Time. There are so many quotes and books and scientific deliberations on the topic. Some say it flies. Others say it is relative. And a few believe it to be money. They are all right. Time is everything and nothing all at the same time.
In previous blogs, I have waxed philosophical on my thoughts regarding time. Because of who is important to me, time spent with those most important to me is my most precious asset. I have a finite amount to enjoy, but I view memories, experiences, and learnings made with others as a way of gifting myself and others with more time because they can outlive us.
Recently, Jenn Cox, our Marketing Coordinator, asked me some thoughtful questions that made me pause and reflect as the advent of our 10-year anniversary nears. The essence of time was once again demonstrated by the quality of memories, experiences, and learnings I have accumulated over the last 10 years.
Why was Cognascents founded?
After selling my last company, Celerity3 Engineering, to Lloyd’s Register in 2008, I tried to work within LR for about two years. I am embarrassed to say that I was that cliché small-company entrepreneur who could not transition to a support executive role within a large organization. Business seemed to happen slower and cost more and be less customer-focused. I contemplated taking time off and playing more golf and doing more hunting, but my four children needed to see me work hard as they were very much in their formative years. It also did not seem prudent to fiddle away years of potentially good production. By the summer of 2010, I knew I had to start planning my next business adventure and Cognascents was born on November 5th, 2010.
What were the original goals for Cognascents?
The original goals for Cognascents were simple:
- Satisfy the entrepreneurial drive in me to “build” something.
- Provide a noble outlet to serve my professional and personal communities.
- Afford a lifestyle where work and life are not two sides of a scale that need to be in constant balance.
- Create a sustainable company in line with conscious capitalism and conservative virtues.
How have those goals been achieved? Have they changed from the original goals? If yes, why?
The first 10 years did afford me time with my wife and children that serving a large company may not have allowed. I served the Scoutmaster role in my son’s Scout Troop for three years after being an Assistant Scoutmaster for the previous two years. We bought a property out in the country and have spent many days and nights getting away from the hustle and bustle of the big city. I know my ambition within a large organization would have hampered some of these activities.
We have hired great people and have seen their lives develop with several of them getting married within the past 10 years. We have supported the families of our employees as their children work through school and other extracurricular activities such as volleyball and FFA. We have danced, laughed, and cried together as a Cognascents community as we enjoy and endure the trials and tribulations of life.
Achieving goals at a company is kind of like achieving a certain weight when you go on a diet. You may achieve your target weight, but then the challenge transforms from losing to maintaining weight. And perhaps later you move from maintaining weight to building muscle. I like to think we are on the cusp of a muscle-building phase. Our goals will shift to accommodate an anticipated phase of focused growth, which will require us to adapt how we apply our flexibility and discipline.
What has been the biggest challenge? Biggest win?
Managing through economic turmoil is always challenging, but the oil crash that started in 2015 and continued into 2016 was an especially tough time to work through. 2016 was and remains my only “red” year. What stung me the most was not the loss of profit, but the loss of people…of friends. Ultimately, I am responsible for leading a company and providing livelihoods to employees. When I have to let someone go, I take it very personally because we are not a “body-shop”…we are family.
2016 put me on guard, Harvey in 2017 validated the need to always stay on guard, so COVID-19 in 2020 found us on guard. My wife and I, as well as our core leadership team, have always approached finances and business growth cautiously. Growth may be positive, but it may also come with a heavy burden if not managed and sustained…and sometimes external factors hit you hard when you least expect it. We do not fear growth and we still strive for it; however, we are very careful about how we grow and assess opportunities for their long-term potential rather than a short-term gain.
Regarding our biggest win, I do feel we may be experiencing our biggest win as we live through, work through, and grow through 2020 despite its many challenges. We have not let anyone go. In fact, we have grown our team in the last several months. We quickly adapted our organization and services to the COVID-19 virtual business mode of operation. We have aggressively pursued business to ensure our employees and their families feel safe and secure on the professional front, which hopefully affords them more physical, mental, and spiritual bandwidth to tackle the many personal challenges of living during this pandemic. If we can stay the course until an upswing in the economy, then this will be our biggest win.
What is our direction for the next 10 years?
Great question! I have already alluded to a focused growth phase. On the home-front, I am finding myself with freed up bandwidth. I am shifting more of my time and energy to the company as my children are becoming more independent and self-reliant. I would like to increase the revenue brought in by asset integrity and PSM services. I can easily see us being a 100-person company by 2030 with well-established brands in the asset integrity and PSM industries. I would also like to develop a third line of service to diversify our company’s offering and further safeguard against economic downturns. Software and environmental solutions are definitely getting a strong look these days.
But at the end of the day, it is all about people. Our direction for the next 10 years will always be focused on serving our employees, clients, and communities with competence and compassion. I firmly believe our ability to stay personally connected as we help others be better will serve as one of our greatest competitive advantages moving forward.