What’s Your “Why”?

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My Vistage chair recently replayed Simon Sinek’s ted talk, “Start with Why”, in our monthly key group meeting. “Start with Why” is a commentary on what drives people to buy products or services, and suggests that people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.

This led to a group discussion with the obvious question: “What is your organization’s why?” This is the second time I’ve been asked that question in the past year, and the first time I struggled to verbalize what I felt about ACDi’s “why”. I knew it was something bigger then building circuit board assemblies. I used to think that it was to be the ‘most flexible’ or ‘fastest’ EMS firm, but that wasn’t it either (those are the ‘how’ by the way, not the ‘why’). As I mulled over this question, I found myself reflecting on my long career at ACDi, and asking myself…”why?”

You see, I interviewed with ACDi when I was 20yrs old. I just celebrated my 34th birthday and my 13th anniversary with the company. Aside from the fact that 20-somethings in my generation switched jobs every few years, that’s significant considering the business we are in. Contract manufacturing is hard. It’s near the bottom of the electronics food chain. Sometimes I feel we are at the bottom. People I first meet are often surprised to hear I’ve been in the industry so long (I’m sure it’s partly because I don’t look a day over 27), saying things like “Really? You’ve worked for a CM for how long?” It’s because they know how freaking hard it is!

So. Why? Why was a kid, who didn’t know a thing about circuit boards and had not one interest in electronics, drawn to this company? Why is it, that in my entire career since starting with ACDi, I have not updated my resume? Some have said I’m foolish and naïve. Others, who know me, don’t quite understand the reason for my commitment. Why have I chosen to stay in an increasingly difficult and unforgiving industry, with a company who has seen its fair share of ups and downs, where the hours are sometimes never enough, where the small miracles we perform every day are never really appreciated by the outside world for the hard work it really is, and where making margins is getting harder to do. When I think about it, ‘why’ is a legitimate question.

Last year Bill Hornbaker, ACDi’s owner, reflected on the company’s history in his blog post “ACDi’s 30th Birthday – A Reflection from the CEO.” He tells a story about ACDi’s start, its growth as a PCB design service bureau, its transition into contract manufacturing, and our 2012 multi-site expansion. And while you get a glimpse into what Bill and the ACDi employees have accomplished, that’s not the whole story. That’s only what ACDi has done over the years. You have to read the last sentence of the piece to capture the why: “We will continue to expand our offerings and will never stop striving to improve our current services.”

I was drawn to ACDi at first because I was drawn to a scene that always wanted and demanded more, and to an owner who was never satisfied with ‘good enough’. I stay with ACDi now because every day we fight to be better: To be better with each other, better with our clients, better with our services, better with our processes, better with our culture. It’s because of this that we have not only been able to survive in a challenging market, but we have been able to excel in many ways over and above our competitors. Often by coming through for our clients in ways no one else would do. And, even with all our accomplishments, I know we can be better, and we strive for it every day.

I often will playfully interject the saying “Well, this is the only job I’ve ever had, so help me understand…” something or other, typically when I’m debating a point with clients or peers. My short ‘resume’ doesn’t bother me, and I’m so proud to be part of an organization who has come so far from its small beginnings, and who knows it has much more to offer in the years to come.

 Simply Strive to Be Better. In all that you do. That’s our why.

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