Learning from Leaders by Steve Schmidt

Guest Post

By Steve Schmidt, President, AbeTech Bar Code & RFID Solutions

When Tom Salonek wrote his book, The 100: Building Blocks for Business Leadership, I was eager to read it. I’ve long admired Tom’s company and the many awards it has received, not to mention Intertech’s consistent growth and profitability. I run a small business of my own and thought Tom’s book might give me some new ideas.

Oh boy, did it ever!

If you haven’t read The 100, I highly recommend it. This little book is crammed with practical management strategies that Tom has tested and proven at his company. Not only does the book provide 100 practical mini chapters (Tom calls them “takeaways”), it is sprinkled with fun quotes and Tom’s trademark humor. It’s the perfect book for a short business flight.

I should confess that Tom is my cousin, but please don’t think for a minute that this is a gushing “puff piece” based more on familial connections than merit. I’ve known the guy a long time and he’s always been highly motivated, focused and eager to learn and grow, both personally and professionally. He’s a, well, natural born leader. I’ve watched his company (and his family!) expand over time, and seen first-hand the productive and healthy workplace he and his partners have cultivated.

The word “mindfulness” is trendy now, but it’s a perfect description of Tom’s approach to business and life. By thinking and acting in deliberate mindful ways based on hard science and life experience, he has built a thriving organization on a solid foundation of values, like delivering beyond what is expected, treating people kindly and fairly, and keeping things in perspective. His book generously shares that experience and practical knowledge in an easy to digest format. It also comes with dozens of downloadable forms and other tools that I’m guessing are worth much more than the modest book price.

Now a confession.

When I first read The 100 it was still in the galley (pre-print) stage. Like the leader he is, Tom reaches out to others for input and alternative perspectives. I was happy to read the manuscript and give him my honest feedback. And, to be honest, I found it all to be a bit much. There are so many great ideas and recommendations; frankly, I wasn’t sure where to begin or how to implement them at my firm without losing a lot of time in the process.

I shared this reaction with Tom and he responded by explaining that following the ideas in The 100 actually save time by reducing surprises and increasing employee retention. Then he created a calendar showing how to implement his leadership program in the most efficient way possible. I reviewed the revised manuscript a second time and was pleased to give it my highest endorsement:

The 100 “artfully captures Salonek’s decades of leadership achievements and details repeatable steps that we all can take to improve our business results. Read the book, learn the secrets and enjoy the fruits of winning in the marketplace.”

425Business Includes The 100 in Their “On the Books” List

My thanks to 425Business for including The 100 in the February issue of their magazine’s “On the Books” list.

Here’s the review “Compact and succinct, Tom Salonek’s business-advice book The 100 breaks leadership lessons down into bite-size chunks. Salonek is founder and CEO of Intertech, a consulting and training firm, and a 25-year veteran of the tech industry who distills his knowledge into this easy-to-read guide. Each lesson has a takeaway — a piece of advice from Salonek or a business or cultural luminary. The book comes with online resources to easier implement his advice.

Here’s a link to the review on the 425 website.

My Radio Interview on The Small Business Advocate

My thanks to Jim Blasingame of The Small Business Advocate for our conversation about  leadership, Intertech and The 100.  Below are parts one and two of the interview:

Part 1


The 100 Book Named “3 Books Small Business Owners Should Read” by Web.com Small Business Forum

The-100-Title-OnlyMy thanks to Web.com Small Business Forum for naming The 100 Building Blocks of Business Leadership to their list of “3 Books Small Business Owners Should Read

From their review, “This small, yet information-packed book, written by a tech entrepreneur, offers business owners (and leaders) lots of insights, tips and lessons. There’s not a lot of theory in this book, which entrepreneurs will appreciate. Instead, it gives readers actionable ideas and practical advice.

The 100 building blocks are based on author Tom Salonek’s entrepreneurial experiences as the founder of Intertech, a technology consulting and training company.

Each building block offers a “Takeway,” a short summary that in itself offers great advice.”

My Interview with the Villager

Villager-Logo-LargeFinding the proper balance between work and family was a bit of a struggle at first for Summit Hill resident Tom Salonek, founder and CEO of Intertech, a 25-year-old technology consulting and training firm.

“When I first started the firm, I’d take any job,” Salonek said. “It was really hard to balance. I remember my first wedding anniversary when my wife (Linda) asked, ‘What are we going to do?’ I told her she could get takeout and buy herself a gift. That was not a good answer.”

Today, the 49-year-old father of two takes time to enjoy birthdays, family vacations and other special events and to ensure that life remains the priority, not work. It is one of the lessons he shares in his new book, The 100: Building Blocks for Business Leadership (Agate Publishing, March 2016).

The paperback delivers 100 succinct management practices, or building blocks, that are intended to benefit leaders of small- and medium-sized businesses as well as would-be entrepreneurs. The insights were gained over the last quarter-century by Salonek, who started the firm in his basement in 1991 when he was 24. The company, which works today with dozens of Fortune 500 companies, reported $13.5 million in revenue last year.

Each of the building blocks Salonek lists includes a takeaway – his summation and bit of advice. Salonek also offers an extensive bibliography and references to online resources in the book.

In the book’s dedication, Salonek writes that he learned more from his father Theodore, a dairy farmer, about working with people than from anything he ever read.

“I had the unique opportunity to work shoulder to shoulder with my dad,” he said. “It was definitely different from the relationship I have with my son. He knows that stuff happens (at work), but he doesn’t really know or see firsthand what I do. My brothers and I saw the way that (Dad) treated people. He always had a giving heart.”

That included helping out a fellow farmer who was ill and could not plow his field and one who needed clothes during a particularly difficult time for farmers in the 1980s.

“He never talked about it, he’d just do it,” Salonek said about his father. “Seeing how he cared about people definitely is part of the fabric of (Intertech).”

Salonek earned a computer science degree from the University of St. Thomas and has taken business and management courses from the Carlson School of Management, Harvard Business School and Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Eagan-based Intertech has received dozens of awards for growth, innovation and being one of the best places to work in technology. Employees there are encouraged to take time to volunteer, while the Intertech Foundation that Salonek and his wife formed helps families with terminally ill children and provides college scholarships for computer science students. The company’s philanthropic philosophy is described in Chapter 12 of The 100, titled Giving Back.

Other chapters in The 100 flesh out other ideas that have worked for Salonek and his company. They include living your best life (Chapter 1), engaging employees in the success of the company (Chapter 6), being a good leader (Chapter 9) and tackling problems (Chapter 11). Chapter 13 wraps everything up with three building blocks about how readers can embrace the process, use online print resources, and put each takeaway to work.

Salonek said the book can be read from front to back, or the building blocks and chapters can stand on their own.

“My goal was to be succinct and provide practical ideas that were field-tested and used by me and others,” he said. “You don’t need to read Block 33 to understand Block 34. If there are particular challenges that people are having, they can go to that chapter and read through it and, hopefully, get practical, implementable takeaways to address whatever issues they may be having in their business or their lives.”

For Salonek, becoming a writer started out with a simple goal – to get an article published. He has done that and then some. His many articles have appeared in various newspapers and magazines. His blog can be found online at TomSalonek.com.

He also wrote a book on Building a Winning Business in 2011 and a children’s book called Team SuperManners in 2014, with his children Elizabeth and Theodore and the family dog as the main characters.

“I had a bucket list item to write a children’s book,” he said. “It was just fun to do.”

Salonek is now thinking about writing another book that stems from his current parenting challenges. “I’ve been scratching my head,” he said. “The potential topics change daily, depending on how (the kids) are behaving.”

Salonek’s main takeaway from life and work? “We get what we expect,” he said. “If we have an idea of what we want, be it work/life balance, a business that provides freedom or a creative outlet, that’s what we focus on. All action begins with that. Hopefully, after that, reality follows.”

The 100: Building Blocks for Business Leadership can be found online at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million and Indie Bound.