In many ways, growing up on my family’s farm laid the foundation for my ambitions as a broadband solutions provider today. There are many advantages to living in the country away from the hustle of non-stop city life; but the disadvantages were made clearer with the dawn of the internet. Once broadband hit the cities, people realized how cut off rural areas could be from modern conveniences. However, they also saw how much easier broadband could make the regular business of life.
I think the lessons I learned from my rural upbringing can apply to other business leaders as well.
TECHNOLOGY IS “FARMING BETTER”
Farmers are always looking to do their work better, more efficiently, and with bigger product yields, and they look to the newest technology for solutions. To my dad, having the right tractor for the right job was a huge accomplishment, and I grew up watching him constantly cycle through those tractors, trading one every couple of years to keep up-to-date with the best models. He was always looking to farm better.
The lesson here for business leaders is that you may not necessarily need a new piece of technology, but if it’s faster and has more power, you may find new applications for it to help you work better and more efficiently.
TECHNOLOGY CAN CONNECT PEOPLE
My family’s farm was 10 miles from school, four miles from church, and two and a half miles from my dearest friend. Think about that isolation before the internet. Seeing my friends on Sunday morning at church—friends from school that weren’t farm girls like me—was the only time I really ever saw them for most of the summer. Today, thanks to the capacity of broadband to connect people, such a description sounds so bizarre.
Because of the challenges I faced growing up without technology, I find myself now as a leader more open to the full scope of what it offers—from staying close with employees to providing better customer care. Broadband would have made relationships so much easier back then, and as more businesses are moving to remote or hybrid models, I see the ever-growing necessity for it. Access to technology can really change lives, especially in a time when so many people are working from home alone. Leaders should take advantage of the benefits that technology like broadband can offer their business, such as better connectivity and thus more opportunities for collaboration, empathy, and productivity. These advantages support not only your organization but the people in it as well.
NOTHING SHOULD BE TAKEN FOR GRANTED
Experiencing life on the farm without broadband before coming to a city with abundant connectivity taught me to never take anything for granted. I think I see a bigger picture when it comes to overcoming worst-case scenarios because I’ve lived through both extremes. When the pandemic hit, for example, my business was prepared to pull itself back together through pre-existing remote connectivity mechanisms—considerations I included in my business because of my empathy for isolation from a team.
All of the things we normally take for granted become a much bigger deal in times of crisis, so business leaders need to be prepared for the unexpected. Nothing is guaranteed, and some events are simply out of our control. For example, if my company was to reach our goal of universal fiber-fed broadband, as a leader, I’d still need to plan for what would happen if we lost it in the event of a tragedy.
After almost two years of COVID-19, we all have a better understanding of what it feels like to have something we take for granted suddenly whisked away from us. The thriving energy of the cities was just gone. A Vikings game with 67,000 fans in the middle of downtown Minneapolis was no longer something we could experience. Now, we can all see a bigger picture, so use this and all you’ve learned during the pandemic to stay better prepared. If you have a plan to build up and improve upon what matters in your business rather than taking it for granted and simply letting it be as it is, the chances of losing it completely will be much slimmer, even when uncontrollable circumstances come your way.
HARD WORK IS HARD WORK NO MATTER WHERE YOU ARE
Rural life is a combination of picturesque moments in nature and hard work, and it teaches you to take the good along with the bad. A 200-acre farm with cows, pigs, ducks, geese, and chickens might not sound like the foundation for building a successful business career, but I learned that hard work is hard work no matter where you apply it. And that’s my final lesson to share. With remote work creating more opportunities for more people without them having to live in cities, I think this is something that every business leader should keep in mind.
Cheri Beranek is the President and CEO of Clearfield, providing optical-fiber management and connectivity solutions across North America.