Sunday, August 16, 2009

The Good: Fatherhood

I have to admit that I've learned a ton about being a father over the past five weeks. Caleb has a crazy ability to train me on the things that I need to know. He's not only taught me the little things like changing diapers and burping but also has given me lessons in patience and selflessness.

I was scared of becoming a father. Would I be a good example? How would I react during his first fit in the store? As soon as I saw and held him, though, it all seemed to fade away. I still question how good of a dad that I'll be, but it seems to fade to the background. As soon as I saw and held him, I felt a sense of immediate and complete selflessness. I'm not sure what it was, but I immediately pushed aside any need of mine and had Caleb and Ashley's in mind. I realized while waiting in that hospital that God has entrusted both a beautiful wife and healthy child for me to care for. It didn't matter that I may not have felt up to the challenge by myself, because I knew that it was God's plan for me to care for them.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The Good: High School Competition

This past week, I was witness to two different displays of high school competition: 1) Lego Mindstorm Robotics competition; and 2) track and field state finals. Regardless of my aggravation with Kentucky public school curriculum, these two events were a tremendous display of problem-solving, creativity, hard work, and passion.

The Mindstorm Robotics competition was held in Rupp Arena and part of the Student Technology Leadership Program. The event consisted of elementary, middle, and high schoolers programming a Lego Robot to perform certain tasks. I was solicited as a judge for this competition and had a great time. The interesting part is that every robot looked and functioned differently -- a product of the creativity of the teams. Certain tasks (such as grab a small figure placed on the board or move a trophy to another area of the board) were performed differently by each of the teams. The teams all had the same robots and software, so the difference came directly from the imagination and problem-solving skills of the students.

The Class A State track competition was held at the University of Louisville. My sister has been throwing shot and discus for the past few years and qualified for both in the state this year. Going in, she was ranked 1st because of her throws in the Regional competition. She's worked very hard this year and I was anxious and proud to watch her in the state. Because of her ranking, she threw last and all of the girls had 6 total throws. Her first throw 106'9" set the mark and very few girls were even breaking 100'.

Like last year, she went into the finals with the farthest throw. Last year she got 2nd place and was beat on the very last throw of the meet. She felt the pressure going into the finals this year as well and just kept saying that she hoped the same thing didn't happen again. Sure enough, second to last throw by a girl was 106'10" -- one inch farther and enough to seal the deal. My sister had one final throw that was probably far enough but was out of bounds. She knew it when she released it and the emotions started pouring out. I'm proud of her competitive spirit and passion for working hard on something she loves. She didn't win this year, but hopefully it will provide motiviation to work even harder next year.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

The Bad: Us (Christians)

Hear me out on this one. I don't mean to bash Christians but to challenge us to become the solution of many of America's problems.

We often find ourselves on the conservative side of the aisle politically. If we're not careful, we'll continue to be stereotyped as hypocritical and self-serving when we should truly be the light to those around us.

I've found myself complaining about the recent stimulus package speeding its way through Congress. I still don't agree with it because it provides too much power to the federal government. However, we have to look at ourselves when it comes to the need to spend money to assist those around us. It is absolutely ridiculous that we're called in the Bible to tithe from our first fruits and the average U.S. Christian gives 2-3%. Imagine the good that another 7-8% could do in our country and world. Imagine how much money we wouldn't have to pay in federal taxes if individuals' needs were being met by Christian outreach programs. Imagine how much God could multiply that amount.

I encourage us to take a look at ourselves when we question the need for all of that spending and look at what we can do to help.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

?: 2008

I'm not really sure how to classify my 2008. It's probably been the best and worst year of my life at the same time. I've tried to let God lead me in everything that I do but I know I always get in the way. I just hope that I've learned something through the trials and mistakes.

The year started with signs of tremendous growth in my business. I hired two individuals at the beginning of the year to double the size of my company to four. We moved out of my house into leased office space and I finally felt as though the company was "real".

By April, I had hired four more individuals and found out that Ashley was pregnant. We had been planning accordingly to have the child around the first of the year. This would allow us to move to her residency with a 6 month old rather than younger. We had a tough lesson in God's timing vs. our own when we found out in early June that Ashley lost the baby. That was a pretty rough patch for us, especially for Ashley. I truly didn't realize the emotional connection that had already formed between mother and child and felt helpless in trying to comfort her.

Around that time, I also had to conduct my first firing of an employee. I knew early on this he wasn't going to work out and I held out months too long because of my fear of performing the action. I truly thought that it was my purpose to lead the employee to be something great and that it his failures were a result of my lack of leadership. I learned a great deal from that experience including the fact that character means more in my employees than any technical skill they may possess. I have also been extremely blessed in all other company hires and would put the Apax team against any other development team in Kentucky.

I struggled over the next three or four months on whether I wanted to continue on the path as business owner. I was working extremely long hours and pouring everything that I had into something that didn't seem like it was improving. I was also enlightened during a mission trip in June to Jamaica about the need around the world and my role in meeting some of those needs. I held on to the business for the simple fact that I had younger individuals with families working for me and I couldn't let them down. I carried that responsibility solely on my shoulders for the next several months and it had a big impact on how I wanted my business to run moving forward.

At the end of the 3rd quarter, I made probably the biggest decision in my company thus far. I merged with one of my vendors to create one company of 20+ employees. We had worked together on several projects already and had shared office space so a merge was the next step in the progression. As of this date, it was probably one of the best decisions that I have made. I was able to officially surround myself with other talented owners and was able to ease the responsibility I was feeling months earlier. I have seen myself step away from daily programming tasks and move to actually leading the company. It's pretty easy to do with the awesome employees that we have and I have been extremely impressed with the amount of growth that I've seen during this year.

The 2nd half of the year was up and down on a personal level as well. In a span of 3 or 4 months, one grandmother died unexpectedly, an aunt who had been fighting pancreatic cancer died, and my other grandmother who had been in and out of the hospital for months died. Those, on top of the baby we had lost earlier, made the year pretty rough. I don't understand why all of these things happened during this one year. Maybe it's something I'll learn one day or maybe I'll never find out why.

Ashley and I also found out towards the end of last year that we're pregnant again. The timing could be better for us, but we learned from our earlier experiences that our timing preferences are insignificant compare to a greater plan. We also began interviewing for residency programs at the end of last year. We know that we'll be leaving Lexington, KY sometime late summer and are anxious for what's in store for us.

So, 2008 had its ups and downs both professionally and personally. I've learned a lot about myself and only hope that I'm able to apply some of the wisdom gained on future challenges.

Monday, January 12, 2009

The Good: Chick Fil-A

I never realized how amazing Chick Fil-A is until I attended Entreleadership with Dave Ramsey last April. I began to learn what things to look for in great companies and traits that I want to emulate in my own.

Every time that I go to Chick Fil-A I am impressed by something else that I see. Several months ago, I went in during the crazy lunch hour. The lobby was full of people waiting to place their orders. I watched carefully to see how the managers would handle it. I saw an older lady who was cleaning a few tables in the lobby head through a door behind the registers with no prompting by the management. She appeared about 15 seconds later with a tray full of brownies. She walked into the crowded lobby and began handing the samples out to the waiting customers.

Over several following visits I began to notice the careful choice of words that EVERY employee follows. "How can I serve you today?" Not, "Can I take your order?", like all of the other fast-food restaurants, but "How can I serve you?" Also, after you thank any employee for prompt service, attention to detail, etc., you will always hear a "My pleasure" with eye contact and a smile.

Another impressive moment was when my company ordered food for our 1-year anniversary. Our office manager called in an order the day before and I was going to pick it up on Saturday before the celebration. I noticed when we picked up our order that the cheesecake was not included. I told the manager (who had already brought out the rest of my order) that I didn't receive my complete order. He looked at his order sheet, said that they didn't take that part of the order over the phone, then asked if I could wait about 10 minutes. They prepared a cheesecake tray and gave it to me -- no charge. I was more than willing to pay for the tray but he said that it was on them.

Most recently, I noticed a change in their drive thru on at the Man-O-War location. They now have LCD monitors on the drive thru that show you the person taking your order. It's kind of creepy at first but really provides a more personal feel to that service.

I am very impressed with Chick Fil-A and hope that my company can emulate those qualities of service and innovation.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

The Ugly: GMAC

I've recently learned why GMAC is in its current state.

My grandmother passed away at the end of November. Several years ago she purchased a minivan that was financed through GMAC and also purchased insurance to pay off the loan in the event of her death. Not something that I would recommend but whatever.

So my mom begins calling GMAC on December 4th to receive the payoff balance so that she can send to the insurance company. After dealing with several broken-English employees and several managers, she finally was able to receive this information around December 22nd. At which time, my grandmother's account with GMAC had become past due and the collection calls began to my mom as she was in charge of the estate.

My mom received multiple calls a day demanding that she send in the 2 months worth of payment (roughly $300). The callers were very rude and didn't pay attention to my mom's explanation of the whole insurance thing. When she asked to speak with managers she soon heard a dial tone on her end.

The last straw came when they called her in the evening on her cell phone while she was at my sister's basketball game. The employee threatened my mom that not paying the bill would hurt my grandmother's credit. OK, go ahead. I don't think my grandma's credit score is stored in the book at the Pearly gates. She then proceeded to threaten my mom's credit score for being in charge of the estate. Fine, try it. After no luck at getting a payment, she proceeded to tell my mom that "Your mom is looking down on you and disappointed that you're not paying the bill." WOW. Do you have to sign over your soul when you begin work there?

My mom, being in complete disbelief, handed the phone to my dad. He advised the lady that if they were that desperate for money, he would try to speed up some of the bailout they were set to receive (roughly $6 billion). Mom then told dad what the lady said about looking down from heaven. He questioned her about it and she stumbled over her words. He then told her that the conversation was over and hung up the phone.

That is absolutely ridiculous and I now understand why the company is in need of a government bailout. I also hate the fact that as a taxpayer I now own part of such a horrible company.