I want to… I’m going to… Hey, look, a squirrel!

I consider myself a very lucky father. Aside from having two happy, healthy, wonderful children, I am also the proud father of a sports-loving 7-year-old boy. That’s not to say I would be disappointed if my son was more into music, monster trucks or science (all things he also enjoys). But being an avid sports fan myself, it gives us something we both enjoy together. Plus, it helps balance out the plethora Let It Go renditions from Disney’s Frozen I endure with my 5-year-old daughter.

Recently, my little sports fanatic took a keen interest in hockey. A big reason was our move to Erie, PA. Aside from being the snowiest “big” city in America this past year, it is also the home of a junior hockey team called the Erie Otters. Players that land in junior hockey are identified as having the talent to play in the NHL, but are still too young. Legends like Bobby Orr, Sidney Crosby and Mario Lemieux all played in a junior hockey league. So, the talent is top notch. In fact, the Otters currently have a player on the roster by the name of Connor McDavid, predicted by most to be the top NHL pick in 2015.

Being exposed to quality competition sparked my son’s interest in hockey. And naturally, he wanted to learn how to play. I’ve never even been on ice skates, let alone played hockey, so I knew I was not the right person to teach him. He was going to need real lessons.

If you’ve ever had a child in hockey or known anyone that has, you know it is not a cheap endeavor. It’s not like you’re buying shin guards and soccer cleats. I’ve often put down the funds for my son’s interests only for them to last for one season (or less). So, naturally, when he told me he wanted to learn how to play hockey like McDavid, I was hesitant to shell out a lot of cash for a sport he may love forever, or may go the way of guitar lessons. Will my child really take to this hobby? Or will he experience a phenomenon I like to call:

“I want to do something. I’m going to do it. Hey, look, a squirrel!”

This is a conundrum every parent faces. Do I invest the funds to let him learn hockey, with the very real possibility that he will try it, hate it, and be done with it forever—leaving me with a closet full of expensive equipment? Or do I indulge his yearning to learn something new with the hopes it turns into something he really enjoys? If I knew for sure this would be something he enjoyed doing, I’d have no problem dropping a large chunk of change on equipment and lessons. But that’s just it. I had no idea. So I had to find a way to mitigate my risk, while letting my son realize the full potential of my investment.

When I have a decision dilemma and am unsure of what to do, I often ask for advice. Now, my wife may disagree with that statement, but in situations like this where I am clueless, it is true. I reach out to my network of family and friends. Why? Because within that vast array of my acquaintances, there just has to be someone who has gone through this before. At the very least, maybe someone knows someone who knows someone. And sure enough, I was right.

So what does this long drawn out story have to do with business? Oftentimes, organizations are faced with a need and a desire to improve. Improvement can include a number of changes such as process automation, a better employee onboarding system or simply a way to process invoices quicker. Regardless, organizations with the need and desire to improve run into the same conundrum I ran into with my son. They are unsure of how to go about change, but more importantly, they’re unsure of where to seek change, and if the investment will be worth it.

Faced with these challenges, entities often turn to their network of expertise. In the case of software solutions, that means a partner that has steered them well in the past. This could be a third-party consultant, an analyst firm or simply a solution provider that has provided a successful solution in the past. By relying on that expertise, organizations are able to make well-informed decisions and take a big piece of risk out of the equation. Trusting those that have the knowledge and experience can lead to a successful introduction that benefits everyone involved.

In the case of my son, I was able to find reigning NHL MVP Sidney Crosby’s foundation that runs a program called The Little Penguins. They provide eight weeks of hockey lessons and coaching for a nominal fee. On top of that, all hockey equipment is provided for free. Free! And the person in my network that connected me to the right resource had my son’s best interests in mind—none other than Grandpa. You see, Grandpa’s employee was one of the coaches tasked with running the program in Erie. So by scavenging my acquaintances, better known in the business world as my influence ecosystem, we were able to get signed up and selected for the program.

So the bottom line is that when you are faced with difficult decisions about whether or not to take a risk on a new activity, project or investment, rely on those within your circle of trust. I’d much rather make an educated guess than a simple leap of faith. Oh, and in case you are wondering, my son is on his third round of lessons and still loves playing and learning. He even had a chance to play a scrimmage during the intermission of an Erie Otters playoff game, the same ice where his hero Connor McDavid plays. I’d say I made the right decision. Will you?

Mike Satterthwaite

Mike has spent his entire eight years with Hyland, creator of OnBase, providing marketing assistance for the partner ecosystem. Currently, he works with some of our largest integration and hardware... read more about: Mike Satterthwaite