218: Map your networking out - with Steve Fry
Meet Steve Fry
Co-founder of a number of businesses, including two that have made the Inc. 500 and Inc. 5000 Lists. Today, Steve spends his time matchmaking organizations that genuinely want to grow or increase collaboration with a team of experts in E-Commerce, M365/SharePoint and Digital Marketing. Steve serves on a number of boards where he gets to see up close how non-profits work. Having been to about 70 countries, Steve loves to travel with his wife, Jan. They have two grown daughters and live in suburban Des Moines.
Tell us a little bit about your company and what exactly it is that you do and introduce the company in general?
We have a couple of companies, but they're all under the banner of spindustry. And we're based in the suburbs of Des Moines, Iowa. And we do really two major things. The first would be large scale web application development. And as a part of that would be replacement parts e-commerce. We do a lot of that. And then the other side of our business is Microsoft Office 365. And as a part of that platform, we do a lot of work with SharePoint, Teams, Power BI, and some of the tools within that suite to move businesses to the cloud. As people are working more and more remotely, that is a platform that is very busy for us and serves our clients well.
How did you get into this space and tell us a little bit about your background?
It started about 35 years ago, when I first got out of school, I went to work for an insurance company and then I moved to Iowa back in 1990. I was involved for a number of years with an exporting business. We sold old firefighting and safety equipment that was manufactured in United States, but all of our clients were international. And I, for a number of years, covered Asia Pacific. So, from Japan down to Australia, and then back west to India, and got to do a lot of traveling. And that was back in the day when we didn't have email. And we didn't have the ability to communicate like we do today. And then in in 1996, we started a new company. I met a guy when I was working in a product fulfillment business, Michael Bird, he's my business partner. And he helped us in the exporting business to automate everything that we were doing. And he just did a wonderful job and he was entrepreneurial. And my business partner and I and other businesses decided to, you know, let's start a new business.
Where do you see the future of business going today?
So I in my business career, I have seen incredible change. I remember When I was early in my career, the fax machine became a prominent feature in most offices. And that was a revolutionary tool that you could actually send something, a piece of paper for from one office to another. And we do so many things that I couldn't have thought of 30 years ago, even 10 years ago, we do things today, we wouldn't have thought of. And I think looking forward there's more change. I think there'll be careers that people do 10 years from now that don't exist today. I know a lot of people are involved in social media work today. Well, if you go back maybe 10 or 12 years ago, that's really when that all started and there was nobody working in social media today. That's a big, big business.
Can you share with our listeners your most successful or one of your favorite networking stories that you had?
I have belonged to a breakfast club for several years now. It meets twice a month, and this is going back about 10 years. One morning after we had our bimonthly breakfast, one of the members that I had just met but didn't really know him very well came up to me and we were chatting and he said he thinks he may have a client for me. It was a hog farmer in northwestern Iowa. And I looked at him and I said, Jim, do you know what I do? And he laughed. And he said I think you'd be surprised, and I thought, I don't know how we're going to help a hog farmer in northwestern Iowa. But I will tell you in the 10 years since, between that relationship and about three or four other relationships, this same gentleman has referred me to and networked with me to find these opportunities. I'm going to say we've done at least a couple of million dollars’ worth of business for those clients. And it's all been I joined that breakfast club.
As a global traveler has met a ton of people throughout your professional and personal career, how do you stand in front of them best nurture these relationships that you've created?
Our business follows the attraction program or entrepreneurial operating system, EOS. And I have quarterly rocks. And I think almost always one of my rocks is that I have to meet with at least one influencer a week for lunch. Sometimes it's two or three people in a week. I also will sometimes bring people in for lunch, bring them a box lunch and just showcase some of the things that we do so they can have a better and better understanding of what our organization does to serve clients and companies. I send out a monthly e-newsletter. That's a private email just to my group of influencers. It's just like, I always put just two things, two points in there that I want to let them know. And it's just a way to keep our business front of mind for those for those folks as they go.
What advice would you offer that business professional who's looking to grow their network?
I think the key there is just always be looking for ways to get connected and involved. And so places that you might do that would be business associations. There's a lot of associations for every business. There's community leadership programs, we have a statewide leadership program. And it's great to be able to get connected with people on a on a broader network across every industry. I play golf. I belong to a country club, and I play golf, and I get to meet a lot of people that way. And there's nothing better than spending four hours playing golf with somebody to get to know them and then have a beer afterwards. That's a great way to get connected otherwise people might not ever be able to, you might not ever get a meeting with somebody but I've had the chance to golf with some people that are pretty cool and have helped me out a lot.
Between digital networking and traditional networking, which one do you find more value?
They're both equally important in my world, and I'm one of the oldest people in the office. I do things from a traditional standpoint, like handwritten thank you notes that nobody else does anymore. I still think they're important. And then I get good feedback from those. I do those sorts of things. And I do use the phone and I do go to lunch. When I to do a networking lunch, it's often how can I help you get connected to somebody else? Because if I take care and help you matchmake to an opportunity, long term, I know you'll think of me when the time is right.
If you could go back to your 20 year old self, what would you tell yourself to do more of, less of, or differently with regards to your professional career?
I think I always mimicked the best people in the business that I was associated with. When you talk about networking, it's just getting to know people and not being afraid to ask for a mentor to ask how do you do things? How have you asked successful people? How have you gotten to where you are, and they're always willing to help you, particularly when you're young and when you're young, or you're starting a new job, or you're in some new space within your current job, people like to help. So don't be afraid to ask for help. And so look for opportunities, get involved, jump in, even when you don't know anybody or you're uncomfortable.
Any final word or advice for our listeners with regards to growing and supporting your network?
If you will approach networking with the idea that you're trying to give more than you are to get, you'll end up getting plenty. It's just like when you give Christmas presents, I don't know about you, but I think for most people, it's more fun to give than to receive sometimes. And I think that same thing is true for networking.
How to connect with Steve