Never Stop Learning
I learned early in life not to be afraid of digging into a piece of machinery to see how it worked. As a matter of fact, one of my earliest memories is of sitting on my dad’s lap in front of our dinner table, taking cameras apart and putting them back together again. The intricacy and attention to detail fascinated me. As I grew up, so did technology and so did my desire to learn even more. It led me to start my own company in 1999, and I’ve been digging into network architecture and security ever since.
Now Dad’s dinner table is the conference table in the offices of Sterling Ideas Inc, where my whole team works. What we do is multifaceted: We architect networks, secure data, monitor systems, train users. But why we do this job has remained the same. We work for the long-term good of our clients’ businesses. Our vision is to see our clients thrive. We’re always thinking of those our clients serve — their clients, their customers, their students, their patients. That’s what gets us up in the morning and keeps us working all day. Dad’s lessons live on.
How Does This Work?
Today I’m still doing the same thing, albeit on a much larger scale. Lawn mower doesn’t run? Take the carburetor apart, put it back together, and the lawn mower usually runs again. It’s curious the things you see and learn when you break something down to its pieces.
When I started working with computers, I was building them from scratch, piece by piece. I got to know them from the inside out. Nowadays I find that I tend to approach issues in the same way. Take it apart, look at each individual piece, see how it fits, determine what its purpose is, and put it back together again. A common phrase you’ll hear from me is, “Let’s put all the pieces on the table . . . ”
It changes everything, when you look at something not just at face value, but as a sum of parts—parts that you intricately understand. When something isn’t working, if you understand each piece, each connection, each function of every part, solving problems becomes much more efficient and effective.
You see, that’s what we do at Sterling Ideas. We take your entire IT system—infrastructure, hardware, software, applications—and we learn it, top to bottom, inside and out. We learn your systems, your company, your employees’ needs. We “take it apart and put it back together,” so that we have an intricate knowledge of your IT. We take the time to look at your unique, complex systems and find customized, intelligent solutions. There is no one-size-fits-all IT system, which means there are no one-size-fits-all solutions.
That is what we do for our clients. We learn their systems, optimize their infrastructure, and implement new technology where it enhances their business. We protect and defend their technology, solve problems, and create tailored technical solutions.
We get up every morning. We put all the pieces on the table. And we get to work.
Once I realized that my dreams of playing wide receiver for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were most likely not going to pan out, I pretty much knew that I wanted to work with my dad at the family company. I didn’t really know what my dad did on a day-to-day basis, but I did know that growing up with a tech guru in the house had its perks. I remember when he built a TiVo out of an old computer and we were able to record football games and fast forward through commercials long before it was a household concept. He taught both my mom and me how to do rudimentary HTML so that we could embed pictures into our eBay posts, taking our presentations to the next level. I never knew how, but he figured out how to program bots into Team Fortress II, an old cartoon video game that all the guys in my family used to play. This magic that my dad pulled off always intrigued me, and I wanted to learn it myself. He was also very busy by the time I was part-way through college, and we all knew that he needed another set of hands, so it only made sense for me to join the family business.
When I tell people that I work with my parents, I often get the same reaction — “Do you guys get along? I don’t know if I could work with my parents every day.” We’ve all heard someone say not to do business with friends if you want to stay friends. But I’m two-and-a-half years in, and I have always enjoyed working with my parents. We have a good relationship, but most importantly we have always prioritized that relationship. From the day I started, it was made clear that we would always be father-son first, not boss-employee. We have always made a conscious effort not to let work overrun our lives and become our relationship. I believe this is why we have such an unusually long client retention rate as well. We prize the relationships that we make. We don’t try to squeeze every last penny out of our clients or take advantage of them at every turn because, ultimately, we want what is best for our clients, not just another dollar. We want to see our friends’ and neighbors’ businesses grow and make an impact in our communities.
Now we do have to charge for our services because we put a lot of time, effort, and money into making sure that we provide the best service available. Just like my parents and I spend large parts of our lives discussing work, building plans, and studying our industry. But at the end of the day, we are family, not coworkers. Just like at the end of the day our clients are not just how we keep the lights on; they’re why we do it.
Remember That You Get What You Pay For
As a little girl, I adored dolls. I collected dozens of them and begged my parents to provide a lavish lifestyle for them: remote-controlled convertibles, dream homes, and even their very own cruise ship. While spending countless hours in pretend play, I also learned real-world lessons because every once in a while I would take a couple of bucks (literally) and buy a cheap knock-off doll, wanting the benefits of name brand without the added expense of the real thing.
Invariably, the cheap doll’s arms, legs, or even head would pop off and require forceful reassembling mid-play. I remember complaining to my mother about the deficiencies. She wisely responded with, “You get what you pay for.” It didn’t take long for me to understand that nothing had been saved; in fact, I had lost money.
It’s a lesson I’ve remembered all my life and one that has informed many decisions, everything from the minor (such as purchasing appliances for the home) to the major (such as educating my children). In my role as Service Manager at Sterling Ideas, it is my job to daily contemplate my role in serving not only our clients but also our employees, and it is then that my mother’s words come back to me: “You get what you pay for.”
This means we take good care of our employees. We invest in them personally and professionally because we want to see them thrive in all areas of their lives. It also means we take good care of our clients. We invest in solid, proven products that safeguard our clients’ businesses. We don’t skimp or make do. We are not interested in wasting our employees’ skills or our clients’ time and money. You see, we are old enough to know that “you get what you pay for.” It’s a sterling idea, and it makes for good business.
Do The Hard Work
Growing up in sleepy Citrus County, I had a couple options to fill the time that I didn’t spend in school: spend a lot of time out on the water, get super into video games, or play sports. I don’t like manatees and I sunburn easily, and my mom had the good sense to limit the amount of time we sat staring at a TV. Sports it was.
Starting at the young age of 12, I was spending 10 or 12 hours a week in volleyball practices and games. As a middle school athlete, life was pretty simple. Go to practice, try hard, go home. Show up on game days and hope for the best. Winning and losing didn’t really matter. Repeat the next day.
As I got older, I had a decision to make. I could either keep showing up when I was told and leaving as soon as I could, doing the minimum amount of work I had to, or I could commit myself. I could workout on my own and get stronger. I could show up early to practices and stay late. I could help the younger players on the team progress, knowing that it takes a whole team to win. I decided not to do the bare minimum. I committed.
So, by the time my junior and senior years rolled around, I was a three-sport varsity athlete spending 1 or 2 hours a day in the gym, 2-3 hours a day at practices, and about an hour a day watching film. All of a sudden, winning and losing did matter. Playoff brackets, district titles, and college scholarships hung in the balance. The hard work of sports wasn’t done on game days. It was done at 5:30 in the morning in an empty gym and at 11:30 at night, watching film on the bus. I learned to put in the hard work while no one was watching because if you wait to work hard until someone is watching, it’s too late.
This is why I love working at Sterling Ideas. We do the hard work, day in and day out. We’re up early and we work late. We don’t wait until everyone is watching to do what needs to be done. We don’t start working hard when you run into big problems; we work hard to make sure you don’t have big problems. We aren’t clocking in at 8:59 and clocking out at 5:00, hoping it’s enough to stay afloat. We care too much about you and your company to show up on game day and hope for the best. Your company, your employees, and the good work you do all hang in the balance. At Sterling Ideas, we’ve decided not to do the bare minimum. If we wait to work hard until someone is watching, it’ll be too late. We’re committed to you.
“The team at Sterling Ideas provides professional service at a level of excellence. As an IT Director, I know my IT Infrastructure is in great hands. In the Healthcare Industry, technology rapidly changes, and Sterling Ideas is always ready to help us with the next big project.”
– IT Director • 10-Office Medical Practice across Central FL • Client for 15 years