May the 4th be with you! Today is a day of gratitude and reflection as our company, Beyond The Horizon (BTH), celebrates its’ 10th birthday! Ten years ago today, on May 4, 2012, we received notification that our process of incorporation was successfully completed. It seems fortuitous that our founding coincides with “Star Wars Day,” since sci-fi office décor and humor have become entwined in the culture of our company. The entire history of BTH has been a series of fortunate opportunities – where doors seemed to open before us, and we walked through.
I recall what we thought we would do back in 2012, and contrast that with the surprising reality we see today. I thought about Steve Jobs’ famous 2005 Stanford graduation speech. He was describing how the newly minted graduates in the audience might feel, launching into their lives, but not really knowing yet where they were going. He said to them, “you can’t connect the dots looking forward, you can only connect them looking backwards.” Looking forward from 2012, we knew what we wanted to achieve. But looking back from 2022, the details of the journey, those connecting dots, will never cease to amaze me.
Rewinding a bit, I remember being in a seminar about starting a business with my friend and business partner, Eric Bird. My specific memories of that seminar have faded, but I do recall the instructor cautioning the audience about starting a business with a friend. Today, with the benefit of hindsight, a tweak to that advice would be, “depends on who the friend is.” If the person you start up with has the same goals, complementary skills, and you never have nor ever could argue about petty things like money – then there’s a chance it could work.
As do all companies when starting out, ours began life as a scant silhouette of what it would become – it had a name and a general idea. Applying the skills we developed over many years in our corporate careers, in technology and professional services, we wanted to work with purpose-driven organizations. Simply put, we wanted to do work that matters by helping nonprofits modernize and grow.
We didn’t make a complicated business plan when we started the company. To get started, our thought was to go find a couple of clients and help them achieve their goals. Our initial services centered around strategic planning, corresponding technology roadmaps and vendor selection. We quickly discovered we could do the implementation work ourselves.
We have a natural way of working that seems to fit with our clients, and it turns out that cultural fit is vitally important in the nonprofit segment. We don’t have big egos, our ears are always open, we collaborate, and I’d like to think we are pretty good translators. We work seamlessly with the big picture and the details – from front-line employees to executives, and when invited, with the nonprofit’s board of directors. We listened, we learned, we iterated, and we adapted.
Each of our first two engagements led to referrals with new clients, which in turn led to referrals with additional rounds of new clients. I remember when we first decided to rent office space, we had 5 people in the company. We toured a space that had an interesting history with an open floor plan and lots of windows – the location felt right. There was slight hesitation since we thought that the office space was way too big for us, but we moved ahead anyway. I mean, after all, the space included a walk-in safe from a bygone era, which we sometimes used as a mildly spooky phone booth. Who could pass on that?
After we moved in, we blinked our eyes and we had 2 dozen people, blinked again and we had 4 dozen people and so on – the growth continues to this day. Now our team members are located across the country, and we’ve worked with clients across the USA, and in Canada and Europe.
But growth for the sake of growth isn’t all that interesting. What is interesting is when new people hop on board to contribute their skills, experience, and passion. Magic begins to happen when you combine sweat and skill with attitude and approach. We’ve been intentional about that. Our team members work well with each other – they listen, learn, collaborate, and solve problems together. What precedes all of that is a personality trait that we value – curiosity. By that I mean, looking for the inconspicuous aspects of a program that are obstructing progress, and dealing with those barriers along with the technical aspects.
That approach has greatly expanded our opportunity to work with a wider array of clients. The types of projects we can do now far exceed anything I ever imagined back in 2012. We are sincerely grateful for that.
I think what surprises me the most is that this feeling of being on a journey with other people is not limited to a human community inside BTH – it is inclusive of key partners, like Salesforce, and most notably, our clients. We consistently see groups spontaneously forming and working together to solve a problem or build some new capability. It feels seamless and cohesive.
We’ve learned a lot from our clients and feel they have learned a lot from us. At the outset of BTH, I never considered that we would be routinely invited to join our client’s internal staff meetings, participate in celebrations, or even be asked to join the board of directors after an engagement is complete. We have been treated not only as colleagues, but as friends by our clients.
Steve Jobs talked about reflection as an opportunity to “connect the dots.” Along the way, milestone events spontaneously connected to guide BTH to where it is today, kind of like that old Irish adage about the road rising to meet you. Earlier in our history, as those events occurred, that felt like the most important aspect of our story. But now, that’s changed. Upon reflection today, the very first impression that pops in my mind is to see faces – hundreds of faces of people. These people were employees, clients, partners and friends who became the vital “dots” in our journey, and then we also got to participate in their journeys.
So here we are, 10 years and counting, barreling through the galaxy aboard the USS BTH. Make it so! Eric and I wanted to take this opportunity to say to all of you who have been on this journey with us – THANK YOU. With all sincerity, literally none of it would have happened without you. Happy birthday BTH!
Written By: Larry Taylor
Co-founder and Managing Partner