March 23, 2022

Episode #11: Jeff Ton – Ton Enterprises

Jeff is the author of Amplify Your Value – Leading IT with Strategic Vision (2018) and Amplify Your Job Search – Strategies for Finding Your Dream Job (2020). He is a sought-after speaker, author, and thought leader, having led powerful teams and built successful Information Technology departments for over 30 years. Jeff’s mission is to change the face of IT, saying, “Businesses today are demanding more from their technology and their technology leaders.” He serves on numerous boards and advisory councils including Forbes Technology Council, Indy CIO Network, and Connected World Magazine Board of Advisors. He is a fellow with the Institute of Digital Transformation.

Ton Enterprises through the brand Amplify with Jeffrey S. Ton is focused on changing the face of Information Technology. The adage of “what got us here, won’t get us there” has never been truer than in IT leadership. We must have a deeper business acumen that goes well beyond the dollars and cents, we must be more collaborative and communicative, we must use design thinking, critical thinking, and systems thinking, AND we must be more diverse. Through my writing, speaking, workshop facilitation, and coaching, I am helping emerging leaders transform their departments and their businesses.

Transcript

hello this is coach Tim Campsall and i’m your host for self-made is a myth make a difference together show where we’re talking with successful business owners to hear their stories of the journey of building a successful business and because we know that achieving success in business is not something that we can do on our own we recognize the folks that have helped us to excel i’m excited to have a fellow business owner from the technology industry with us today my guest has traveled the lewis and clark trail with his wife from virginia to oregon and back to st louis by car rv on foot and in a canoe wow he enjoys playing uh in the creek in his back yard uh with his grandsons and he has led a number of tech professionals that have uh moved into leadership positions please join me in welcoming jeff to the show today welcome jeff thanks a lot tim i’m really looking forward to our conversation today well fantastic let’s start with having you uh introduce yourself tell us a little bit of your personal story where you were born where you live now your uh about your family and maybe some of your hobbies oh absolutely well you you named one of my hobbies or obsessions might be a better term with lewis and clark but i’m jeff tunne i’ve been involved in the tech community in central indiana for about 40 years now a little bit a little bit more than that i i’ve been indiana born and raised was born in west lafayette and spent my my elementary years in lebanon indiana right up the road from indianapolis and then high school in evansville a very short stint in chicago for a year that felt like 10 and then came to indianapolis in gosh 1979 and have been here in indianapolis ever since and have uh have two sons i call them my bouncing baby boys because they’re 43 and 38 and uh three wonderful grandsons uh nine eight and two which uh the two-year-old’s a lot of fun to take down to the creek as you were mentioning earlier so my wife and i live here in indianapolis on the northeast side and just love being outdoors on our property fantastic so jeff is there a funny story that your family likes to tell about you that you’d be willing to share today uh well the one that comes to mind goes way back um being family when i was a kid when when they would put me in my crib i would sleep with my knees kind of tucked up under me and my foot would just do this during the night and so they called me thumper after the rabbit so that that’s probably the uh i don’t think i’ve i don’t think i’ve told anybody that story in a long long time and and has that nickname traveled with you no it kind of it kind of faded in my siblings don’t call me that anymore they call me lots of other names but not thumper awesome well hey jeff tell us about um how the business came about and at what point did you have the confidence that you could go out on your own oh wow i don’t know if i have the confidence yet um but so i i wrote a book in gosh 2018 so my business launched around that time really as a as a platform for the book for writing and speaking related to topics about the book and it really it i spent a couple of years building that right very slowly i had i was uh an executive for a tech company and so it was really kind of doing both gigs right the the side hustle as everybody loves to call it right um and the pandemic when it came came about in early 2020 really was the the the crossroads for me i was considering doing a ton enterprises on a full-time basis anyway at that time and we were looking at ways from a organization that we could cut some costs so we were going to have a little bit of a reduction in force related to the pandemic and i went to our ceo and the board and said why not me let you know and they said okay so we negotiated a nice little runway and it enabled me to launch this business and they in fact became my first client oh great uh as a as a result so um it uh it has been nothing but uh an upward trend since uh the first part of 2020. so a couple of years plus now and uh doing really well fantastic so tell us a little bit more about ton enterprises what do you guys do um well you know my sales coach tells me that i have way too many service lines and i just tell her well no i really have adult adhd so um uh i do writing and speaking i still that’s still uh a foundational piece of what i do a wide variety of platforms for both of those things i i run workshops based on leadership development predominantly in the tech community since that’s my background i have some advisory services i have uh four corporate clients that i work with on believe it or not not even really anything related to technology itself after spending uh 40 years in technology i help them with some of the other things like vendor partner ecosystems and advisory boards and things like that and then i also do podcast as a service i i started doing that i host a podcast and have done that for several years now for one of my clients for intervision and we now do that as a service for other organizations which is a lot of fun so that and i run the indie cio network that you may be familiar with tim it’s a group of about 300 central indiana i.t leaders chief information officers and others wonderful so you don’t have too many product lines you’re just keeping yourself uh you know with different options every day that’s right that’s right you know i kind of got used to that in in the corporate world as a as an executive you you you move from meeting to meeting to meeting and they’re all different topics and they’re all different things that are going on so you get used to switching those hats and we moved along and that’s just kind of the way i love my day right it’s different every day is different and every hour is different yeah fantastic so jeff share a story where someone pushed you or inspired you that you could do it on your own um and what was the impact that that had on you so uh jenny robbins of ignite development is a business coach for expert businesses which is kind of the category that tun enterprise falls in right because my knowledge my experience is the product that we that we sell um and i hired jenny back uh probably in 2019 i think to help me think through what this would look like if i did do it full time and she helped me define kind of the why me why would someone hire jeff to do x y or z which was really instrumental but what really happened after that is i joined her mastermind group uh and this was a group of other peers that were starting expert businesses um and that group really it was it was kind of interesting because i was thinking throughout the first several months of meeting that they would be pushing me to take this jump to take this step right and and quite the opposite they were giving me permission to stay doing what i was doing and doing both roles without having to take that jump so there so it kind of took the pressure off um i i thought these peers would be no you’ve got to do this you’ve got to do this and they were like do it when you’re ready and i tell you i still two years later we still get to get together occasionally and talk individually one-on-one with with the folks that were in that mastermind and it was just a huge step uh to have peers that were kind of going through the same thing and we could exchange ideas exchange bumps in the road and hear each other’s story it was incredibly helpful in me having the confidence that yeah i can really do this yeah being a business owner can be very lonely so having that network to be able to bounce ideas off all right and and share the things that maybe we were afraid of sharing because we don’t want to be judged when we’ve got a safe environment you know to just spill that out of our mouth it sometimes that can be just enough to you know allow us to think again because we’re not stressed over whatever is burden in us exactly yeah yeah my cat gets tired of me talking to her about my business

and and that their advice is not very strong right uh no it isn’t they just kind of turn their nose up and walk away so jeff what’s your biggest learning as a business owner oh wow that is that’s such a great question because there’s just there there’s so many lessons that uh that i’ve learned i’d say the biggest one the most impactful one for me was how to gain the confidence to talk to colleagues that i’ve known for years but from the other side of the desk right and and i i always looked at it as sales and what i learned uh through my sales coach and and jenny and and others was you’re not really selling you’re just having a conversation and you go into it with this conversation of what problems are they seeing what what are some of their challenges and you start talking about how they might attack that and pretty soon you’ve got hey why don’t you come in and help us with that and to me that was probably the the best uh learning experience i had because um this is the third business that i’ve tried to start in my in my career uh the other two uh uh fizzled out pretty quickly because i always said i hated sales and i wasn’t good at it and what i what i’ve learned was it’s really just that conversation and that conversation leads to opportunities i i love that perspective i also had that you know that fear of selling and and my coach said you’re not selling you’re coaching somebody to make a decision that’s right for them yes yes and that in same same as you just described in my head the light bulb switched and said oh well i can have conversations that’s right yeah yeah i mean that’s that’s easy we do that all day long anyway um and uh you know i’ve just been amazed at uh where these conversations lead right um uh it may be you’re you’re having coffee or having lunch with somebody and just having a conversation and weeks later even months later the phone rings or you get an email that says hey could you come in and help with this yeah isn’t that interesting that you know we might walk out of a an initial conversation a little discouraged because we didn’t close the deal but i’ve had ones where it’s been a year later and they’re like hey i’m ready yeah yeah yeah exactly it’s uh and and i guess what i learned through that process is i don’t i i’m not trying to close the deal i’m just having a conversation and um i i love the way your coach put it you’re coaching them to make a decision um and so we bounce ideas and it’s been it’s been really rewarding to hear some of that come back uh months later another fun way for me to think about it is we’re just planting seeds right and then we nurture those seeds and some will sprout right away some won’t sprout till next year but we don’t give up on them because you know if we’ve had that great initial conversation then we’ve got to keep nurturing that seed and someday it’s going to broke yeah yeah i told totally agree and you know i i think the other aspect of it is in in the stage i am in my career um i’m i don’t have the pressure of trying to build um a million dollar business that’s going to last for 15 20 years right i i’m i’ve got a nice business it generates a a good revenue stream i have a great set of clients uh i i was out in austin yesterday with with one of my clients and we just had a wonderful five hours together working through some of the problems that that organization some of the challenges that they’re facing and i just come away from that feeling really good and it’s it’s a great place to be fantastic um jeff so we all know that business success doesn’t happen in isolation and and so i’d love to hear um about your biggest challenge during the years and and a fellow business owner who came alongside you and helped you through that

well i i tell you i you may know jason barnaby tim uh local here to indianapolis and and i’d say jason through his uh through his friendship getting together every once in a while for for coffee or for uh lunch uh at our favorite brew burger you know that’s always a a great lunch but but jason in with his his energy it’s infectious right and and when you’re when you’re feeling the grind or you’re feeling down because something didn’t work out the way you thought it would uh talking to jason is man it’s just this shot of adrenaline that gets you back going again and uh uh i i enjoy that and i’m gonna give you a shout out to tim because the way the way we started our call this morning man you were just upbeat full of energy and uh i was feeling a little bit tired because it was a late night getting in from austin last night and it was just a jolt that i needed so thank you for that but those are the kinds of things that that i think a lot of our our colleagues or a lot of our peer business owners may not even know how they’re being helpful right it’s just it’s it’s this it’s a conversation with jason barnaby it’s a conversation with beth rashly it’s these people um that have experiences they may be sharing a down moment that they’re having in their business um and uh you’re able to as a peer business owner you’re able to help them which helps you i i love that little community and i guess that’s that’s probably the biggest gift that i’ve gotten that i’ve received through this process is after spending 40 years in it my network was a bunch of people from i.t sure as you might imagine and launching this business i have met so many amazing business owners that it it’s uh it’s almost like a little club yeah right and you know alex perry from practically speaking and stephanie crevens and just so many amazing people you mentioned when somebody might share when they’re down isn’t it interesting that you know when we look at social media people tend to only talk about the positive and and the wins but i find it so helpful right to hear when somebody else is having a struggle right because it’s like oh good because i i have struggles too and now we can you know we can come together and talk through it and to encourage one another and and share some tips and tricks on how to get through that well it’s as you were saying earlier as a as a business owner it it can be kind of lonely right but we’re not really alone we’ve got we’ve got this peer group that it can can be just so uplifting and and help us talk through problems and challenges and hey how would you approach this or how would you approach that and it sometimes you just have to remind yourself that you are not alone you’ve got the people around you yes yes so um jeff you mentioned a few people already but if you had to pick three people in your business owner journey that that you’re most grateful for being there for you and helping with your business growth who would those three people be and and how did they help you well i’m gonna i’m gonna go back uh a couple of years and and call out dr dan miller dan was my executive coach for about seven years while i was still in the in the corporate world and through dan’s one-on-one coaching with me i would say that he he helped build the foundation of who i am and what and what i do um he enabled me to grow in my career provide a lot of confidence through our conversations and growth so dan dan number one from an executive development perspective jenny robbins who i mentioned earlier with the the foundational piece of understanding what the product was right what are we selling why would someone uh hire jeff tunne to help them with x y or z and get over the this thing of hey i’m selling myself which is always awkward right um and so i a big shout out to jenny for that uh and then i i mentioned alex perry alex is a speaking coach among some other great things and i tell you i have learned more about public speaking keynotes presentations uh i’ve learned more about that from her than just about any single person uh over the last several years and it really took my craft that was call it you know b b minus uh public speaking and uh and turned it into an a um and uh just uh really helped me understand the audience and understand my message fantastic that is awesome so jeff as you think about the next three to five years what are the biggest challenges that you see in achieving your business goals and who are the type of people you’re going to need to help you with those challenges well i think for me the the the challenges are with a lot of business owners keeping that pipeline steady right it’s uh you know you look at your portfolio of business as a business owner and um you know if you lost that client or you lost that client what would you do to recover uh from that or build build back in that space and so for me it’s uh talking with other business owners um in the medium mid enterprise space about their technology and more specifically about their technology leadership and how i might be able to help whether that’s through i do some one-on-one coaching with with leaders in the technology space but like yesterday i was leading a challenge discussion we had a list of challenges that the organization was facing uh and we we spent time dissecting the challenges so those are the types of things that that i can help businesses with um and so keeping a steady stream of those conversations going uh so that uh the the revenue kind of stays level for the next three to five years fantastic and then i’m going to spend the rest of the time after the five years hanging out with my grandkids i love it they’re fantastic so jeff one of my favorite authors is jim rohn and a quote that that he says uh or i i’ve you know kind of fell in love with is that we become the average of the five people that we spend the most time with so as you reflect on that is that something that you find exciting or something that makes you nervous from a business standpoint i i find that very exciting and you know my my my closest friend my closest confidant is my wife carmen and so she’s one of those five people right and i learn a lot from her as well i get a lot of encouragement for my business through her as well she is my sounding board not really my cat i spend more time talking to my wife um but you know you think about the people that you interact with on a frequent basis and i’m excited by by roane’s comment right that you’re the average of the five people that you spend the most time with because if i look at each one of those people they each bring an amazing skill or an amazing attribute and if i can learn that from them that’s uh you know my i i have this passion for continuous learning and if i can learn from from those that i associate with i’m i’m loving it that’s awesome and the great thing about uh that principle is we don’t have it doesn’t have to be people that we’re physically spending time with right we can we can go to a seminar or watch a podcast or you know or or read a book and and surround ourselves with other people that we aspire to be like absolutely absolutely you can i i love that you you mentioned book i’m reading a book that a friend of mine has written and it’s going to be published here i think in in may or june and um i i am learning so much from this book that that he has written um and uh he’s a he’s a friend of mine that i don’t see very often he’s in seattle so we’re not physically close where we see each other but we jump on calls every once in a while and i have learned so much from him and now that i’m reading this book i can see where some of his wisdom has come from through the stories that he tells in the book it’s it’s an amazing experience so just wrapping up here jeff if there was something catastrophic that happened in your business today who’s the first person you’d uh you’d reach out to and what would that conversation be well the the the first person i would reach out to is my wife because we’re kind of in this together she’s my uh she’s my accountant my bookkeeper my confidant uh so that would be the first conversation about okay now uh once the once the emotion of the catastrophe has worn off what do we do how do we regroup um and and then i’d start reaching out to some of the folks in my professional network some of them business owners some of them not but you know you you surround yourself with a group of mentors i i love the concept of having a personal board of directors right and and they may not even know they’re sitting on the board of directors but you know i i’d reach out to to jeff dodson or glenn keller or some of the other uh people whose opinions and thoughts i respect and trust uh and start to put together an action plan yeah i love it i love that that thought of they don’t even know that they’re on my board of directors right but but yeah we do have we do have folks who we come to rely on and and trust their opinion and they’re our go-to people and um so that’s just that’s awesome if um if all the folks that you mentioned today um were here on the show with us it sounds like you’ve been incredibly blessed with some incredible people so if they were all here on the show with us today what would you want to say to them thank you oh my goodness thank you especially the ones that don’t know they’re on my board of directors right thank you for the thank you for the wisdom thank you for the friendship uh it it’s funny tim that a lot of times you’re i’m having coffee with them virtually or or face to face or lunch um and a lot will say well what how can i help you and my answer usually is by doing this you know just meeting me for coffee meeting me for lunch there is so much benefit out of that that just carving out the time because i know they’re busy as well uh and the gift of an hour for a coffee meeting or hour hour and a half for lunch uh to me that’s a huge gift and uh i appreciate every one of them in doing that fantastic well jeff it’s been an absolute pleasure having you on the show today i appreciate you sharing your insights uh with uh with me and the audience and and giving up up of your time today tim i’ve really enjoyed it i when i got your note about this series that you were doing i thought what a great great series to talk about how others have helped us get to where we are thank you i appreciate that for everyone who’s tuned in thanks for listening to the self-made is a myth show with your host coach tim camsell be sure to help us spread this movement by liking the show and posting it on your social media to join our movement go to be mad together dot com okay folks that’s a wrap make sure to pay it forward and i’ll see you next time take care