About a month ago, Montana West Economic Development (MWED) issued a press release noting that an Oklahoma man (Mike Strotheide) was going to step into the soon-to-be vacant spot left by a departing Liz Marchi.
It spoke of the exponential growth and success of the MWED organization, and its transition from little Jobs Now into the impactful, influential force that MWED has become under her leadership. It mentioned the numerous awards she has won for her work, and the organizations and boards she is a member of – impressive to anyone who reads them and knows what those organizations do. Clearly, she’s been almost everywhere and done, well, almost everything.
However, like a press release should, it avoided getting personal or telling stories about Liz’s work here. That’s where I come in.
I first met Liz when she and 4 associates met in my software company’s office on Nucleus Avenue. A few weeks before we met, Myrt Webb had been doing some walking-around-management in C-Falls and came in to see what we did. When he found out, he came back with Liz and several other folks who work on different aspects of economic development in the Flathead to talk about what they could possibly do to help my little company grow.
Those folks were the only ones who ever showed an interest in the success of a little software company on Nucleus whose “crazy arm-waving ladies” made substantially more than their counterparts at Stream, and I’ve never forgotten it.
From that point on, it seemed our paths would cross more frequently with each passing year. At Leadership Flathead sessions, at her Entrepreneur-to-Entrepreneur (E2) sessions at the MWED office on Reserve, and any number of other places, gatherings and business events.
One day, I stopped in to drop off a little gift for the ladies in the MWED office and she asked if I wanted to meet with a couple of mentors she had lined up.
Turned out they were former C-level executives from 2 rather successful Silicon Valley software firms, guys who now call the valley their home: Dave Williams of Veritas Software and Jeff Allen of Network Appliance. Not the kind of guys that a software guy with no more than 6-8 employees typically gets to sit down with unless you marry their daughters.
One of the interesting things about that meeting is that as a business coach, I knew what to expect. I knew I’d get asked questions I couldn’t answer (that’s part of a business coach’s job). And I knew I’d be given a few things to do that I probably wouldn’t get the point of until later (likewise, that’s their job). What I didn’t expect was to leave 90 minutes later feeling like I had just finished drinking from a firehose. I’d been told that I can make people feel that way, but I hadn’t personally been made to feel that way myself. It’s a good thing. It’s good for you and it’s good for your business. But I digress.
Those are the kinds of introductions that Liz makes. Introductions that you’d never expect, to people you didn’t even know were in the valley. Introductions that could transform your business.
Back in April, I was helping organize the “Media and Transportation” Leadership Flathead (LF) session, so I stopped in to get Liz’s advice about some media speakers for the session. She suggested that we get Diane Smith from Auroras.tv, a local video-via-Internet startup firm here in the valley. The LF group was a bit overwhelmed by the technology Diane described, but clearly impressed by the way she runs her Kalispell-based company. She also suggested that I speak with Kellyn Brown, who introduced the Beacon publicly for the first time at April’s LF session. Again, these are the little things that Liz did every day.
The introduction to Beacon Editor Kellyn Brown was helpful for more than just the LF media session. At that time, the Beacon was still unknown to most in the Flathead and they were looking for contributors and columnists. I met with Kellyn about my interest in writing a business column and things just jelled. That was something that hadn’t happened when I tried to get that going elsewhere in the valley. Once more, a quality introduction from Liz formed a productive partnership for 2 parties. Sometimes, that’s what economic development is all about.
The Beacon launch party was held just after the first issue went to print. Liz walked up and said that someone named Povich asked if she knew me (presumably, a result of reading my business column). Yeah, that happens to me every day. Every little thing she does, like the Sting song goes…
Those are just a few of the things Liz has done to make a difference for me. I’m sure there are countless others in the valley with similar stories. So here’s my advice to anyone who meets her: Let her introduce you to someone. No one introduces you like Liz does. Learn from it and give her a reason to introduce you to someone else.
Finally, from myself, Kate and everyone else in the valley whose personal and professional lives you’ve touched….Thank you.
PS: Give Mike a shot. Liz laid the groundwork, so let’s help him build even more momentum.