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Happy New Year 2017!

Business growth in 2017

Happy New Year 2017!

I choose to write around this time of the year because New Year’s is one of my favorite seasons. Not because of the celebrations, champagne, and fireworks. But because it represents new beginnings. Out with the old; in with the new.  Fresh starts. New Year’s resolutions. New business budgets. New goals. A chance to start over if you’ve had a tough year, or make bigger plans with the profits from the prior year. Also, a time to celebrate that the crazy Christmas season is behind us. As pathetic as that sounds, the ‘reason for the season’ gets crowded out by an increasingly more commercial, stressful, and secular holiday celebration (or madness). But the New Year’s season is, for the most part, everyone celebrating around the world together. How cool is that? New Year’s is just one big, worldwide Kum-Ba-Yah. Sort of a symbolic joining of hands in peace and unity. And that is a good segue into my update for this year.

In a few days, I will have been a business owner for 18 years. Yes. 18 years. And just like many parts of life (growing up, relationships, parenting, etc.), businesses have seasons too. This business has certainly had its share of rapid growth in the first 5 years of its life. Like chasing after a toddler, falling down a lot and learning how to run–fast! Then a few mistakes of adolescence and figuring out where you fit in (the industry, the market, the competition), and the dreaded year 13, where a rebellious, teenaged business reared its ugly head to turn into a monster I didn’t recognize or enjoy for a few years. Thankfully, we won the battle of the wills, as we now slide into year 18 of the company. And you know what turning 18 means: time to cut the cord and fly with less help from who created you (ahem…that would be me). I guess you could say the company is an adult now!

So, 2017 holds another season of change for RioTel. Some independence from me, the founder. Client Services already operates with little input from me. My role has primarily been focused on strategy, sales, and business operations. We have a stellar group of people advising and running the company’s client and business operations today. I have been able to take real vacations, without being tethered to the phone or laptop 24/7. And if you own a business, I know you will appreciate that sentiment. But don’t think I am leading up to the “R” word (retirement?). No—definitely not yet. My second act.

Over the past 5 years, I have experienced huge amounts of creativity and ambition, and more and more of that has been directed at giving back to others and to the community. My second act involves mentoring and coaching startups and other small businesses trying to grow. Putting years of operational experience behind a new set of Business Managed Services to help others run their businesses better. Better operationally, and with a better use of technology. One of the advantages of taking big risks and working as hard as you do to grow a business, is that you do get the freedom of choices along the way. And you get wiser. Life and business experience does that to you, so my wisdom was earned the right way. And there are those who need that wisdom, and I plan to share it.

My second act will also be devoted to further developing the charitable initiative we began in 2011, ARK. ARK originally stood for “Acts of RioTel Kindness,” and was our way of giving back to others in need during the holidays, both individuals and charities. It has now been rebranded ARK Networks, and consists of multiple initiatives as announced earlier in 2016.

Launched in 2011:

ARK Holiday – Financial donations of the company’s profit to selected charities in December.

ARK Pay-It-Forward –RioTel’s bonus program, where we give our employees and contractors cash, and ask them to “pay-it-forward” to someone in need during the holidays, and post about the experience on our internal social media page.

Launched in 2016:

ARK Serve – RioTel offers paid time-off quarterly for employees to serve a local charity. Our remote workers get to pick the charity of their choice. But in the Houston area, we pick the charity, so we can build local relationships with them. They get to know us, and we get to know their needs, and the needs of those they/we serve. They can count on us. We have their back.

Launching in 2017:

ARK Hire – This takes the program further into the community, particularly the small businesses community and charities.  ARK Hire is a small business partnership of like-minded, like-hearted businesses who want to help those in dire need of employment. A focused effort to hire those where employment is critical. Situations where getting a job will change lives in a big way. Lots of lives, not just the employee’s but their families. And since small businesses creates more jobs in the economy than any other segment, they are the perfect group to get behind this initiative, while helping them with their own hiring needs.

Both ARK Hire and the launch of our Business Managed Services will require a significant amount of my time and expertise, and will be where much of my second act begins this year. Whereas RioTel’s tagline for the past 18 years has been Building Tomorrow’s Networks, ARK Networks will be building networks too. Human ones. Compassionate ones. Kum-Ba-Yah. I look forward to the journey, and hope you will join along to help. New beginnings, as I said. New beginnings.

Happy New Year 2017!