“When the going gets tough, the tough get going”, Michael Morey of Bluebird Network and Parveen Panwar, Mr. Activated

People say, “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.” However, I think “When the going gets difficult, the going get calm.” Some strategies that I would advocate for are: 1. When there are difficult things ahead of you, focus on the task at hand. 2. Make a plan, stick to the plan, keep […]

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People say, “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.” However, I think “When the going gets difficult, the going get calm.” Some strategies that I would advocate for are: 1. When there are difficult things ahead of you, focus on the task at hand. 2. Make a plan, stick to the plan, keep marching to the end goal. 3. Take action, that’s all we can do today. 4. Once you put a plan down, document it and execute it.

As a part of our series about “Optimal Performance Before High Pressure Moments”, I had the pleasure of interviewingMichael Morey.

Mr. Morey has been serving as President and CEO of Bluebird Network since 2012. With more than 38 years of telecommunications experience, Morey has served as President & CEO of Voxitas (which received INC 5000 honors in 2007, 2008 and 2009), Senior Vice President at NuVox, Regional Vice President of Electric Lightwave, Inc. and has held various management positions within his 13 years at AT&T.

During his tenure at Bluebird Network, the company has more than doubled in size and tripled in annual revenue. Morey’s experience and strong management skills were underscored when Bluebird Network received INC 5000 honors in 2013, 2014, 2016 and 2017 as one of the fastest growing private companies nationally. Due to this success, the company was acquired in 2019, expanding Bluebird’s offerings and setting the stage for further growth.

Morey earned a BS and MBA while attending the University of Southern California.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive into the main focus of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?

I was born in San Diego (SD) and attended Kate Sessions Elementary, Earl Warren Jr. HS and Torrey Pines HS. I left at 17 to go to University of Southern California to get my Architecture degree and then MBA in 1982. My father was the county manager of SD County. He was perhaps the most honest man I’ve ever known, and he led me to want to do good for the community. I thought about the Air Force and being a pilot, but I had migraine headaches. They said I couldn’t be a pilot, so I went to the commercial side.

When I was a kid in Jr. High, I got really into volcanos — and later earthquakes due to living in SoCal — and that made me want to be a scientist at CalTech. Then I learned about buildings being supported by structural engineering though earthquakes, so I started drafting classes and entered competitions, and I started winning. That’s when I decided I wasn’t going into the government and wasn’t going into the military, and decided to go into the architecture route.

Later on, I learned the real big cheese wasn’t the architect or the lead designer, but it was the guy who hired them — the developer. So, I decided to meld the MBA with architecture and be a land developer…however, when I graduated undergrad, 18 percent interest rates across the U.S. meant no one was building or developing land. So I stayed in school, got my MBA and went on to interview with companies at the time of the divestiture of the bells. AT&T offered me a position, and I spent the next 13 years there.

What or who inspired you to pursue your career as an entrepreneur or business leader? We’d love to hear the story.

It was my dad. He was powerful, honest, respected — and a man who cared about people. I always wanted to be like him. While I’ve accomplished a lot, I haven’t come close to approximating what he accomplished in his life.

None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Was there a particular person who you feel gave you the most help or encouragement to be who you are today? Can you share a story about that?

Again, it’s my father. He taught me to be honest and ethical and care about the people around me. I was once at a cocktail party back home when on break from college, and I told some folks I was studying business. They commented I had to be prepared to “lie, cheat and steal” to get ahead, and I told them, “I guess I’m not going to get ahead in business then.”

Can you share the funniest or most interesting mistake that occurred to you in the course of your career? What lesson or take away did you learn from that?

I’ve only worked for 6 companies in my whole professional career. One mistake I made was staying at AT&T for 13 years. I should have left after 8. I learned and accomplished as much as I could and won a top spot award. I watched as the cellular ship left the dock at 8 years, and I ended up getting off five years later when the internet and CLEC ship was leaving the dock. I’ve spent about 7 years at each job. My advice — the lesson — is I think people that jump around never seem to accomplish a lot. I think they need to make sure to make something happen.

The road to success is hard and requires tremendous dedication. This question is obviously a big one, but what advice would you give to a young person who aspires to follow in your footsteps and emulate your success?

This is similar to the previous question — I see nowadays with people coming up from their career that they are jumping for the next best thing. They tend not to accomplish as much. I’ve seen those resumes. I’ve interviewed those candidates. The point should be making a difference in every position you take. Otherwise you’ve wasted your time. You have to accomplish something; and that’s different than doing a job. Accomplished people are valuable.

Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

“Getting to Yes.” Everyone who wants to be a better communicator and negotiator should read it.

Can you share your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Why does that resonate with you so much?

“Why put off till tomorrow what you can just as easily accomplish today?”

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?

When it comes to my work, what I really care about are the people that work here and the customers. I try to help people every day. We’re growing Bluebird from a very successful regional business to a very successful and growing super-regional business — we’re doing a system of large fiber builds, and working tuck-in acquisitions along the way.

OK, thank you for all of that. Let’s now shift to the core focus of our interview. As a business leader, you likely often face high stakes situations that involve a lot of pressure. Most of us tend to wither in the face of such pressure and stress. Can you share with our readers 3 or 4 strategies that you use to cope with the burden of stress?

People say, “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.” However, I think “When the going gets difficult, the going get calm.” Some strategies that I would advocate for are: 1. When there are difficult things ahead of you, focus on the task at hand. 2. Make a plan, stick to the plan, keep marching to the end goal. 3. Take action, that’s all we can do today. 4. Once you put a plan down, document it and execute it.

Do you have a special technique to develop a strong focus, and clear away distractions?

I use a to-do list. I schedule time to talk to people. I stay focused on the task/conversation at hand by not spreading myself across multiple tasks at one time.

We all know the importance of good habits. How have habits played a role in your success? Can you share some success habits that have helped you in your journey?

To-dos. Prioritizing sets of tasks and working on them every day. It also helps me to trust in good people, and I trust to let go of the responsibility to those people. The corollary — I don’t trust in people who I’ve decided are not good. It’s best practice to move them out of your organization as quickly as you can.

As a business leader, you likely experience times when you are in a state of Flow. Flow has been described as a pleasurable mental state that occurs when you do something that you are skilled at, that is challenging, and that is meaningful. Can you share some ideas from your experience about how we can achieve a state of Flow more often in our lives?

This is a constant state of mind. I have two modes that I work on. The first is the ‘Get Work Done’ mode. I’m using email and to-do’s — they’re rote, they’re not high-level thinking problems. I’ve been in these situations a thousand times. I’m clicking them off. Yes, no. Approved, not approved. But I always allocate time for more active thinking. Yesterday I allocated time — 3 hours — for thinking. I didn’t respond to emails. I put time into it. I start to visualize how these things come together, taking time to stop the day-to-day stuff every two or three days. This could be thinking about how to prepare a board package. A board package is “my review.” How am I going to capture what we’ve accomplished in the past three months, how am I showing off our current strategy and how it’s changing, how is the current environment changing and how does it affect us?

Ok, we are nearly done. You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

Bill Gates and his wife have already started it. They’re the largest contributors to the world with their wealth. They try to think about donations like a business. Where can we maximize our giving for the greatest good of the world? Malaria, sanitized water, etc? They have so many other things they work on. They’ve inspired smart investments around them.

Also, a movement I’d love to see is a recognition that when you’re successful enough, not everything has to be about money. What about people who don’t have enough money? I’m in favor of doing things that are best for the most people, and I vote for those things. I’m okay with letting go of what’s best for me or my financial gain in order to vote for what’s best for the most people. I encourage people to vote, and I encourage them to vote for the greater good of the people.

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we both tag them 🙂

Bill and Melinda Gates, just to thank them.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

Thank you for these excellent insights, and we greatly appreciate the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success.

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