman a few years older than myself. He was in good health, running a growth-oriented company and generally getting wrapped up in all those things that go with running a business. One day, out of the blue, he had a stroke. Although not serious enough to stop him from doing the things he wanted to do, the event made him realize first hand how short life can be. In explaining this to our group, this gentleman mentioned that after the stroke, he took time to fix a leaky faucet in his bathroom that “he had always been meaning to fix.” It was something he knew he would get to eventually, but he just hadn’t done it yet. He went on to say that he was enjoying a better relationship with his wife since that event took place. I was struck by the fact that this guy was probably fixing leaky faucets in all aspects of his life.
Companies like Phase 2 can take up a tremendous amount of time and energy from the people involved. It’s important to realize though that we all need to take time to fix the leaky faucets in our lives.
5. Mystery Rule?
To find out what rule number five is, email Mark and ask him about Phase 2.