By Arlin Sorensen, O and Founder of the Heartland Companies which includes HTG Peer Groups
I grew up in a family where advice was flowing most of the time, whether solicited or not. My dad was always providing his perspective on life and all things happening around us. For a lot of years, I really didn’t appreciate it so much. But as I grew older and actually began to listen to what he said, it suddenly became a lot more relevant. Now that he’s gone especially, I recognize the brilliance of much of what he shared and wish he were still here as I know I have more to learn.
When I think about the best advice I ever received, it has to be this line which my dad, a successful farmer and innovator in his own right, must have said hundreds of times over the years: “Don’t worry about what other people think about you, because they probably don’t.”
I see a lot of people worried about what other people might think. What will they think about the way I look or the clothes I wear? What will they think about the car I drive or where our office is located? What will people think about …..? You can fill in the blanks with your own questions. The simple truth of the matter is when we worry about that we’re really giving ourselves a whole lot of credit for gaining mindshare that I’ve discovered we really don’t have. The truth is that most others around us aren’t thinking about us at all. They’re trying to deal with the chaos and challenges in their own lives, not passing judgment or even considering what we might be doing.
Probably the one area this played out most significantly in my career was our decision to locate the office of our company in the middle of an Iowa cornfield. When I began SCCI/HTS back in 1985 (then called The Computer Connection), there were dozens of people who told me I couldn’t run a successful IT company out on the farm.
Thanks to my dad’s advice, I didn’t waste time worrying about how people might critique my location choice — too far away, roads weren’t good enough, no one would work out there, not enough access to connectivity (in later years) and on the list went. We chose to put the office right smack dab on the side of our home exactly in the middle of an Iowa cornfield. We intended to prove that “if you build it they will come,” which is an Iowa mindset, at least if you believe the Kevin Costner film Field of Dreams.
Over the 27 years HTS was headquartered on the farm, we saw it grow from a staff of one simple Iowa farm boy to a team of over 100 people. We went from the one office on our family farm to six offices across five Midwestern states. Revenue went from 13K the first year to over 18M at one point on that journey. All from the middle of an Iowa cornfield. It isn’t about location — it’s about serving clients well.
In this as in many instances throughout my life and career, I have been glad for my dad’s reminder: Don’t listen to the naysayers and certainly don’t make up things you think others are saying about you. They likely aren’t even thinking about you at all!
Arlin Sorensen serves as the CEO and Founder of the Heartland Companies which includes HTG Peer Groups. When he is not traveling to speak and consult, he is home on his farm in Iowa with his wife Nancy. He is a proud “Pop” to four precocious grandchildren who serve as daily reminders of why he is intentionally living to leave a strong legacy of faith and integrity. He loves making a difference in the lives and businesses of small business owners. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @asorensen.