Recently, I had the opportunity to sit down and talk with Ryan Lakin, CEO and Founder of IronEdge, a cutting edge technology group and managed service provider in Houston and San Antonio.
We met at a restaurant overlooking downtown Salt Lake City.
He sent me an email and let me know that he would be around for a few days. I moved some things around in order to make sure I didn’t miss the opportunity to sit down with him and get to know him better.
The reason I’m writing this is because of how much we’ve loved doing business with Ryan. But sitting down with him revealed so much more than just a businessman.
Ten stories up, and overlooking the Salt Lake City downtown as we ate, I became acquainted with a side of Ryan that I hadn’t yet known.
Ryan had always been a straight shooter. He always just lets you know exactly what’s on his mind. If there were concerns or issues, he’d let you know, but would always do so in a way that was positive, constructive, and helpful.
But during our lunch together, we spent very little time talking about the business of business, or even the digital marketing services that we provide for him and his company. Instead, I was able to get a glimpse into some of the things that were important to him.
What I learned is that Ryan is an extremely thoughtful guy. My team and I were already extremely grateful for the mugs he had sent us as a gift early on in the relationship. We’re usually the ones sending gifts to our clients, but Ryan, even though he was the one paying us for marketing services, went out of his way to send our team a gift.
You can learn a lot about a person just from the simple obervance of how one treats their vendors or employees.
He looked at us as a true partner and not just a temporary vendor that he could get as much out of in a short period of time. He showed that he cared and it immediately endeared him to our company.
I see our team, behind the scenes wanting to go above and beyond for Ryan and his company because of his small acts of caring.
That’s a lesson to be learned. If you want to get the best effort out of a relationship, a vendor, a friend, a boss, an employee or anyone else you’re going to deal with in life, then show a little care and it will yield far greater results than if you didn’t. You’ll get that person’s best self.
As Ryan and I continued talking, I also got a sense for how much he cares about his own team. He talked about his desire for them to get along, to learn and to grow, and for his desire to invest in them and their education and development.
I got a sense while we were talking about how important the culture of his company was to him. And then it reminded me of a sales call I once heard him take.
As the CEO of multi-million dollar Houston managed service provider, he still takes the time to pick up sales calls himself.
During this sales call, an older woman, probably in her 70’s or 80’s, dialed the wrong number and Ryan picked up the phone on behalf of IronEdge. For some reason, this lady was really upset because she was just certain that she had dialed the right number.
She kept going on and on, almost as if she was lonely in her old age and had no one to talk to. She went on a rant for about 5 minutes. Most sales guys, and especially most other CEOs would have either hung up on the lady after this started happening or found a way to quickly get off the phone.
They don’t want to waste their time, especially when there’s a mean old woman on the other end of the call.
But Ryan did the exact opposite. He listened to her and turned the situation into a positive experience even though this woman had wasted 15 minutes of his time and could literally do nothing for him.
It wasn’t like she was a potential lead or the mom of a potential lead. She would have no impact on his business and he would literally never talk to her again. He could have easily dismissed her as crazy and hung up.
But he slowed down and treated this lady like a human being. By the time they got off the phone, this woman had made a new friend. It might have been the highlight of her year.
To me, it was an act of kindness that is lost on the majority of the world these days. “Time is money” they’ll say. Well, Ryan gave his time to be kind in lieu of money.
It probably didn’t mean much to him, but it meant a lot to me as I observed it happening.
Finally, as our lunch went on, I could tell how much he cares about his family. Having written a book about Fatherhood and being fiercely committed to being a good husband and father myself, I kept keying in on Ryan’s desire to be with his family and make them a priority in his life.
That is also a rare characteristic among the CEO’s of our day.
The time flew as Ryan and I talked and soon it was time to go. He gave me some great ideas and feedback, thanked me for spending lunch with him, and off he went.
Toward the end of our lunch, and before dropping him off at his hotel, I remember telling him specifically how therapeutic my lunch was with him. It was absolutely therapeutic.
So if you are ever considering doing business with Ryan, partnering with Ryan, or working for Ryan, then I’m certain that you’ll be in good hands.