25 Years and Counting
A lot has happened in the past 25 years. It was August of 1988 when Diane and I started InvoTek. I was 30 years old. We had no idea how to do this, but I wanted to work with people who had disabilities, so Diane said okay. Twenty-five years later, we still love working with people who have disabilities. Here are the top six things I have learned over the years, in David Letterman style. (Photo: Erik demonstrating an accessible toy, 1994)
6) We will never succeed as a business.
I have been told this by lots of business consultants. We hire them to help us move forward, and in the end, they throw up their hands in frustration. There isn’t enough funding, there isn’t a big enough market, and we’re doing it wrong. We’ve been doing it wrong now for 25 years. I don’t know what tomorrow holds, but I do know that we are special and that we have become special because of the people who work with us. Twenty-five years of struggling and we’re still here. Thank you to all who have touched our lives. Together we have succeeded in unimaginable ways. (Photo: Erik, InvoTek software engineer, 2013)
5) Collaborating isn’t the same thing as working with someone.
Collaborating is hard work. People love the idea of it, but very few people are willing to pay the price of collaborating. It is filled with inefficiency, compromise, and dissatisfaction. And if you are faithful to it, you will accomplish more than you can imagine.
4) We know what we’re doing, we just don’t know how to do it.
This has become a mantra at InvoTek. We are constantly doing something new, something that pushes what we think we know and can do, something that might be crazy. It is exciting – and difficult – to live in this place of uncertainty. I wouldn’t trade it for the world.
3) Surround yourself with people who are better than you are.
This is the best secret. I get a lot of credit just because I associate with people who are better than I am. Thanks to all of you who hold me up, especially Barret, Carolyn, David, Diane, Erik, and Jerry (in alphabetical order). The list is much longer than these people! I know it and I appreciate all of you very much.
2) Be generous.
I know it sounds corny, and yes, we have had people take advantage of us. But the best things that have happened to me in the past 25 years have happened because I was willing to take a chance on someone. Most of the time this turns out positive. The few times it didn’t just made me more determined.
1) We are profoundly pro-life.
This isn’t a political or moral statement. It is a realization that comes from working with children with profound disabilities, adults with spinal cord and brainstem injuries, people who are terminally ill, and people with dementia. The sacred is easily experienced in these people, who contribute more to humanity than I ever will as an engineer. Often they go unnoticed and unappreciated, but if you take the time to know these people, you will be changed for the better.