Building a Successful Business in Rural America
Planning, Thriving and Living
OUTdrive Episode 23 with Rob Lamm
In this episode of OUTdrive, Cliff visits with Rob Lamm, founder, President and CEO of LammTech, an innovative IT company. A spirited and dedicated businessman, Rob meets individual client needs through integrated information technology solutions, commitment and personal connections. Read more for key insights of their conversation on the entrepreneurial spirit, guiding business principles in rural America, the rural American lifestyle and more.
Build a Strong Foundation
Many successful entrepreneurs begin their journey with a desire to share their passion and skills with others. They succeed because they take the time to learn and understand what it takes to run a successful business. Cliff and Rob understand the delicate balance and commitment it takes to operate a business that continues to flourish. In the early stages, it can be difficult to wrap your mind around all of the moving parts that need to be coordinated.
When discussing the early days of LammTech, Rob explains that he was primarily focused on the services he provided and meeting client needs. However, he explains that his focus evolved as the business grew. “As that space gets more competitive, you start talking about margin and managing people. There’s so much more to it.” To experience sustainable growth, you must develop a deep understanding of business operations and development in addition to serving clients.
At the core of any relationship is two people connecting over a shared belief or idea, and a business relationship is no exception. Rob knows the importance of this and has seen success with LammTech because of the personal relationships he has developed with clients. He says, “There’s a lot more than just a business relationship with these people. They’re really almost like extended family.” Treating customers as family and truly paying attention to their needs helps to ensure that they’ll stick around. Building and maintaining strong relationships is more than a single call to sell them a product or service. You must remember that they have a need, you have a way to fill that need, and you’re on the same page working toward the same goal.
For those who aren’t your current customers, maintaining strong relationships means that when they have a need, you’re the first person they’ll call. Cliff adds to this point, saying, “What I want to do, and I think what you try to do, is to be top of mind and to be helpful in the prospecting time, so that when they are ready to buy, they give you a shot.” Whether it is a current or prospective client, the importance of building strong connections is crucial for business success.
Building a strong foundation of personal connections and a deep understanding of business operations and development will set you up for sustainable success. However, this is an ongoing effort that requires strategy, commitment and a desire to continuously improve.
Develop and Implement a Plan
For many business leaders, every day is a new day, presenting new opportunities in every corner. While you may not know the specifics of what each day holds, it is vital to develop a plan for the long-term success of your business.
In the early stages, many companies are focused on day-to-day operations and the most recent project. Focusing solely on the here and now is sometimes thought of as operating on ‘muscle and feel’. Rob explains the idea as, “In the early days of business, a lot of entrepreneurs, they’re growing their business with muscle and feel. In other words, they’re saying, we’re going to work 50 hours to get this project done. I don’t care what it takes, we’re going to get it done, and then when that’s done, okay, now we’re going to feel our way out, figure out what the next thing is going to be and there’s really not a plan.”
While this approach works temporarily, developing and implementing a plan means your business is better positioned to experience significant and sustainable growth for years to come. Your entire viewpoint has to change to focus on long-term initiatives and entire programs, not just single projects. This shift in viewpoint doesn’t happen overnight, but the sooner you begin planning for the future, the sooner you will reap the benefits.
Rob explains what the shift meant for him, saying, “It was really hard for me to make that adjustment. I was a muscle and feel guy for the first ten years of my business. It wasn’t really until 2008 through 2010 that I started getting that little bit of an ‘aha’ moment saying I better get more of an idea of what we’re doing as far as planning for the future.”
A plan will look different for each company, but the principle remains the same. Decide where you want to be in ten years, find a way to make it happen and stick with it. This commitment is what sets successful entrepreneurs apart from others.
Plan for the Future
Now is a great time to be thinking about your plan for next year, but also for further down the road and into the future. A strategic business plan may be developed with clients, services and internal goals in mind. However, it is vital that you also think about where you want the business to be in ten, twenty, even fifty years from now. Keeping your eye on what’s to come and being prepared for the unexpected sets you, your company and your team up for success.
Business owners must realize that someday, they will not be the one in charge. Preparing for this shift includes building a team that you trust to keep things running smoothly, even after you’re no longer running the show.
Rob adds to this point, saying, “We all start our businesses because we have a passion for it. It’s a way to pay the bills, raise a family, do everything we want to do in life, but nothing lasts forever. You start to develop folks that can manage your company for you so you can go do some of the things you enjoy. As part of that, and as part of participation in my peer group, we build plans. There’s legacy plans, there’s life plans, there’s business plans, and all of these kind of tie together to keep you on this journey.”
Rob shares that he has empowered two individuals to continue operating the business as his role in the company continues to shift. “I made a concerted effort to develop two guys that are essentially in charge of the operational part of the business.” He admits the change has been hard, but he is confident that they embrace the same principles as him and will continue to lead LammTech to success. It is difficult to hand over the reigns, but building a team you trust means your company is in good hands.
Owning and operating a business looks different for every person, every step of the way. Whether you are just starting or have been in business for fifty years, these core guidelines truly set successful business leaders apart from others. Hear more from Rob and Cliff on these ideas, the importance of continuous learning, emerging technologies, and more in this episode of OUTdrive. Check it out!