Directions

Keller Schroeder Leadership-Jeff GormanJeff Gorman – [President]

While talking to a frequent road traveler recently, his reference to the difficulty in finding a particular destination on his paper map surprised me.  While I understand having a contingency for the event of a failure of more technical travel aids, it intrigued me that someone who drove for a living still used traditional paper maps as a primary tool.  Tablet with GPS sitting on MapIt brought back clear images in my mind of family vacations from years ago, with maps having highlighted routes and each rest from driving including some time looking at the map to get clarity on the next stage of the trip and to establish some familiarity with options should the main route have any difficulty.  I am confident most drivers have not traveled like that in years; GPS units and GPS-capable phones have allowed us to simply type a destination and follow the turn-by-turn instructions to get to any location without having to do any significant navigational planning.  It is clearly a stellar example of technology simplifying and enhancing a manual process, not to mention eliminating the art of the origami accordion associated with paper maps.

Recalculating GPSUnfortunately, however, such a shortcut to the ‘check the plan as you go’ method does not exist in business.  There simply is no consistently successful way to set a strategic goal and trust that regardless of obstacles or unforeseen events, we will end up at our destination.  There are no ‘recalculating’, ‘make a U-turn as soon as safely possible’ or ‘traffic detected, would you like an alternate route’ announcements allowing us to achieve business objectives automatically.  When establishing a destination or goal for a business, there needs to be a clear purpose and a plan established to navigate toward that goal.  It is imperative that we regularly measure progress against the specific plan in a way that provides clarity for when navigational changes need to occur.  With appropriate measurement points and consistent comparison of current location to desired location, the business can better establish accountability within teams, better share knowledge of potential obstacles, and remain on course with smaller adjustments than would be required if the journey continued unchecked for longer periods of time.  Just as the road traveler GPS would be ineffective if it only checked progress against your destination once a quarter, your business goal progress must be compared to a scorecard on a very consistent basis to be effective.

If you are not tracking your key performance indicators with easy-to-interpret scoreboards on a regular basis, or you are not conducting frequent reviews of your progress on the route to achieve your objective, for all intents, your team is travelling the highway without a map.  Find a ‘rest stop’, get a ‘map’, and start measuring your progress against your plotted course.  You will be better equipped to handle obstacles and you will find the journey far more enjoyable if you work from the position of knowing each leg of the journey is staying on track.


Stories

Jeff Gorman – [President]

In the past year, I have had the opportunity to visit a variety of businesses and college campuses outside of our region for various reasons.  Each destination stands apart as unique from the others in obvious ways.  Geographies are different.  Employee and student demographics vary.  Values, mission statements, and marketing approaches are each distinct.  These all serve a purpose in helping establish an image with employees or prospects, but amid a myriad of options for organizations providing services, those factors alone tend to get lost in a mountain of data and ambiguity.  What strikes me as creating true clarity and uniqueness of an organization are the stories told by its members and its actions.

While values and mission statements are important and set the clarity waypoint for acceptable behaviors and desired outcomes, in essence defining whom an organization aspires to be, the stories shared with outsiders become the true artifacts that define how an organization actually exists.

I recall, for example, a company I visited shared their company values with the visiting group.  I do not recall any of their unique values other than their concern for the environment.   I remember that value because of their stories around providing stipends for workers that lived within a small distance from their office to allow them to ride their bikes to work, stipends for workers who purchased hybrid vehicles, and the company providing free bike service to employees.  The value of environmental awareness is aspirational and admirable, but the stories of how they are living those values are memorable and differentiators.

Similarly, while on a visit to another organization a topic of discussion was their concentration on measuring output toward specific goals.  Clearly, that is not a unique differentiator; all performance driven organizations work to measure against goals to track success.  This organization, however, worked with employees to determine interactive ways to have ‘scorecards’ accessible and highly visible to all employees, regardless of their access to online resources.  Tubes with colored golf balls became bar graphs for plant-floor employees.  Magnetic name and skillset badges on metal boards were used to track staff availability, display critical needs, and perform resource planning daily.  The organization’s collective collaboration provided the memorable evidence of their non-unique goal.  I am confident if it made a lasting impression on me in a one-day visit, it has made an exponentially greater impact to the organization in terms of employee engagement and clarity of purpose.

If you have not spent time doing so, I encourage you to take time to look at your organization’s values and peel things back a bit to determine what your stories are that support those aspirations.  As all companies work to market their differentiators amid a world of competition, some of your unique differentiators may be readily available in the stories that demonstrate your values.


Keller Schroeder Names New Network Solutions Group Business Unit Director

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Corey Ainscough
Network Solutions Group Director

 

Corey Ainscough has officially been promoted to Network Solutions Group Business Unit Director at Keller Schroeder. This announcement ends a year of transition for Corey from Service Delivery Manager into his new role. The NSG Business Unit Director position was previously held by Jeff Gorman, who became Keller Schroeder’s President on 1/1/17.

Corey has nearly 20 years of experience in the Information Technology field. Prior to his role as Service Delivery Manager, he spent 10 years as a Senior Systems Consultant with Keller Schroeder focusing on security architecture and implementation, as well as Microsoft server and messaging technologies. Among his many projects, Corey also served as the virtual CIO for a large financial institution and managed the IT transition during the divestiture of an international electronics and manufacturing corporation.

Of Corey, President Jeff Gorman said “Corey has been a well-respected employee owner at Keller Schroeder for ten years.  He has been actively involved in the operational aspects of the Network Solutions Group for several years and has been an integral part of that team’s growth.  His promotion into the role of Network Solutions Group Business Unit Director is well deserved and keeps that group positioned for continued growth and success.”

Corey lives in Newburgh, IN with his wife of eight years and two sons. In addition to enjoying time with his family, Corey is an avid cyclist and fitness enthusiast.

Please join us in congratulating Corey!


Keller Schroeder Completes Transition of Leadership

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Jeff Gorman has been appointed President of Keller Schroeder, effective January 1, 2017, replacing Larry May, who will be retiring in February, 2017 after 20 years with the company.  The leadership transition was announced in January, 2016.  Gorman will also be appointed as a Director and Board Chairman.

“Keller Schroeder has experienced significant growth over the past several years, and Jeff has been a key part of our success,” said May, “He is highly respected by our employee-owners and has an outstanding reputation with our clients.”  Gorman joined Keller Schroeder in 2004, and most recently served as Director of the Company’s Network Solutions Group, its largest and fastest-growing business unit.  Prior to Keller Schroeder, Jeff held technical and leadership positions with Ascension Health/CSC, Welborn Clinic, and South Western Communications.  He earned his B.S. in Electrical Engineering and his Masters of Public Service Administration from the University of Evansville.

Please join us in congratulating Jeff!

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Holiday Wishes

holiday-bannerDear Colleagues and Friends,

The holiday season is often a time for reconnecting with those closest to us and reflection on what and who are most important to us.  At Keller Schroeder, that means being thankful for each other (we really do like each other here!) and being thankful for you, our clients.  We enjoy many deep, enduring business relationships, even friendships, with our clients.  For this we are sincerely grateful.

It is our goal to be more than “resources” to you.  Our aim is to make a positive, personal impact every time we connect with our clients – helping you achieve your business objectives, but also leaving you in a better place, personally and professionally.  We appreciate every opportunity to serve you in 2016, and we look forward to new ones in 2017.

For me, this year-end is especially significant as I pass the leadership reins to Jeff Gorman, our new President, on January 1, 2017.  I have been richly blessed by the good friendships and experiences with my co-workers at Keller Schroeder and my client colleagues.  Thank you for the opportunities we’ve had to do some great work together.

Merry Christmas to you and your loved ones in 2016, and best wishes for a prosperous 2017!  Not everyone subscribes to Jesus (the “birthday boy” of the Season) as Lord and Messiah, but all of us would agree He was a world-changer.  He certainly changed mine.

Sincerely,
Larry May
President

Ownership Thinking

how-to-choose-a-careerI was asked recently to speak to a group of college students about lessons learned from my 35 years in the marketplace.  As you can imagine, narrowing 35 years of experience down to a 30-minute talk was fairly challenging, but one of the topics I chose for these students – and a factor that has contributed significantly to our success at Keller Schroeder – is what I refer to as ownership thinking.

Keller Schroeder has been employee-owned for 13 years through an ESOP (Employee Stock Ownership Plan), but ownership thinking has little to do with who actually holds the stock certificates.  There are lots of people who own companies, in full or in part, who do not practice ownership thinking.  And, there are lots of people who have never owned a share of stock in a company who are pros at ownership thinking.

choose-your-pathOwnership thinking is about choosing to believe – and it is a choice – that you have the most to do with your path and your destination – not your circumstances, and not the actions of others.  Psychologists refer to it as a strong “internal locus of control”.  Students who practice ownership thinking will blame themselves, not their teacher, for a poor outcome on an exam.  Leaders who practice ownership thinking will focus on shaping the future and influencing outcomes rather than reporting on the past or justifying underperformance.  Conversely, individuals who tend toward an “external locus of control” are quick to blame others or environmental factors for their misfortunes.

What is your bias?  Do you “own it”, look for solutions, and take action?  And would you agree that those who do so are far more pleasant to live with and work around than those who don’t?  Doesn’t it stand to reason that those who practice ownership thinking perform at a higher level and achieve more than those whose default is to look beyond their sphere of influence to explain most of what happens to them?

You and I as individuals can strengthen our tendency toward ownership thinking by surrounding ourselves with those who have a strong internal locus of control – those who habitually believe and act as though their own actions are more important than the hand they have been dealt.  As leaders, we can build a bias in our organizations toward ownership thinking by rewarding action and initiative over justification and deflection.

There are always environmental factors and circumstantial contributors to what we see and experience in business and in life, but if we choose to own, act and move, rather than blame, dwell and wait, we exponentially increase our chances for success.

Larry May[President]


Larry May to Serve as USI’s 2016 Executive in Residence

dsc_0023Keller Schroeder’s President Larry May will serve as the 2016 Executive in Residence for the University of Southern Indiana’s Romain College of Business. His presentation, titled “The Value of Ownership and Running Shoes,” will be presented at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, October 5, in Carter Hall in University Center West. The presentation is free and open to the public.

The primary purpose of the Executive-in-Residence program is to provide opportunities for students to gain insights into the business world and into the thoughts and lives of business executives. This year is the 44th year for the program at USI.

More about Larry May from the University of Southern Indiana’s post :

Larry May led Keller Schroeder’s transition from its founding owners to an Employee Stock Ownership Plan structure in 2004, fostering a highly-engaged ownership culture that serves more than 200 clients and 85 employee-owners. Prior to Keller Schroeder, he held technical and leadership positions in IT and human resources with Bristol-Myers Squibb. He earned a bachelor’s degree in computer systems management and a master’s degree in business administration from Murray State University.

usi-logoMay has been a resident of Evansville for 35 years and currently serves as the chairman of the board of United Way of Southwestern Indiana. He also serves as a Court Appointed Special Advocate for children (CASA) volunteer for Vanderburgh County. May has served as chairman of the IT Alliance advisory board for the Romain College of Business at USI.

May resides in Evansville with his wife Tammie. They have three children daughter Diana; son, Travis; and daughter, Carly, who is a CPA and recent accounting graduate of USI.


Vision Trumps Strategy

We businesspeople love our strategies.  We conduct strategy meetings and summits, develop strategic plans, and more.  And yet on a recent mission trip to El Salvador I was reminded, perhaps more vividly than ever, that vision trumps strategy.  If you don’t know your destination, a map for getting there is pretty useless.

 Sus-HijosKurt Ackermann is a missionary and founder of Sus Hijos (Spanish for “His Children”), a non-profit organization in El Salvador dedicated to serving orphaned and abandoned children, under-resourced families, and the homeless in this impoverished, crime-laden Central American country. This year was the second time I had served on a team hosted by Kurt and Sus Hijos.

To summarize Kurt’s passion for El Salvador, I would say he wants to help kids and families from “hard places” find their way socially, economically, and spiritually.  It should be no surprise, then, that a Sus Hijos mission team agenda typically includes serving and doing projects in orphanages, prisons, and transition homes for older youth.  Would it surprise you, though, if Sus Hijos opened a United States-themed diner in an upscale business and retail district in the capital city of San Salvador?

States DinerOn a trip with Kurt four years ago, I heard him share his dream of opening the “States Diner” as it is now called, a place where young adults who “age out” of orphanages can find employment, job skills training, and income when they would otherwise have nowhere to go but the streets.  Kurt didn’t come to El Salvador to start a diner.  He was drawn there by a vision to help lift up struggling kids and families in a country where there are very limited government support services.

While enjoying a couple of meals at the diner on my recent trip, I had the benefit of seeing its impact firsthand.  I saw hard-working, hope-filled smiling faces who are learning how to work, improving their English, learning new skills, and planning for their next step up after the Diner.  It was and is a highly-effective strategy for helping kids from “hard places,” and the strategy was born out of a compelling vision, not the other way around.

As business leaders, we can learn from Sus Hijos.  “Start with Why” (as eloquently suggested by Simon Sinek in his book and his popular video at TED.com), building a clear vision of why your organization or team exists.  Then “begin with the end in mind” (per Stephen Covey in his classic, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People).  The strategy for getting there is important and a worthy investment of time and energy, but only after your organization is healthy enough to know why and where you are going.

Planning and strategy have always been in my comfort zone as a businessman, yet the longer I work the less stoked I get about planning and strategy, and the more I find myself asking about the purpose and the destination of those plans and strategies.  The more I focus on the destination, the more I find my colleagues joining me with inspiration and aspiration for excellence.  As Kurt is so effectively demonstrating in El Salvador, a leader with a purpose can make a deep and lasting impact.

Larry May[President]


Building a High-Trust Culture

Building TrustTrust is a powerful thing.  It serves as a foundation for organizational success.  It builds bridges between people of different persuasions, allowing them to move forward together in a common direction.  I suppose our politicians, and our country as a whole, could benefit from a higher level of genuine trust… ya think?

In Keller Schroeder’s most recent, internal survey (we collect feedback anonymously about every three years), responses from our employee-owners were 95% favorable to the statement, “Management delivers on its promises”, and 96% favorable to, “Management’s actions match its words”.  Lest we too quickly conclude that trust is all about management, our staff also responded 99% favorably to both of the following statements:  “People care about each other here”, and “People avoid politicking and backstabbing as a way to get things done”.

While all of us at Keller Schroeder are humbled and blessed to work in such a positive, high-trust culture, we never endeavored specifically to build one.  No one ever said, “You know, we really need to increase trust here!”  So how does trust happen, and what contributes most to trust in the marketplace?

Avoidance of any major violations of trust is certainly important.  Keller Schroeder consists of about 85 high-integrity individuals who are trustworthy and honest.   But I would suggest that trust is more than a moral issue.  Of all the bosses in my career, the one I respected and trusted the least was, by most standards, a trustworthy person with high moral standards.  I trusted his morals, but I doubted his intentions.  Conversely, the people who have influenced me most have been ones in whom I could place complete trust.  These mentors, peers and bosses each had two things in common:  (1) all their cards were on the table – I knew their intentions – and (2) they had a genuine interest in me and in others, ahead of themselves.

These may sound like very different attributes – clear intentions and other-centered interests – but upon closer examination I believe they are very much related.  It is difficult to have all your cards on the table – to be completely open and honest about your intentions – when those intentions are primarily self-indulgent.  And, when you are genuinely interested in what is best for those around you, it is not difficult at all to be candid and transparent about your thoughts and plans.

We all know people who we absolutely do not trust, based on obvious reasons or personal history, but the overwhelming majority of those we interact with have the basic moral fiber to be trusted.  The development of a high-trust culture for your organization depends on your intentions and your interests.  If it is first about you, trust will be compromised.  If the well-being of your colleagues ranks high among your priorities, trust will grow.  This is a leadership principle which may start at the top, but we all have the opportunity to influence how our organization’s culture evolves.

So before we too quickly point upward or outward as it pertains to trust and culture, let’s look inward.  No organization can build trust.  Only individual members of an organization, on an encounter-by-encounter basis, can demonstrate the authentic interest in others necessary to build a healthy culture.

Larry May [President]


Cruise Control

KS Begin I-69As a long-time resident of Evansville, I had heard about the benefits of I-69 so many times, and had awaited its arrival for so long, that I actually became a bit numb to it.  But on a recent drive to Indianapolis, I was reawakened to its benefits.  I packed and dressed as usual for my trip, and then headed east on Lloyd Expressway to connect with I-69 north for the first time since it had been opened all the way to Bloomington.

It wasn’t until about 10 miles north of Evansville that I realized just how easy this 100-mile stretch was going to be.  I could set my cruise control only once, and my Toyota Highlander would need very little attention from me for the next 90 minutes.  All the stories and positive spin about I-69 were only theory to me until I experienced some of its advantages tangibly:

  1. Time savings
  2. Safety – reduced risk of obstacles and unanticipated hazards
  3. Predictability – reduced uncertainty about traffic conditions
  4. Opportunity – to think and plan and invest my attention and thoughts on things other than the challenges of two-lane traffic

KS Cruise ControlAren’t these benefits similar to what you are expecting out of your information technology investments?  As a business leader or IT professional, you are looking for opportunities to save time, reduce risk, and experience stable, predictable outcomes for non-mission-critical investments.  But you are also looking for advantage – leveraging technology to help you build and expand your business, create a greater impact, and make a lasting difference for the stakeholders to whom you are accountable.

The problem for I-69, and the similar challenge for IT solutions, is that the benefits are often difficult to imagine or quantify until you experience them firsthand.  When we can actually see the efficiencies, or feel the effects of streamlined operations, or close on a new opportunity made possible by a strategic investment months or years ago, the critics tend to move on to another topic, and the beneficiaries  wonder why it took us so long to deliver.

Those of us who might be championing a change, an investment, or a challenge to the status quo should expect a gravitational pull back toward what is comfortable and non-disruptive.  Like a rubber band being stretched, there is a constant tension against change and a propensity to snap back into a place that is normal and familiar.

Leaders must do more than dream about opportunity and investment.  We need to actively paint a picture of how things can be better so others can share the vision with us, and then we must bring people together who can execute a strategy to get there.

As for me, I’m thankful for an easier drive to Indianapolis.  The opportunity to set my cruise control today is made possible by those in years past who were willing to envision a better future, sell the benefits, and invest heavily toward the desired outcome.

Larry May [President]