Seth Buechley shared some of the important lessons he has learned during a career as a tower climber, tower builder and DAS equipment distributer, during his keynote address at the AGL SoCal Summit, last week, in Newport Beach, California. He has been a serial entrepreneur founding, growing and selling several companies. As a CEO of Cathedral Consulting, his job is now growing other people’s companies.
“I want to challenge you to perceive the changes in the wireless industry through the lens of opportunity,” he told the audience. “The wireless infrastructure industry offers unique opportunities to reinvent your business and, perhaps more importantly, reinvent yourself.”
Buechley encouraged the audience to watch the constant change in the wireless infrastructure industry and look for what prospects may arise. For example, he mentioned Verizon’s recent layoffs, T-Mobile’s $3.5B 5G contract with Ericsson, and Tillman Infrastructure’s tower contract with AT&T.
“Think about what they could mean to your business. Can you exploit it? Reinvention and innovation many times happens just adjacent to what we are already doing. We all need an economic engine that we focus on because we are good at it. But it is around the edges that we can stimulate change and see opportunity,” Buechley said.
He pointed out the changing fortunes of the enterprise DAS space, which at one time could not garner any interest from the carriers and then became the home of millions of dollars of investment from carriers in major stadiums, arenas and hospitality venues. And now, the carriers have stopped investing again. “Is there an opportunity for you to guide the enterprises in getting signal sources in their business?” Buechley said.
Buechley began his career as a co-founder of family-owned CORD Communications, a turnkey network implementation company, which reinvented itself several times, each time taking advantage of opportunities adjacent to its core competency. Starting out in tower construction, the company added antennas and lines and became a technical services concern. Next, it expanded into land use and planning, becoming a site development company, ultimately doing build-to-suit. The company was sold to publicly-traded WesTower in 1998.
Buechley then became a founding investor and vice chairman of Washington Oregon Wireless (WOW), a Sprint PCS affiliate, which quickly sold. And then, in 2001, he co-founded Tri-Power Group, a DAS integrator based in the San Francisco Bay area. In 2008, he co-founded and became the President of SOLiD USA.
“At Tri-Power, we had a heart to heart with each other one day and realized we were a glorified technical services contractor and really weren’t building value in our own enterprise,” Buechley said. “From that moment of clarity, we were presented with the opportunity to bring an innovative new product, SOLiD, into a fairly crowded marketplace.”
That crowded marketplace included some formidable companies, such as Andrew, CommScope, MobileAccess, TE Connectivity and PowerWave.
“It would have been easy to say it didn’t make sense because of the number of the incumbents already in the market, but we were able to do it,” Buechley said. “We tell ourselves stories and then we believe them. We tell ourselves that the big guy has it all tied up and the little guy can never win. Challenge the story you are telling yourself.”
Today, SOLiD is one of the major OEMs in the DAS space, with deployments in the New York Subway, Empire State Building, Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, Dayton Speedway and Nike campus.
Through his DAS deployments, Buechley discovered another problem. Carriers were deploying DAS without including public safety in-building communications capabilities. So, he founded the Safer Buildings Coalition, a 50+ member organization that encourages coverage for public-safety communications services inside buildings.
Buechley not only shared the story of his achievements but he also talked about the lessons that he learned after having trouble dealing with success. His success and sudden wealth led him to some life choices and a personal crisis that forced him to take a closer look at himself.
“I was driven; I was in an exciting industry; and I was always going, going, going,” he said. “My personality was Triple A – almost always anxious. I was ambitious, but I was not grateful for the success that I had achieved.”
When Buechley realized the importance of gratitude, it totally changed his perspective on life and his work. He looked at other driven people and realized that others could benefit from it, so he wrote a book “Ambition: Leading with Gratitude,” and presented on the topic at TEDxRoseburg.
“What I have discovered is that many driven people — the kind that are attracted to this industry – struggle with gratitude and a sense of real satisfaction, because we are so forward focused on that next thing that we never stop and appreciate what we have and value where we come from,” Buechley said.
Driven people try to gain satisfaction through achievement, but satisfaction can only be found “on the other side of gratitude,” he said.
“Gratitude can function like a lens through which we see everything,” Buechley said. “When we get in touch with gratitude, it defines what is real. When we know what’s real, we have clarity.”
Since he has discovered gratitude, new opportunities to lead and serve have emerged and his enjoyment of his work has increased. Buechley challenged the audience to examine their own lives to see if they need to change their outlook on life.