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At SDN Communications, everything starts with 'why'

SDN Communications starts with

At SDN Communications, “Enjoy the Uptime” is more than a slogan. Providing uptime for businesses is the bottom line.

“Uptime is why we exist,” says Vernon Brown, vice president of marketing and community relations for SDN.

In addition to defining the purpose of the Sioux Falls-based company, the easy-to-understand term “UPTIME” has evolved to also reflect the overall reliability of SDN products and services, as well as the corporate culture.

Clients might only think about communications connectivity when the continuation of service is somehow threatened. That’s understandable. Indeed, SDN wants clients to go about their business and personal lives without having to worry about connectivity issues.

With an uptime rate of more than 99.9 percent, system reliability is not much of an issue for customers. But, as Brown points out, SDN employees must be passionate about the network’s ability to provide uptime all the time.

“Our employees have to get excited about the network every day,” he says.

Passion for the network is an employee attitude that is encouraged.

“We now have departments that hold meetings called "UPTIME" to share positive things that are going on,” Brown says.

It starts with why

The work of Simon Sinek, a popular author and motivational speaker, has helped SDN define and spread the value of UPTIME throughout the culture of the company.

In his book, “Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action,” and in speeches, Sinek stresses that “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.”

Sinek talks about a Golden Circle with rings that represent what, how, and why. In defining and promoting themselves, organizations should work outward from the innermost ring – the why – rather than start with the what and work inward.

Taking that then-undefined approach has helped leaders such as Steve Jobs, Martin Luther King Jr., and the Wright Brothers succeed, even though they might not have been the first in their field, Sinek says.

Jobs was the late, creative and leadership force with Apple Inc. He helped pioneer products such as the iPod, iPhone, and iPad. King was a leader in the African-American civil rights movement. The Wright Brothers are credited for developing the first, practical fixed-wing aircraft. All three had motivating beliefs –whys - that attracted people.

The goal for businesses should be to attract customers who share a belief in why a company does what it does, Sinek contends. Sales and profit are among the results.

The how and what

Starting with why, as Sinek suggests, has given SDN an accurate and appealing way to define itself and carry out its operations.

After the “why” of Sinek’s Golden Circle has been identified, the “how” and “what” can be filled out. In SDN’s case, the "how" and "what" are extensive.

SDN has more than 30,000 miles of fiber network in South Dakota and strategic partnerships to provide broadband connectivity and related services to businesses and other organizations throughout the region.

SDN’s network touches more than 300 communities in South Dakota and connects to other regional and national networks.

The company, which is 25 years old and growing, provides an information superhighway for an eight-state area.

Meanwhile, the 17 independent phone companies that own SDN serve about 80 percent of South Dakota’s geography. They provide services such as long-distance phone access and digital TV to consumers in 80 rural communities.

It all starts with why.