What I Learned from Fire Ants

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What I Learned from Fire Ants

by William DiPaolo

I’m flying back to California from an extended weekend at my in-laws eighteen acre farm in Tennessee. It’s not a working farm, but one of those beautiful pieces of land perfectly accessorized with hundreds of yards of three board fence, ponds full of large-mouth bass, and lines of spectacular sixty foot tall oak trees. It’s the kind of place where you wake up to sounds even the Philadelphia Harmonic can’t duplicate. It’s a setting that, in the words of my brother in law, “will completely unwind a man”.

With the quickened pace of our California software company just hours away, and the quiet stillness of Tennessee only hours past, I’m stuck in a place that’s got me thinking just how important having a clear vision of who you are and what you want to be is to the success of your business.

You can learn a lot by watching chickens. Or fire ants. Or the way horses respond to a looming thunderstorm. Nature, for all practical purposes, is reactionary. The response may be simple, the way fire ants pour out of a hole made in their ant hill in such volumes it looks like blood streaming from some mortal wound. Or nature may respond complexly and more slowly, as in the way a tree will grow too tall for its own roots as it strains for light in a dense forest. Yet, no matter how beautiful, nature is a well orchestrated symphony of cause and effect.

Man, however is not a part of this symphony. We sit outside of nature’s rules in much the same way as the composer transcends the boundaries of the symphony being played. Man is gifted with the greatest of all gifts, an ability to envision, a capacity to create.

If you are a business owner, or an aspiring one, my weekend excursion into nature has compelled me to share one bit of advice: You will be successful if you continue to think and create. As you strive after your vision, you will grow. Become reactionary, (which this weekend has taught is the natural way of things) and you will stagnate. Keep creating. Keep growing.

My partner and I began Cogent Road with a simple vision – provide loan officers with innovative software that can help boost their business, and ultimately their incomes. This caused us to think about different ways in which our software could deliver this vision. Rather than trying to be a specific type of company, we focused solely on helping our clients. We began in 2001 with a credit platform we leased from a third party. As we thought about our vision, we created different ideas in which credit could be used to increase our client’s business. This led to ideas on how we could help our loan officer clients help their own client’s, the borrowers. It led to ideas in which credit could be used to increase our client’s word of mouth business from referring sources and previous borrowers. The led us to create Funding Suite, and in turn the concept of credit proofreading, which we believe to be the most powerful business building strategy a loan officer can use. And credit proofreading is leading us into new software offerings for loan officers that Cogent Road could never have anticipated just a few years ago.

Reflecting back on a weekend lived right out of the pages of Field and Stream, I realized how much we, as business people need vision. Perhaps for the first time I realized how contrary to nature a creative vision actually is. And likewise how difficult. Vision takes thought, and thinking may well be the hardest work a man can do. So it goes that I encourage you, wherever you find yourself right now, to begin creating. Begin the work of thinking about what you want to do and why you want to do it. Then by all means get to doing it. Break free of the reactionary nature of your industry, your competitors or even your own habitual way of looking at your business.

You possess what nature does not – the ability to create. Now get composing.

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