Great changes, timeless lessons

My father-in-law saw great changes during his lifetime, but with great change also come timeless lessons.

My father-in-law died about three weeks ago at the age of 88 after suffering from complications of congestive heart failure.

John Graves was a retired farmer in eastern North Carolina, raising tobacco, corn and soybeans, among other crops. I’ve written about him before in this space, telling stories about how he converted the family farm from mules to tractors.

My father made a similar transition in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. He worked with a horse named Kate before my grandfather bought his first tractor in the 1940s.

While I’ve written about it several times, I remain fascinated by this technological change in farming, though I’m pretty sure my father-in-law would not use today’s popular term of “transformation” to describe it.

Quite simply, he did what he had to do because it made good business sense.

I think one of the lessons of my father-in-law’s life is that you have to understand the business you are in, you have to understand the risks, you can’t get blinded by the potential rewards, and you have to think about the long term and realize the long term comes with ups and downs.

He often spoke about the need to prepare for rainy days.

John Graves was a farmer. He wasn’t in the mule business and he didn’t buy his first tractor because he wanted to be in the tractor business. Those were simply tools he used to get his job done.

That’s an outlook more government agencies are taking, and it is a sales strategy more companies need to adopt.

Systems integrators have long tried to sell themselves as the “trusted adviser” in helping agencies make technology decisions.

But with agencies facing some of the toughest budget conditions in recent memory with no let up in sight, systems integrators and service providers need to focus first on how they can help the customers get their jobs done and not so much on selling technology.

As our country moves forward with a new administration in the face of multiple challenges, the focus has to be on the mission and results.

It doesn’t matter whether it is a mule or a new John Deere tractor, there is work to be done.

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