On today's podcast, I sat down and went round two with Abe Harper. Abe and his brother Carl own and manage Harper Technologies, L.L.C.. Harper Technologies is known for data forensics, managing large networks and PC support. We talk about Abe's schooling at Alabama School of Math and Science and how it led him to his first job in the tech industry. Abe is also a member of the Mobile Chamber of Commerce. So let's dive right in.
Abe: My name is Abe Harper with Harper Technologies, LLC.
Marcus: Awesome, dude. Well, Abe, welcome to the podcast.
Abe: Thank you.
Marcus: Yeah. For those of you that have been following the podcast for actually since its infancy, because Abe was on this podcast probably two, two-and-a-half years-
Abe: Season one, episode six-ish?
Marcus: Yeah. It's been awhile. It's no secret I think that you and I are really good friends.
Marcus: Sometimes, depending on how well I behave. So you're not here just because you're a friend but also because your business has changed dramatically over the last two years. And what we want to do is periodically we want to go back into our archives of people that we've talked to, and we want to get updates from them to find out where they're at, what's changed, what have they learned, that kind of thing, because I think there is something very valuable in talking to business owners after they've gone through a season of growth and discerning what it is that they've learned. Anyway. But we will answer some of the same questions. For those of you that didn't listen to that, don't feel like you need to go back. We're gonna cover some of the same questions, but-
Abe: Let's give them all new content. Don't make them go back.
Marcus: All new content?
Abe: All new content.
Marcus: Yeah. I'm extremely excited to have you here because I know you well enough to know that this is gonna be a good episode. So if you are at all inclined, sit on the edge of your seat because you're about to get some, dropped some bombs. To get started, why don't you tell us the story of Abe. Where are you from? Where'd you go to high school? Where'd you go to college if you went? And are you married, all that stuff?
Abe: Yes, I'm married. I'll start there first because I think that's the most important.
Marcus: That's the smart answer.
Abe: The smart answer. Always wife and family first. Married with a four-year-old diva, aka Daddy's Princess, aka Miss Natalie, aka Natalie [Noelle 00:01:58]. We also have about five months until the second of our Harper family from my segment of the Harper family arrives. So it's exciting times at our home. Born and raised on the Eastern Shore. Born at Thomas Hospital. Raised in Daphne, Alabama. Went to all Daphne schools all the way through my junior year. Transitioned out. Went to the Alabama School of Math and Science my last two years. Go Dragons. And really absolutely loved the school and the opportunities it gave me to grow since it's a boarding school. Then the next three-and-a-half years, I went to three different colleges, none of which did I actually finish, but left and started a company midway through my third year of college. So that's the abbreviated version of the story. It leaves out a lot of the little tidbits and details along the way that would make this-
Marcus: All the juicy stuff. Yeah-
Abe: Yeah, it'd make the story about six hours long if we had to tell the whole thing.
Marcus: Yeah. And Dragons, is that a reference to Dungeons and Dragons?
Abe: No, no, no.
Marcus: Because I know [crosstalk 00:03:01] brainiac schools, though.
Abe: It's our mascot.
Marcus: Just a little dig. But I do know enough about your experience and just from talking to other students that are Alabama Math and Science students that that is a no-joke high school. That is literally like a college institution in the middle of Mobile for ... The students just happen to be younger than your average college student. The courses that they're taking and the curriculum and stuff are very hardcore. But why don't you talk a little bit about that, because I don't think a lot of people know about that school.
Abe: Yeah. When I was there, I felt very privileged. I knew about fourth or fifth grade that I wanted to go there. And they had some summer programs and different things you could engage in. And I'll never forget my first experience because I was one semester off from the math that they wanted you to be in in order to go. So I had to go to basically a crash-course summer course in trigonometry to get focused and oriented to be able to start school my junior year. It was a absolutely, it was like, you've heard the term, "Drinking from a fire hose"? That's what it was like. You lived on campus for two-and-a-half, three weeks during that summer school segment and they brought you up to speed. It was basically boot camp.
Marcus: So you didn't start there as a freshman?
Abe: I started there as a junior.
Marcus: Okay. I didn't know that. Okay [crosstalk 00:04:30]-
Abe: Yep. And now they accept you as a sophomore, sophomore, junior, senior. But it was unique in that I found myself surrounded by people that were not a stranger to a 4.0 GPA at school. I wasn't the exception.
Marcus: That's the norm.
Abe: Right. It was the norm. And that was many, many moons ago. Talking about today, being able to mentor some of the students that exist on that campus and some of the students that work through things there and seeing them around the city and different things like startup weekend, it's a scary level of intellectual power there now. I mean they had two students with a perfect ACT score this year. And both of them were juniors. Neither was a senior.
Marcus: That's insane.
Abe: But it provides a well-rounded experience I think that's necessary to a lot of people that are a little bit ahead of the bell curve intellectually. And honestly, the school's programs are catered to making you think and making you excel, but then the boarding aspect of it allows you an opportunity to become autonomous, to get ready for the real world. So it really is, it's very much like college in high school. And it puts a burden of responsibility on the students so that they can become more proficient as adults. So I have the privilege of being plugged in with the school on a lot of facets as an alum. I get to go to a lot of the engagement events that are happening now. And I'll be very honest and forthcoming. I haven't been as active in the school as an alumni as I'd like to be, but they say you find your weakness then start working on strengthening it. And it's a jewel in our city.
Marcus: It's interesting because the few students that I've met there, I mean multilingual, most of them have taken a higher level of math than I've even taken as a college graduate, all these things. It's just like, man, there's just such an intense intellect that's present in that.
Abe: Right. For me, one of the values that I've learned as I've got to this point in my life and in our company is the value of a good education pre-college. College is great. College educates you on a lot of different levels, but in America, there seems to be this deficiency of carving and helping students to find their strengths before they get to the point of whether they know if they need to go to college or not. We're so society-driven to go to a higher education. So I like being plugged in to schools like ASMS, and there's several community involvement that I have with other educational organizations as well. Prichard Preparatory Academy. I had the privilege of being at Mary B. Austin yesterday, Williamson High School. Mobile has a really unique set of talent here. We've just gotta steward it correctly to make sure that all of the students have an opportunity to see us and figure out what it is that they're great at so they can excel at it. I just happen to be a little bit biased towards ASMS because I went there.
Marcus: Because you went there, yeah. And I think as the city starts to grow and not just grow in hospitality but grow in industry as well as grow its tech knowledge and stuff like that, that there'll be places for students like ... I mean many of the students that go to the Alabama Science and Math school could very easily go and fit into an organization like ours, because one of the girls that you and I sat down with, she was already programming, had been doing it for a while, was very proficient and stuff like that. At that level ... And she did, she wanted to go to college. But unless they want to go to college, there's really no need for them to. They could literally just go straight from high school into the job force and make a very good salary.
Abe: Especially when you put them into a cutting-edge business kind of like where we are, right?
Abe: Technology's still, the story's still being written. Much of what we deal with on a day-to-day basis is not in a book. You're just not gonna find it in a curriculum that can be taught at this point.
Marcus: Right. What was your first job, and any lessons that you remember from it?
Abe: My first revenue stream, income-producing occupation was I was about six years old, maybe a little older, my brother and I would ... My mom and dad had a freezer in the laundry room at our house that was used basically for storing deep-freeze stuff like fish and things that you, big meats, all that good stuff. So we found a way that we would make a little money during the summers by selling ... It's Alabama summer. It's hot. It's blazing out, 95-plus degrees. Kids are out playing.
Marcus: 120% humidity.
Abe: Exactly. So we'd make freeze cups. We'd go buy packages of Kool-Aid from the store. We'd get sugar, and we'd put them in cups, and we'd put it in the freezer, and then we'd sell it to kids for 25, 50 cents when they came by. We made better than $500 on several summers doing that.
Marcus: [inaudible 00:09:38], at what age?
Abe: Between six and 10.
Abe: Then we lived not too far from a golf course growing up. So it wasn't uncommon for us to go find the golf balls that people that shanked over the fence. And we would recycle, what's the word we'd use, refurbish, and resell those. So we kind of had an entrepreneurial spirit. My first actual job that gave me a paycheck ... Let me rephrase that. My first actual job that I ever had was at McDonald's. I did not ever work a shift. I actually got accepted ... This is the end of my senior year. I graduated high school, and I needed something to do between the summer. Mom and Dad didn't want us working while we were in school for obvious reasons. They wanted us to focus on academics. I went in, applied for a job at McDonald's, had my application accepted, went in for my training. And on the way there, the director of IT for the Alabama School of Math and Science called and said ... And this is back when it was 35 cents a minute to talk on a cell phone. So I was hesitant about answering, especially somebody from the school calling after I've graduated. But the guy's name was Bruce [Cool 00:10:54]. And he called, and he said, "How would you feel about a summer job working at your alma mater now?" And I said, "That sounds cool." And he made me a really neat offer as far as what it would pay. And I had the opportunity to go back there and work as an IT administrator for the school for that entire summer. That was my first job with a paycheck. It was a great experience, but again it was kind of that drinking from a fire hose scenario. I learned so much about technology that ... I've always been in that arena so to speak, but I learned so much about it that summer because it was just myself and one other gentleman. And we had the summer, but we had to clean up the infrastructure. We had to pull wires. We had to realign different network segments and make things work.
Marcus: Right. No, that's cool. So it wasn't just a job. Obviously that influenced I'm sure where you currently are, but mostly you would say that what you learned from that was more technical skills? Were there any life lessons garnered from that?
Abe: Yeah. There really were. Being a student all the way to that point, I hadn't really dealt with conflict resolution in a workplace, didn't know what they picture looked like. There were times that my coworker and I ... Because we were really two of the only people on campus besides some administrators during the summer. We'd get into it about simple things. And I'd go home and vent to Mom and Dad. And they'd tell me, "Well, you've gotta learn how to work through problems. You've gotta learn how to disagree, respect, and still work alongside of someone until you can find a mutual meeting point or just understand that their opinion and their value matters."
Marcus: There are so many life lessons in that last statement, it's not even funny.
Abe: Yeah. Absolutely.
Marcus: So how did Harper Tech get started?
Abe: Harper Technologies was a brainchild of my brother and I from all the way back when I was in high school. We always wanted to have a company. We've always worked together and come together to put ideas down and try and make something. That's our-
Marcus: It's okay. We all know Carl's the brains of the outfit.
Abe: Yeah, no. You won't get dispute from me on that. Carl is the brains and often the brawn. We got to talking when I was about midway through my third year of college. Now you have to remember, Carl is 13 at this point. I'm 19.
Abe: I graduated at 16, so I had a little bit of leeway coming out. But it was interesting because I found myself in a college curriculum. I had left with the full scholarship that I had. So I was paying my way through school at this point. And I found myself in the middle of a curriculum that was teaching me COBOL and Fortran in the year 2002. [crosstalk 00:13:49]-
Marcus: Okay, stop. For those of you that don't know what COBOL and Fortran are, these are languages that were probably used to put the men on the moon. So for him to be still learning those technologies in 2002, I get it, universities typically are a little bit behind, that's a little ridiculous.
Abe: Yeah. And it really just boiled down, I had a major dispute with an instructor over showing my work on a mesh analysis class. And I just had one of those aha moments in life. I was like, "What am I doing? Why am I doing this?" Because I was already working for a IT services company at the time. And I was like, "I really want to take some time to figure this thing out, figure out why I'm going to school for a double engineering degree. Do I really want to be a computer engineer?" Because that's a very different picture than where I am right now. So I actually went and withdrew from college and went-
Marcus: Dropped out.
Abe: Aka, dropped out, ditched, skipped, ran away, whatever term [crosstalk 00:14:52]-
Marcus: You didn't think I was gonna let you off the hook on all those little things are you?
Abe: It is what it is, though. So I went and talked to my employer. At the time, I was making a very, very, very minimum salary, like minimum wage almost salary at an IT company. The company's no longer in business, so I think I can speak freely. It's been a couple of decades now at this point. But I asked for a pay raise, because I knew what kind of volume we were sourcing, and was declined. And I said, "Okay, that's okay. I'm not gonna disrespect your opinion on your company." I [crosstalk 00:15:32]-
Marcus: But it doesn't mean you can start your own.
Abe: Well, I had a friend who had an office that he would let me borrow if I wanted to do so and provide him his IT services along the way. The company ownership that I had worked for was three part. It was two gentlemen that were finance partners, one that was a managing partner. The managing partner and I were really good friends. He was a great guy. He had a good heart. And the only thing he asked when I left is that we keep it ethical and that we don't go after each other's business. And I told him, I said, "Under no circumstances would I go after your business. That's not my style, my class, and I couldn't sleep at night if I did that." So I left, created a company, bought a business license, paid up my car and condo note. And Carl and I went out and handed flyers out all through Mardi Gras, because we started right around the start of the year. And business just started rolling in at that point. That same company that I had worked for some years later, actually the managing partner passed. And the other two partners closed down the operation. So we saw a lot of that business seek us out. We saw a lot of those clients that were lost in the wing come find us. And I think that was three or four years down the road. But that's kind of the birth of the first several years of Harper Tech. It's an interesting perspective to look back on. And I really don't look at, I don't think that far back most days. I'm trying to just figure out what my next step is.
Marcus: Yeah. I know. And you're running a million miles a minute right now. If you were talking to someone that wanted to get started running their own business, what's the one bit of wisdom that you would impart to them?
Abe: Don't do it! Run! Keep the paycheck! No.
Marcus: I know that's a lie because I know you absolutely love what you do and where you're at and stuff like that.
Abe: That's right. I am a huge proponent for entrepreneurship. I think that small businesses make up the vast majority of the U.S. and the world economy.
Marcus: What's it, 80% or something like-
Abe: Yeah, better than 80%. The one piece of advice I would recommend is find someone that's already done it and someone that you can trust and talk to, and get underneath them and absorb as much knowledge and as much power as you can. If I had to piggyback on that, I would say maintain at all times your true-to-self identity, be who you are, and do what you know is best for yourself, your company, and don't second-guess it based on someone else's opinion if your heart is leading you in a different direction and your morals are compassed correctly.
Marcus: Right. Now I know you have quite a bit going on in your business, but my next question is what are you currently working on in your business? But I want to expand that just a little bit. Let's go back to last year. You were part of the Emerging Leaders Program that the Mobile Chamber did.
Marcus: And I know that you're extremely plugged in with the chamber.
Marcus: Why don't you give us your ... Because I don't remember all your credentials with them, but why don't you give us a rundown of your involvement in the chamber here.
Abe: Which chamber? All chambers?
Marcus: Yeah, exactly.
Abe: The chambers? Area chambers?
Marcus: Well, let's start with Mobile, because that's the one we're talking about.
Abe: Within the Mobile Chamber, our company is a board of advisors company. Our company is a chamber member obviously. I am a board of directors member. I'm also an executive board member in the capacity of vice chair of membership for this year, which also comes along with the tagline chairman of the Chamber Chase Initiative, which is the Mobile Chamber's Total Resource Campaign. And then I just really love and support what's going on in the community with the chamber and how they impact small business growth, and large business growth. I mean they're an economic development system, and they've got a really good operating model.
Marcus: One of the things that I've been very impressed by with the Mobile Chamber is that they seem extremely organized in their economic development and how they're going about that. So I know that they have at least a fairly good hand in the responsibility of all the industry that we're seeing move to this area between them and the partnership with the city and the impact that they've had. But I also know that they're doing a lot of things for small-business owners like yourself and myself to help them get the skills and knowledge and opportunities and stuff like that that are needed in order to accelerate our growth. Let's go back to the Emerging Leaders Program. Why don't you tell everybody a little bit about what that is and what that entails?
Abe: Yeah. One of my philosophies on life is you never stop learning. Everybody understands that, for the most part I think. After I got past our building project in 2016, which is a-whole-'nother conversation-
Marcus: That's another podcast, folks.
Abe: ... a-whole-'nother podcast, I was able to get because of the efficiency of our team and how well they work, I was able to take a more intentional leadership role with our company and get ... I don't have a degree in business. I know my craft. I know where-
Marcus: Well, let's be clear. You don't have a degree.
Abe: I don't have a degree. Correct.
Marcus: And I don't say that to-
Abe: No, no, no. That's-
Marcus: Because one of the things that we highlight on this podcast ... And I very much actually keep you in mind when I think about that because I think it's extremely important for people that are listening to this podcast to realize there is no right path.
Marcus: It's not a magical, "I'm gonna go to this school, and I'm gonna major in this thing, and automatically I'm gonna be successful."
Marcus: It's what you just said, which is, "I'm never gonna stop learning. I'm gonna figure out a way. I'm gonna find out what interests me, and I'm just gonna do it."
Abe: Right. And there's certain disciplines that the degree does carry gravity in. For example, I-
Marcus: Sure. Engineering, medical.
Abe: Yeah. I don't want a kidney removed by me. Let's be very clear. I will not do my own dental work. Those are-
Marcus: Yeah. That would not bode well.
Abe: But those are disciplines that have historically, with the exception of the technology integration aspect, remained stable in their content. But I learned a lot about business on the school of hard knocks. Make a bad decision, learn from it quickly, recover even quicker, and don't sit in the mud crying while the horse runs away. Emerging Leaders as a program was actually the second program that I was a part of in the entrepreneurial ecosystem, 1702 being the first.
Marcus: You're welcome.
Abe: Thank you.
Abe: Yes. Courtesy of Marcus Neto with Blue Fish. I was able to get a better snapshot and a more rounded picture of what our company is really doing because they have a six- or seven-month curriculum where they really make you look strategically at where are you, what are you doing, what do you want to do, how do you get there? And then attach it to a smart goal. Is it strategic? Can you actuate this and can you measure it? And is it achievable? That has a value to it when you're a business owner. You're just not out there ... It's like cutting down a tree. If you take the ax and you walk around the tree and you just swing it randomly, at some point that tree's gonna fall. Now how many times you gotta swing the ax to knock the tree down it just depends on how many time you hit the same spot. But if you know that you're gonna bait that tree in a certain way and keep chopping at the same spot, you're gonna topple that tree a lot faster.
Marcus: Right. Now I know through our conversations over the last eight months or so, the information that you got from that program was extremely valuable. And actually I'm hoping to go through that program. My only regret is that I didn't apply, but there are reasons there. So I'm hoping to go through that program this year because I just think the excitement that you had, the plan that you have, the focus that your business has now is more sharp than I've ever seen. And we've known each other for a number of years.
Marcus: So why don't you tell everyone ... Give us one nugget. What was one thing that you walked out of that program and you were like, "Man, this is just, this is gold"?
Abe: I would have to say I had an aha moment when I learned the true value of the relationship aspect of every part of your business, not just the customer relationship aspect. We've always been customer service first. That has always been our pillar and our principle. But in that, I had taken ... I don't want to use and accidental lackadaisical approach as a word, but if you have to attach something to it, that's what I'd say. I just loosely structured our relationship value on vendor-to-vendor relations, our placement as a company to our bank relation, our placement as employers-to-employee relations. And it really structured my philosophy on what the global picture of the relationship value is in a business. That and, man, the second thing would really be the financial assessment piece, learning what you're looking at when you look at a P&L or a balance sheet or a cash flow statement and what you're looking for and how to predict trending on it and how to know what your value is and how to actuate to get your value where you want it to be.
Marcus: Right. And knowing that can help you plan for the future and know what moves to make and where to invest and when to hire-
Abe: Or where not.
Marcus: ... where not to invest, when to be a little bit leery and be conservative, when to press on the gas pedal, all that stuff. So, no, that's very cool. Going back to the question, what are you currently working on in your business?
Abe: That's G-14 classified.
Marcus: Whatever, dude.
Abe: What did Jim Carrey say in Pet Detective?
Marcus: No, let's not quote Jim Carrey.
Abe: "That's my personal affairs, and I'll thank you to stay out of my business." So we do have a couple of things coming down the pipe. I don't know how much of it I can or should disclose.
Marcus: Well, I'm not looking for ... Let me clarify. I'm not looking for products or services that you're gonna be rolling out.
Abe: Okay, there we go.
Marcus: I'm looking at what are you learning? What are you trying to get better at? What are the processes that you're putting in place? That kind of thing.
Abe: Okay, gotcha, gotcha. All right. Yeah, I can talk about that.
Marcus: [crosstalk 00:26:33].
Abe: Right now we are making a strong initiative to enter a couple of new markets on the Gulf Coast with some very, very unique service offerings that are not widely offered. As far as processes go, we've become very granular in our approach to what does every workflow that we have look like? How do we refine it to a point where there are checks and balances, but also that there's a measurement scale along the way so that we know ... The best way I ever heard it described to me by someone was that when you evaluate an employee when they walk into your office for whatever that evaluation is or looks like, they should be on the same page and know how that conversation is gonna proceed before they get in there and sit down. And they should know what their performance is. And just being very transparent here, a year and a half ago, we didn't have a system in place to allow for that. I was as much guessing as they were when they'd walk in the door. "Okay, let's evaluate you. How have you been doing?"
Marcus: Yeah, exactly.
Abe: So now it's much more strategic. These are our markers. These are our readily made identifiers. This is the area of excellence or the area of weakness that we need to work on. And it lets that conversation be a lot more gentle. It's not the traditional, "Here's your evaluation. Lob the grenade over the fence. Run away."
Marcus: No, I mean you're having the conversation on an ongoing basis because you're keeping tabs on them and encouraging them or providing them with feedback or letting them know that they're valued or whatever.
Marcus: Yeah. I know your employees are just as much, and I hate to use the term because I don't want it to seem like you're trying to abuse them like family, but they are-
Abe: I abuse my family?
Marcus: Yeah. But you know what I'm saying.
Marcus: It's not-
Abe: I think it's no secret that we have a very culture-conscious office. We want-
Marcus: Yeah. You have to as a small business.
Abe: Correct. We want people to feel like they belong. We want people to feel like they're a part of a team, not the proverbial boss-employee, "Here's your paycheck, here's your pink slip," mentality.
Marcus: And they have to be bought in to the vision because if you're not all moving in the same direction as a small team, then it's not gonna move in the direction that you want it to.
Marcus: Yeah. So what does a typical day look like for you right now?
Abe: I normally wake up around noon-ish.
Marcus: That's not true.
Abe: I wish it were true.
Marcus: My question is usually when do you sleep, Abe?
Abe: About six months ago, that answer would've been probably two to three hours a night. It's actually increased to about five or six hours a night. I think my body's trying to prepare me for the next little one coming along. So it's resting up now. My day typically starts 5:30, 6:00 with various checkpoints on the business, the financial snapshot, what's coming up that's due, what's overdue in terms of projects, or where do we need to go for the next step on something? I am very community connected. We sat down and did an analysis.
Marcus: That's a light way of saying that you have your irons in a lot of different organizations.
Abe: Yes. My wife and I sat down and did an assessment last December of how many hours ... There was a question that came up, how many hours a week do you work? And it was 111. I couldn't believe it. I'm like, "There's no way. I'm not working 111 hours a week." And we got to looking at it, and of course it was a true 111 hours a week. So I spend a lot of time at different events, mixers, out in the community supporting organizations that our company champions alongside of. I spend probably four to five hours between client sites and my office daily, [inaudible 00:30:40] about half of the workday. And then in the evening, I get to go home and round out paperwork, service ticket closure, review of notes, emails, anything that I may have uncarved throughout the day. The beauty of it is we are a culture and family-conscious office, so we've got the kids' room in the office so that four or five hours out of the day that in the office along with the time I'm at home, I've got my wife usually, my niece, my nephews, my daughter there. So it's a really ... It's a-
Marcus: It's a blended thing.
Marcus: So oftentimes I used to hear the term "work-life balance." And I think as business owners, I'm coming to understand that there is no work-life balance, per se. There is just kind of a blending of those lines. And that's not necessarily a bad thing. So like tonight, and this won't be released for a couple weeks, but tonight is the annual meeting for the Mobile Chamber. And you and I are both going. I know my wife's gonna be there. I would imagine Audra's gonna be there as well.
Marcus: So we're spending time, but we're also at work. So there's kind of a blurring of those lines as business owners.
Abe: But I think the value there is that, much like my wife, your wife believes and supports and buys in to the vision of your business.
Abe: And it's as exciting for her as it is for you. So you're getting to spend time together. And the bonus to that is you're working for the same goal at the same time.
Abe: That's tremendous.
Marcus: For the betterment of our family.
Marcus: Yeah. Who's the one person that motivates you from the business world?
Abe: From the business world. I don't have one. There's a lot.
Marcus: Yeah. One or two. We can't spend all day on this.
Abe: Man, you put me in that weird position. Okay. Last week-
Marcus: Abe's not usually at a loss for words, folks.
Abe: Well, it's just this stuff bouncing around in my head right now. Last week, I had the privilege of going to the Goldman Sachs 10,00 Small Businesses Summit. And I got to hear some of my absolute favorites speak. I mean I missed Mardi Gras and took my wife to D.C. for Valentine's Day because of this. I heard Michael Bloomberg, Warren Buffett, Richard Branson, Tyler Perry. Those are powerhouses when it comes down to just community impact and business world. Richard Branson something over 400 companies I think.
Marcus: I knew he had a lot. I didn't [crosstalk 00:33:14]-
Abe: It's ridiculous. But he only works like 80 hours a week. I'm trying to figure that out. I'm like, one company, 111. Okay, three companies, but still 111.
Marcus: 80 hours a week.
Abe: Yeah. But they're so passionate about what they do. And the bigger part to it for me, and you've heard me say this before, I don't believe that we're given the set of skills and the opportunities that we've got to spend our entire life working just to leave a measly dollar amount and a bank account or a trust fund for our families.
Abe: I am at a point where I am looking to what does my future look like, and how do I become a conduit? How do we get back into the community to give more back of what we've got? There's no point in hoarding everything that you make and bringing it and just putting it into a safe vault. That doesn't do anyone any good when there's kids that don't have access to good education. There's homes that don't have adequate energy efficiency. There's people that are truly, severely hurting. What can we do? What's our placement to take our God-given talents and our opportunities and re-invest those back in the community so that we've been good stewards over what we've had an opportunity to engage in. And to get to do something that I love while I'm doing that, that's like an added bonus, right?
Abe: I didn't answer your question as to who was the one person that influences me, but I would have to say that anybody that's willing out of $860 billion to give away 99% of it-
Marcus: That's pretty impressive. Yeah.
Abe: It's all about the future.
Marcus: Yeah. So you are going through that program right now.
Abe: I will start in about two weeks officially. But I have been accepted. I am a student. Technically we've got some prelim work that we've already done for the course, but yes.
Marcus: Okay. So in two years, we'll have you back and you can tell us about that one, too.
Marcus: Are there any books, podcasts, people, or organizations that have been helpful in moving you forward?
Abe: Yeah, man. That Mobile AO podcast, that's just-
Marcus: It's all because of that. Folks, you heard it here first.
Abe: I'm just saying.
Marcus: We are a breeding ground for success.
Abe: It's very relevant and very necessary in our community. [crosstalk 00:35:35]-
Marcus: I appreciate the plug, but answer the question.
Abe: No, seriously. You can look at the Facebook metrics. You see me on there perusing and liking and loving stuff.
Marcus: There you go.
Abe: I have been really involved in a lot of business-oriented books lately. I don't know if I had finished or if I had read it the last time we talked, but "Start With Why" is a big one for me.
Marcus: Simon Sinek?
Abe: Simon Sinek. That book and "Leaders Eat Last," that one, he's got great content in both of those. They are major. There's one that I'm reading right now. I wish I could tell you the author's name on it. I can see it as plain as day.
Marcus: What's the title?
Abe: It's "Uplifting Service." It was sent to me by a vendor out of Texas. I'll share it with you when I'm done. But it really speaks to the culture piece of how we engage our clients. We all need a refresh on things when it gets abundantly stressful. And as a company's growing, it's not all flowers and roses, but it does require a strategic focus as well as something to reenergize you. Of course, you throw that in with local happenings and things that are going on. Mobile's an exciting place to be right now. There's no two ways about it. So staying engaged on everything that's transitioning and finding out what locals are doing and who we can get plugged in to, that's really my source of energy, so to speak, and refresh.
Marcus: What's the most important thing that you have learned about running a business?
Abe: The most important thing I've learned about-
Marcus: See, I'm stumping people left and right today.
Abe: Yeah, man. These are good questions. I'm liking this.
Marcus: Man, Oprah ain't got nothing on me.
Abe: I would have to say you have to learn to be nimble as a small-business owner. If you're not willing to change, you're not willing to see both sides of the situation, your perspective and whoever else you're talking with at that very moment in your business, you can't succeed. You have to be willing to change, and you have to understand that it's not always gonna go your way. In my first several years of being in business, what I did not understand was how that agility could affect the business's ability to grow, because you get so rooted. We call it pivoting now in our world, from the product [crosstalk 00:38:10]-
Marcus: We've got a term for something that's existed since the existence of business.
Abe: Exactly. But it's critical to being able to overcome obstacles. If you keep running into the same brick wall and expecting it to change, you're gonna end up with enough bruises at some point that you're just gonna sit down and say, "Forget it." You gotta look left and right at some point and figure out, "Okay, which way can I get around this wall the quickest?"
Marcus: You mentioned after the previous question that you have to have some way to reenergize. How do you like to unwind?
Abe: Aviation, man. My wife tells me on a regular basis, "You need to go fly." And I jokingly say it, but-
Marcus: He's got his pilot's licenses, but he has his own plane and has the ability to go and do that. She's not just telling him to go take a leap off [crosstalk 00:39:06].
Abe: No, no, no. She's not saying, "Go fly." She's saying, "Go get you some airtime." But I tell people this jokingly, but in a serious context as a pilot, when you're flying, the only thing you can focus on at that moment is flying the aircraft. Staying alive is prime principle, making sure that you're doing everything that that aircraft needs and that your pilot skills teach you. So it's a disconnect. I can't afford to be distracted at that point.
Marcus: And what does a perfect day look like for Abe Harper?
Abe: A perfect day?
Abe: I wake up about 12:00, maybe 11:00. I get a cup of coffee. I go to the airport. I go get some beignets in New Orleans, with Natalie in the back. Natalie has to fly. That's her requirement. And I come back home. I throw a steak on the Green Egg, and I go to sleep.
Marcus: There you go.
Abe: That's a perfect day.
Marcus: And maybe a little Cognac in the mix there somewhere.
Abe: Just a smidge.
Marcus: Yeah. All right, Abe. Man, where can people find you?
Abe: Now you can find us on the corner of Saint Francis and Broad at 50 North Broad Street, Downtown Mobile, ZIP code 36602. They can find us at www.harpertechnologies.com. Instagram, HarperTech. Facebook, HarperTech. LinkedIn, Abe Harper. Twitter, AbeHarperTech.
Marcus: Very good. I want to thank you again for coming on the podcast. To wrap up, any final thoughts or comments you'd like to share?
Abe: None for me, except thanks for having us here. And thanks for having me here. Really appreciate it. And always enjoy it. Pleasure.
Marcus: Yeah, man. Of course. Abe, I appreciate your willingness to sit with me and share your journey as a business owner and entrepreneur. It's been great talking to you.
Abe: Thanks. Appreciate you guys.
Produced by Blue Fish in Mobile, AL