15 Lessons Learned from 15 Years of Business Leadership

Written by: Marty McGann, CEO at PCI

As PCI proudly celebrates its 15th anniversary, I was asked to write a blog on my reflection as a business owner for the last 15 years. Inspired by ESPN, welcome to “15 for 15,” where I reveal the top 15 insights that define us. Let’s journey through PCI’s core, exploring key moments and lessons I’ve learned that have driven our evolution and success over the years.

  1. Elon Musk is right, business ownership is like staring into an abyss eating glass – It’s a good analogy, I encourage anyone and everyone to look up the interview, but he nailed it.
  2. Building a brand is so interesting, I never understood the power of marketing under the lens of business ownership as I do now, its importance is understated in small business more than I could have imagined. 
  3. There was a turning point, and I don’t remember exactly when it was, but I realized that we are not competing against other Deltek partners. We are striving to provide the best solution to our customers. It’s easy to stray from that. But once I refocused there, things have been different.
  4. Culture is all that matters – This is a tough one, growth and culture are opposing forces, you must get them moving in the same direction, if you lose the company culture then its no longer what you set out to build.
  5. Going 100% everyday is so hard – I have shared this before, but NBA legend Bill Russell was asked “What impresses you most about Michael Jordan?” and his reply was “He is determined to be Michael Jordan every day.”  It’s hard to keep your head up and not lose heart, not try as hard as you can but you have to keep going.
  6. People love free t-shirts – You can get a grandma with bad knees out of her seat at a sporting event for the free t-shirt timeout.  I have never seen people so happy as when we break out the PCI shirts… its so cool and so remarkable.
  7. There are an unlimited number of people out there trying to sell me lists of QuickBooks users. – thanks, we are good.
  8. You can’t teach someone to be a self-starter – but it’s in everyone, you just need to find the right task that makes them passionate about the job and it will show itself.
  9. People think if they tell you what’s going on you will get mad. It’s the opposite, my greatest disappointment is having a meeting, everyone says yes, then a week later I find out no one was onboard or there were tons of questions. Please ask, please comment, it’s how we make things better.
  10. Most people think I am too busy to bother – If you run the business right, you will always have time to help. I am never too busy to connect with no matter the question, in fact the best part of my day is getting to help someone I don’t talk to all the time.
  11. Leadership is lonely – It’s hard to explain but, you have to do things you don’t want to do, no one can help you with them. 
  12. You will never be “ready” – timing is everything, you can’t force things to when you are ready for them to happen, you need to jump on them when they become opportunities, or they will stop coming.
  13. Having an impact on someone else’s career, life, family is incredible, someone saying “yes” to your job offer is the most humbling thing that can happen to you.  That yes is someone entrusting their future with you, never take that for granted.  Hiring in the early stages of a company is so hard, it gets easier as you grow but the impact on the individual is still the same.
  14. Celebrate the wins – Most of business if putting out fires and dealing with problems.  That’s what you remember at the end of your day. You are in control of that, use customer accolades, internal successes, product, or tool rollouts to celebrate the success of your people.
  15. I love my job – I work with some of the most incredible people I have ever met, they are so much better at what they do than I ever was. That’s what you’re looking for, don’t be afraid to hire someone smarter than you, or you will never be any better than what you are on your best day.

One for good luck? – There is a wild connection between sport and business, read John Wooden’s book, watch Moneyball, Air, and Ted Lasso… and be a goldfish.

When I set out to do this, I thought 15 sure is a lot of things, I have no idea if I will be able to write this… it was way easier than I thought. The truth is that so much happens every year as you lead through time.  You do learn a lot and see so many different things.  All these experiences and little nuggets form into a sort of leadership style that I believe helps define the organization over time.

A lot of people have passed through the company now, many have stayed some have left, I hope the impact we had on anyone who wore our jersey even for a short while had a positive impact on their life as that is all we can really do is make a mark in their universe that is worth remembering.

Further Reading…