Know when to say no, and don’t say yes to everything. In my world of IT, sometimes projects or clients aren’t the best fit for us. You’re evaluating them just as much as they’re evaluating you in some cases. As much as I want to help everyone, it’s important to make sure the skills, values, and everything else aligns with both companies, and it’s okay if they don’t. You both can move forward separately.
As part of my series about the leadership lessons of accomplished business leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Sean Ferrel.
Sean founded Managed Solution in 2002 after receiving his degree from the University of San Diego. Sean recognized the need for consultative IT services for small-to-medium and enterprise clients. With little capital, Sean and his dedicated team grew the company organically to success. Within 3 years, the company was recognized as one of San Diego’s 40 fastest growing companies, awarded one of the 40 companies with owners under 40 years old and recognized as the 27th fastest growing IT company in Southern California.
Sean Ferrel had a vision of building a company culture of like-minded individuals, with the number one focus on the people, serving not only businesses but the people within those businesses. Having a team that supports one another, provides the highest level of support for their customers and wants to continuously learn and grow to help the business grow is the driving factor of why he started Managed Solution in 2002. As a natural-born servant leader, helping his clients and mentoring his team drives his energy. Having the mentality of “whatever it takes to get the job done” is the culture Sean built at Managed Solution to see both his team and his clients succeed. He wants his team to think of their role as more than a day to day job, and to really think of how each and every part of his team reflects on the business and impacts other company’s day to day operations.
Sean has a huge heart and enjoys helping people by sharing his innovative ideas and continuing to coach and build the best team that makes a difference by achieving the ultimate customer satisfaction. Sean’s drive to provide value was achieved when he built a company of exemplary service in the IT arena.
Today, Managed Solution is a nationally recognized full-service technology provider with a corporate culture that promotes an unmatched service to support thousands of customers.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us the story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Since I was a young kid, I always had a lot of different entrepreneur “projects”. For example, I remember I would head down to the local golf course and fetch golf balls either in the trees or in the water and bring them home, clean up and sell them in 1 and 3 packs. Then I realized golfers needed to stay hydrated while they played, so I added soda and water to my “shop”. I was always looking for ways to make money and provide what people needed.
When I got to high school, I was part of student government and ran the student body. I never wanted to follow in anyone’s footsteps. I wanted to run things differently than done in the past, for the better.
Then after college, I graduated and found myself working for in IT project management but I really wanted to make more of a difference in what I was doing. I was truly amazed at the talent of these technologists and essentially thought I could find a better way for them to use those talents to serve customers. Just like anything in life (teams, organizations, military, etc), it takes a team and I wanted to find the right puzzle pieces to put it all together to excite our clients. That’s when I decided I’d start my own technology business out of my bedroom. I would walk door to door trying to find the right people to talk to about their technology and how I could help.
Today, while Managed Solution is still my main focus, I’ve had some other fun side projects. As an avid fisher, one of my favorites is buying and fixing up boats to resell. I’m really just always looking for different ways to how to do things and make a difference. Overall, my primary goal in running a business is allowing my people to become the best they can be together, and that creates a well-oiled machine.
Can you share one of the major challenges you encountered when first leading the company? What lesson did you learn from that?
You definitely learn perseverance in the beginning. I heard a lot of ‘nos’ and had to trying and find the ‘yes’ in those, meaning learning why people said no. For one example, when I first started and I’d go door to door, even maybe if there was a ‘no soliciting’ sign — my intentions were good. I have integrity and I want to do right by people and our potential customers, but I wasn’t always met with welcoming arms. In the beginning and throughout you learn a lot about grit and perseverance, and you just have to keep moving. You can’t let it stop you or bring you down. You’ll find the right people as long as your intentions are good.
What are some of the factors that you believe led to your eventual success?
I think what’s led not just myself, but all of us to our success is simply understanding the people you surround yourself with. Having the ability to figure out first and foremost what they want and what motivates and drives them and adapting your coaching style to fit their personality and goals. Next you take your vision and allow them to execute in alignment with that vision. It’s really important to give your employees a voice and make them heard. Without the mindset of servant leader, you won’t get anywhere. I believe in upside down pyramid when it comes to running the business. If you understand what everyone wants and are in alignment, the execution becomes the easy part.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became CEO”? Please share a story or example for each.
- Failing is an option — You need to learn from your mistakes and feeling good about failing is okay. For example, a mistake may lead you down a different path that you wouldn’t have otherwise encountered. Or it makes you better for the next time and you succeed.
- Everybody processes things differently and it takes time — There are many factors to running a business and sometimes there’s challenges and hiccups or things don’t go your way. I would have to process that, and then I need to talk to the various leaders or employees at the organization about it. After telling whatever it is to someone else, it’s important to understand they need their time to process it, too. Once you have, then you can determine best path forward.
- Know when to say no, and don’t say yes to everything. In my world of IT, sometimes projects or clients aren’t the best fit for us. You’re evaluating them just as much as they’re evaluating you in some cases. As much as I want to help everyone, it’s important to make sure the skills, values, and everything else aligns with both companies, and it’s okay if they don’t. You both can move forward separately.
- Take the path less followed. Albert Einstein said something like insanity is repeating the same thing and expecting different results. I think it’s so critical now to differentiate yourself and try something new. You might end up with a new service or product as a result.
- Learn how to face rejection — in some cases, it can lead to acceptance. This goes back to what I was saying about perseverance, as well as #3 here. It’s okay if things don’t work out, just keep plugging away.
What advice would you give to your colleagues to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
We need to celebrate all the positives and all the wins — no matter how big or small. And don’t get hung up on negative. Look for the higher meaning in all that you do, in work and in everyday life. Reflection is very important . Reflect on whatever industry you’re in, sit back for a moment and see what you did. For me, we’ve recently helped companies enable remote work and this allows them to be healthy and safe, or spend more time with family and have a better work life balance. We didn’t just give them technology. It’s really important to see the bigger picture.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
Jennell Mott has been instrumental in Managed Solution’s success. She’s there all day, every day and has been since the beginning — she was my second employee. She always has my back and challenges my thinking, too. I think we make a pretty great team. Additionally, my 5th grade teacher was really influential. He encouraged me a lot. I remember I made a house around my school desk with cardboard and sold lemon zests for 10 cents out of it. He always told me my brain has so many different ideas all the time, and it was inspiring. He told me to never give up on those ideas.
What are some of the goals you still have and are working to accomplish, both personally and professionally?
One thing I want to do is take Managed Solution and the amazing group of people there and start up other technology businesses together. In the long term, I want to see if I can leverage technology, my expertise and the people I’ve worked with put it towards saving our animals, plants, and ocean. I’m really passionate about both and would love to bring those two together in some way.
What do you hope to leave as your lasting legacy?
I want people to think of me as curious about everything and everybody. I’m constantly trying to learn more, and I love it. I really want to understand how people and humanity as a whole. What drives people and what doesn’t. I hope I’m remembered as a life long learner and someone who used technology to empower people for a greater good.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would enhance people’s lives in some way, what would it be? You never know what your idea can trigger!
At our core were all human beings. In that inner core we have our personalities and characteristics and traits, And we also have a lot of influence from the outside, but the only person who knows you the best is yourself. I’m fascinated by self study and self understanding. Self understanding is critical to being your best you. I’m really always trying to uplift people, whether it be my family, friends, colleagues, employees, customers, partners, etc. f I can find a way to help people — even in the slightest — look deeper inside themselves to find their true self and see how good they are, that would be truly something. I think enabling people to do that allows them to really see the best in themselves and as a result, the world is a better place.
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