HTG stands for the Heartlands Technology Group, and is a peer group founded by Arlin Sorenson, president of Heartland Technology Solutions (thus the HTG name) back in 2001. Arlin launched the first HTG peer group in 2001 based both on his desire for an opportunity to interact with peers in a non-competitive setting and on his observation of a lack of peer groups in the mid-market space. To (admittedly) over-simplify the concept, HTG is a collection of IT Business Owners of all shapes and sizes who strive to be the best at what they do, and furthermore believe in the concept of “Community” – sharing ideas, best practices, working strategies and lots more amongst their small (each group is usually less than 12 members in size) membership group with the goal of raising standards for all members involved.
Earlier this year I was fortunate enough to be invited to be a founder member of the 11th HTG group (logically named HTG11!) based out of the UK – and a few weeks ago I attended our inaugural HTG 11 meeting in London with a number of other business owners. Since that time I’ve been inspired to and consumed by the goal of growing my company to it’s next stage. My good blogging practices went out the window and long days have been spent working on building business processes, marketing, client acquisition and everything else that goes into growing a small business.
The HTG11 group is led by Dave Sobel, owner of Evolvetech of Washington, DC, and it was Dave’s job to research and invite candidates for founder membership, to organise the logistics of the event and to facilitate the meeting itself. Why an American to lead a British group? Well it was felt that getting a UK group off the ground without someone familiar with the HTG “way” would be a stretch too far, and Dave himself is very familiar with England, having spent a chunk of his earlier years growing up here. He knows how to drink pints and he understands what a “quid” is.
The inaugural HTG 11 meeting took place near Heathrow, London on 13th and 14th of October – and the morning of the first day was spent introducing the fellow members to one another and discussing the HTG concept. Unlike a User Group where you might share ideas on a surface level, HTG is much deeper and is often about sharing all aspects of your business – all the way down to financial information in many cases – and so we all signed a Non-Disclosure Agreement to this effect. With that in mind, I won’t talk too much about what was discussed, but suffice to say I was sat at a table with business owners of all sizes, from a one-man band just implementing Managed Services, to mid-sized businesses with half a dozen employees or more, to more than one £1m+ turnover businesses.
As a very small business owner I literally soaked up the conversations involving the bigger business owners. Sometimes I found them talking about topics that I hadn’t even considered yet (employee retention and KPI’s are just two examples) but other times I offered up questions and received advice that saved me literally hours or more of research, investigation and possible mistakes.
If that sounds a little like a one-way-street, with the smaller fish tapping up the bigger fish for advice, it really wasn’t. One of the fascinating dynamics to see in this group environment was that however big or small a business is, a good idea is a good idea, and at one point we all chipped in twenty quid each and then gave a short pitch for our “best idea” – the voted winner then taking the pot of money. Guess who came away £100+ better off? I did re-invest the dosh at the bar that night though. 🙂
In between a conference call with Erick Simpson, author of many Managed Services Practice books, and HTG founder Arlin Sorenson (who is making the trip over for the next meeting – which should be a fantastic experience for all involved) some of the other topics we covered were – how to market effectively, best practices for Managed Services delivery, top useful web resources, how we won our last five clients, and very importantly – setting goals to achieve before the next meeting. For me this is a huge part of HTG – accountability. You set your goals out there for the group to see and then have to report back on progress for the next quarterly meeting. Knowing that your peers are going to hold you accountable for your success or failure in achieving these goals is a powerful motivator…
I came away from the two days literally buzzing with ideas and plans, reams and reams of notes and a number of new relationships with fellow business owners. The next HTG 11 meeting is set for my hometown of Birmingham, and we’ve already got a date booked in Dublin, Ireland for the meeting after that.
If you’d like to know more about HTG then you can read all at the HTG Member Web-Site at www.htgmembers.com. HTG Founder Arlin Sorenson’s blog is at http://peerpower.blogspot.com/ and I’d also highly recommend reading the book – “The Go-Giver” – see if it strikes a chord with you, and if it does, drop me a line – I’d love to hear from you.
Finally, if you’re a Microsoft Small Business Specialist Partner and want to take things to the next level then take a look at HTG On-Line Peer Groups – monthly “virtual” meetings and a great way to start working on your business today.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to get back to achieving my goals for my next HTG meeting! 🙂