There is something to be said about planning. For Lisa Nichols, that means planning your next step, planning your next hire, and planning to plan. Lisa also believes that the success of her company, Technology Partners, is not about the bottom line: it’s “doing what’s right over doing what is profitable.”
Tell us about the biggest mistake you made with your business. What did you learn from it?
Unfortunately, I have made several but I think one of the biggest mistakes I have made is not always “planning to plan.” What I mean by this is when we are running our own business, sometimes we are operating more in the urgent/tasks at hand rather than stepping back and taking the time to plan our actions and next steps. If you do not schedule this time, it will not happen and it is crucial to do this to take your business to next level.
The other big mistake and lesson learned the hard way is to “hire slowly, fire fast.” Spend more time on the front-end when hiring and you will have fewer issues on the back-end. It is not just the hard cost of hiring the wrong person; it is the opportunity cost of not having the right person in that role for that time period.
It is not just the hard cost of hiring the wrong person; it is the opportunity cost of not having the right person in that role for that time period.
Besides learning from mistakes, we can learn from successful moments as well. Have you ever learned something from a great success?
Over six years ago now, we added a Solutions Group to our staffing business. It has been very successful with an average growth rate of 26% year over year. The lesson learned here was not to bite off more than we could chew. We have slowly added practice areas to this group as one group gets successful. There has been a tremendous amount of focus and energy that has been applied to growing this group. If we tried to tackle too many new initiatives at the same time, I am confident that this group would not have experienced the growth that they have.
What is one thing you’ve learned that you wish you knew when you got started?
Planning is never a waste of time.
In your opinion, what are 3 key elements for starting and running a successful business?
1) There is no substitute for hard work.
2) Lean into mentors and others who have run successful businesses.
3) Manage your overhead. It doesn’t matter what your top line looks like, if your overhead is out of control, your business will not survive.
What do you wish you would have done differently? And what did you nail from the start?
I wish I had taken more calculated risks and time boxed experimentation. We have tried a lot of things like growing in other metros that did not pan out. I wish I had defined more clear expectations up front as to how long we would try and grow these metros before we moved on.
I have always cared more about the people than I have cared about the profits. At the end of the day, we are here to change lives and make a difference. I would not change this as this is the only way to lead in my mind.
Let’s talk about advice. What is the best advice you’ve ever received? The worst? What advice would you give to a young woman thinking about starting her own business?
“Failing to plan is planning to fail” is the best piece of advice I have received. “Go with your gut” doesn’t always pan out. I have gone with my gut before and it took me totally down the wrong path. I think that the best way to approach decisions is to gather as many data points as possible, listen to your intuition and then make an “educated” decision.
“There is wisdom in many advisors” but just make sure that the advisors you are surrounding yourself with are the right ones. It is imperative that you have the right team around you. Spend your time on building the “right” team.
You work in the traditionally male-dominated IT industry. Assuming you have encountered it at some point, how do you handle both explicit and implicit gender bias?
This is true; however, it has never been an issue for me. I have found in my own career that as long as I am approaching my role with excellence and competence, I will have the respect of my colleagues and peers.
“As long as I am approaching my role with excellence and competence, I will have the respect of my colleagues and peers. “
Technology Partners covers a lot of IT services: staffing, web and app development, IT support, cloud services, analytics, etc. Where did it all start? How will Technology Partners continue to expand?
It all started with wanting to create a better eco-system for the IT consultant on the staffing side. Giving them control over their careers, better pay and interesting work is what will attract IT workers to your company. At the end of the day, we have always believed that if we do right by our employees, then our employees will do right by our clients.
Again, I believe that the real growth trajectory for Technology Partners will come from our Solutions Group. We want to help our clients unleash the possibilities that technology can bring to the table. We have built a team of really smart, passionate IT professionals who are experts in understanding not only the business but how technology can support that business. We are solving business challenges with technology. It is not just technology for technology’s sake.
You place a high value on doing what’s right over doing what’s profitable. How has this motto affected your business?
This is the only way to do business and build a business that is sustainable. If we cannot create a win-win-win, then we are not interested. I think a testament to how this philosophy has affected our business is that over 80% of the clients we service today have been clients now for close to 20 years. There is a trusted partnership that has grown because we value “doing what’s right over doing what is profitable.”
You can find Lisa and Technology Partners on Facebook and Instagram @TechnologyParters and on Twitter @ClearChoiceInIT. Check out their website at technologypartners.net.
Technology Partners is an award-winning, certified Women Business Enterprise that provides premier IT staffing and solutions. In our 24 years of experience, we have partnered with hundreds of clients across a range of industries nationwide, with client and consultant relationships that have lasted as long as we’ve been in business. Built upon a revolutionary transparent-margin business model, Technology Partners provides better value for our clients while giving our consultants higher salaries and career control. Founded by a former IT consultant, we’re committed to partnerships with our clients and consultants in thoroughly understanding their needs and providing them with the utmost service.