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Air Conditioning and E-mail: The Ugly Truth

By Byron Middendorf
June 17, 2013

The loud conversation next door, children screaming “HOME FREE!” in a game of hide and seek, neighbors rocking on the porch 'til late into the sweltering night, windows open to let in the cool night air and let out the sounds of a family living life. That's what summer was like in my neighborhood. Then one summer, the neighbors bought an air conditioner. Down came their windows, off the porch they went, and on came their TV. Other neighbors soon followed suit, and summer no longer looked or sounded the same. I'm not the only one who noticed...Peggy Noonan has written that such scenarios were a significant factor in the decline of neighborhoods.

Fast forward a few decades...colleagues get up from their desks and talk about their families. Conversations about children or cars lead to camaraderie that brings employees closer and makes businesses better. Seeing the expressions of joy or sadness, hearing the laughter or experiencing the tears—face to face—we come to know each other. And then along came e-mail! Just like air conditioning, email has made our lives better. And yet, just like air conditioning, it has closed the windows of our relationships.

Fifteen years ago at Equinox, we began meeting each week for what we called Customer War Room. The company owners, salespeople, customer support specialists, software testers, and developers gathered around the conference table to go through a list of customer requests and issues. With every department represented, information was shared, decisions were made quickly, problems were solved, and solutions were put into action. But that was not the greatest benefit of those meetings! We laughed together, we expressed joy without emoticons, we took ownership, we brainstormed, and then we laughed some more. To this day (780+ weekly meetings later), we are still doing just that, because I think it important to live out what is printed on the back of our business cards:

Equinox was founded with one primary goal- to be a great place to work. We've successfully achieved this goal for 25+ years by focusing on what really matters. Family comes first. While we value professional accomplishments, we honor our family commitments above all else. With our families well cared for, we can wholeheartedly focus on our business of providing the best telecom solutions in the industry.”

Fellow employees are an extension of our families. We need to gather around a table. We need to visit each other's offices. We don't need another chain of e-mails to inadequately convey a message that a face-to-face conversation can accomplish with all the benefits of real human interaction.

If you are so inclined, print this blog and carry it to a friend's desk. Don't you dare e-mail it!! ;-)

About the Author: Byron Middendorf is the CEO, owner, and founder of Equinox Information Systems, where he oversees the company's sales, marketing, implementation, and support initiatives. With over 30 years' experience in the telecommunications industry, Byron provides vision and long-term strategic development for the company and its complete suite of software solutions. Although he enjoys those tasks, he is most passionate about his mission to ensure that Equinox is a great place to work. To learn more, visit www.equinoxis.com or call (615) 612-1200.