After more than a dozen years, Summit Insight remains true to our mission.
Summit is both a noun and a verb. As a noun, it’s the goal you want to reach: business with the world’s biggest buyer, the U.S. federal government. As a verb, it’s the act of getting there.
Insight is what we give you to get there: the latest tools, techniques, and data. It’s your climb, it’s your journey. Our team are the guides that can take you to the top.
I was reminded of why Summit Insight is still exactly right for what we do when I went out to play.
So, “Summit Insight.” What’s that about? Back in 2003, when I started this company, I didn’t want a name like everybody else. I also didn’t anticipate the challenge that would create for SEO. When you search on words like “federal contracts”, “GSA Schedule”, “SAM” or “government bid”, “Summit Insight” rarely makes the first page. You get a screen full of my competitors. Unless you’re looking for me, you tend not to find me. It’s one thing to stand out from the crowd. It’s another thing when your quest for unique value leave you inadvertently invisible on the playing field. Oops.
As a business owner, maybe you can relate: some days leave you feeling like you're climbing the walls. When that happens to me, I go out and do that literally. And teach others to do the same: I’m also a professional climbing instructor. But that came after I started my business.
Sure, whether as a government contracts consultant or a climbing instructor, someone’s future is in my hands. That’s serious stuff. Play? It always felt like something that had to be earned. Did your mom ever tell you that you can’t go outside until your room is clean? Mine did. The part of that that sticks with me as an adult is that play is for after all the work is done. Funny thing is, I notice that work never ends. Did I ship today? Yes. Did I meet my promises to everyone? Yes. What I’m more often left with is satisfaction mixed with a deep serving of exhaustion.
Understand that I have an uneasy relationship with play. I work. I work hard. For a long time, I’ve let work define me and how I value who I am. (I recently made the dubious discovery of having that in common with award-winning screenwriter and storyteller Shonda Rimes.) Still, every so often, I make the deliberate choice to go out and play. I know it's good for me. I cajole my brain into adding an extra day onto a business trip if I’m going somewhere that might be close to someplace fun to climb. That experience can look like it’s full of risk. I don’t know the environment. I don’t know what kind of gear is right. The experience has tremendous value for me. I’m an adventurer and explorer, but not a thrill-seeker.
Here’s the actual story: I rarely climb outdoors. I love the outdoors. I love real rock. I want the full-on experience. This was an unfamiliar environment for me. That’s why my first move is to hire a guide. Her or his job is to know the rock, know the routes; bring the right gear and advice (and a good lunch), assess my skill, take me to a good place to have fun, and bring us both back safely.
On this day, my guide was Bill Fallon. He and I both started climbing in our late 40’s. We are both pilots as well as climbers. His professional background is aerospace: he was part of the team that designed the flight control system for the Boeing 777 Dreamliner. He had also owned his own business. He understood how it was a big deal for me to take a day out of the office and head out to the rock.
As we went out to the crag, our trust built quickly. It was clear that he kept current on the best techniques and gear to climb strongly and safely, and he talked about the new things he’d been learning after twenty years of doing things another way. He listened to what I wanted to do: to spend a day focused purely on being present, undistracted. I didn’t want to know what level of difficulty the climbs were rated until after the day was done. I had no set number of ascents I wanted to complete.
Bill briefed me as we walked to the base of the climb at McDowell Sonoran Preserve about what flora and fauna to expect, and how to avoid painful encounters with each. The desert was full of spring colors that are often a surprise to easterners. We got started on rock face that gave me opportunity to “read” the rock, and Bill to read my skills. I looked closely and felt under-used parts of my brain ache. At first, there seemed to be no places to step up, and no hand-holds, either.
It wasn’t the first time I’d stood at the bottom of a slab of granite thinking that that was one of the stupider ideas I’d had recently. As I don’t climb outdoors terribly often, it would have been easy for me to feel discouraged or intimidated. I asked for help and ideas. Bill explained how to approach this kind of rock. “Small steps are the most efficient,” he began. My eyes began to notice new things. “Before you take a step, you need to figure out the next place you’re going after that. Place the foot, and commit to the step. You can’t just feel around.”
There’s no guarantee for what the experience will be. The guide will do his job. I have responsibilities, too. I need to tell my guide what I want to accomplish, to follow direction as well as to ask questions and seek clarity when something seems unfamiliar or when I just don’t understand what I’ve been instructed to do. I also need to speak up when something’s not working well. That day, it was my shoes. Some climbers have different shoes for indoor and outdoor climbing. I don’t…and my indoor shoes were hurting my feet badly after the first climb. One option was to call it quits (like that was going to happen). Bill and I decided to take a break between each climb segment (or “pitch”) so I could massage my toes back into agreement to play again, and I adapted my technique to be less painful, even if it was also less efficient or graceful.
“I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” ~ Maya Angelou
Bill treated me as if I were the most exceptional climber he’d ever guided. I felt special, and encouraged at every step. Not everybody needs or wants that kind of experience. But that was exactly what I needed, and he intuited that and responded superbly. I was in tears of joy when we reached the top of the third pitch not because my toes needed a burst of TLC, but because I had a champion who was cheering for me.
We had a ton of fun! We indulged in four rappels down from the top of Sven Towers 3, not because we had to, but just because we could. The best part of that was looking back up. “I climbed that?” I exclaimed in wonder. Bill laughed. “You sure did!”
I didn’t think of work once during my day of play on the rock. On the drive back, refreshed and renewed, I reflected that my idea of fun includes getting dirty and sweaty and a little banged up as well as learning and learning and learning, in body, mind and spirit. That’s the experience I want you to have in the federal market: of learning, of using all your resources, of building new strength and skill, of breakthrough achievement.
Branding gurus will tell you that if you have to explain to people where your company name comes from, you picked the wrong name. (Then again, there was a time when nobody thought of “Apple” as another word for “computer,” either.)
And now I mean literally, too! One of Summit Insight’s programs will get you out of the office and take you and your team up the walls for a half day of indoor climbing adventure. I’ll be your guide. Climb on!
Ready for your next adventure?