Even with college and graduate degrees in business, figuring out how to run a business, with the changes we face on almost a daily basis, but certainly an annual basis, or on a slower evolutionary, basis, is challenging. I could say no one writes a book on how to run a business, but there are thousands of books on the subject, on macro and micro levels (though how often the writers have run a business is questionable). I say all this to say that, when running a business becoming acquainted with, or even friends with, similarly situated other business owners is beneficial in many ways. I realized this years ago in the photography world, and it has become even more important running a more complicated trial consulting practice. And, I’ve been fortunate to get to know several other small business owners; they are not really mentors, I’d say we are commiserators. One of these is Jack Suchocki. In his pre-litigation consulting days he was called Captain Jack Suchocki and he flew 757s, 727s, and other aircraft for Eastern Airlines. Jack is a bright guy and, knowing he would retire one day, he combined his knowledge of computers and aircraft to build a side business that evolved into a full time occupation. That business is as a consultant providing testimony and 3-D animations for litigation – with, no surprise, special expertise in aviation cases. I doubt that when he first started his company, Eyewitness Animations, Jack anticipated what would happen with Eastern, events that made his “retirement” happen sooner than it would have otherwise. Thus, Jack operates in the same realm as we do with the same types of clients. And, while I initially contacted Jack on purely a networking basis, we quickly became friends and commiserators. It has been fascinating to compare notes for years on the ups and downs of business. Interestingly, we find we are on different cycles of “too busy” or “not busy enough” – the peaks and valleys of small business, but we see many similarities and I think we learn from each other along the way. This may be in terms of marketing ideas, technology usage, or staffing issues. But, even with a business partner, it is important to know what others, in other businesses, are experiencing. As with other posts in this series, I want to mention one or two lessons I’ve learned from the contact, in this case, Jack. Jack is an early adapter of technology. A few years ago he was reading about a new product coming from Apple, the iPad. I had heard of it, but was not following the news very closely. I remember one particular lunch with Jack when he brought up the iPad and how he was anxious to get his hands on one. My response was, largely, “so what will this device do for me?” Jack said he thought tablet computing could change the way many businesses operate. My curiosity was piqued but I didn’t immediately grasp the scope of things that iPads (and other similar devices) and the apps they would offer. He was right, of course, as we have watched this type of technology develop. The point is there are tech leaders and I am fortunate to have had Jack to help me keep abreast of such technologies. He, and we, have found ways to use iPads, and other technologies, to stay on the leading edge be it in making presentations, for marketing, or for him, case/project management. In a large company, executives and managers can call on their peers in other departments to provide different point of view, different experiences, or expertise. Small business owners rarely have these resources, instead, we have to make our own and it has been, for me, an important part of my learning as we go and keeping up with the changes that all businesses experience. I hope you can find your own Jack!
David met Jack over 20 years ago when they were both members of a networking organization comprised of litigation consultants. The networking organization eventually ran its course, but the friendship between David and Jack remains until the present. Fortunately for Jack, but unfortunately for David and me, Jack moved to California two years ago, but we have maintained contact with him, in spite of our geographic separation. My first observation about Jack is that he is uber cool! He has the self assurance of someone who is used to being in charge. His stories about his glory days as an Eastern Airlines pilot are interesting, funny, and sometimes a little scary, but they are always entertaining. And, he has a certain charm I hope will eventually “rub off” on David. For example, when I described my ineptitude at docking David’s and my boat, sometimes resulting in bumping it against the dock, Jack said, “Don’t worry. As a former airline pilot, I know any landing is a safe landing!” in an attempt to put me at ease (instead of fuming over something that had already happened, in the way many people react!). Jack was the first person I knew to have an iPhone and an iPad; when everyone else’s phone’s were dumb, Jack was smart enough to know smart phones would be the norm within just a few years’ time. Interestingly, Jack is not a particularly young person (me either!), but he is a quick adapter to new, improved, technologies in a way that I admire. At the time when I am learning how to master current technology, Jack always manages to be several steps ahead, looking for what will be the next best thing. He is truly an inspiration to both David and me. (I will close with an un-funny pilot joke: Never say “Hi Jack” in the airport!)