My Interview with the Villager
Finding 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.