Sharon R Aby >
Sharon Aby held leadership positions with some of America's most innovative companies; Apple Computer and Microsoft. She worked in Silicon Valley for Apple and also for a biotechnology company during their start-up years. This gives her a fundamental understanding and an insider's perspective on the rise and pervasive impact of technology. She understands the pace of business change, the challenge of building manufacturers, retailers and professionals, innovation marketing, and the evolution of the 21st century business environment. The formative years of her career were spent helping to launch products that the market had never experienced, creating new markets where none had been before, building partners and channels, selling new ideas and promises, building high performance teams, and forging industry-best practices. Her years spent with Microsoft further developed her thinking about organizations, systems, and the discipline of marketing.

Within these companies that have had an indelible influence on business practices, she held positions across multiple functions including sales, marketing, customer support, business development, and human resources. This cross-functional expertise gives her a unique ability to coach her clients about the importance of implementing marketing and sales strategies across their entire businesses.

After leaving Microsoft she founded Beyond Ideas in response to the needs of small and medium building professionals and business owners who understand the urgency to change with the times, but lack the marketing and sales experience to do so. She is a hands-on partner to advise or complete work that needs to get done. Her specialty is giving companies the tools to change and thrive as a 21st century company.

Sharon completed her masters at the University of Chicago and now lives in California.
Advising the Building Industry >
So how does it happen that someone finds his or her passion working for the building industry? For me the “ah hah” moment came while reading Jim Collins' book Good to Great. Collins introduces us to the Hedgehog concept which states that for a business to be the best it must give up doing what it can’t be the best at.

At the time, Beyond Ideas was advising a broad client base of companies: telecommunications, healthcare, technology, retail, landscape design and builders. My strength was helping clients discover the sweet spot between what the market needed and their core capability to provide it. To do that I had to possess a deep knowledge and follow trends about my clients' industries. A 21st century marketing strategy relies on moving quickly with the market trends. Collins made me realize I needed to narrow my focus so I could develop industry knowledge and help my clients even more effectively.

It was then that I realized my passion is squarely for the building industry. This wasn’t at all surprising to folks who know me well because a year didn’t pass when I wasn’t involved in a construction project.

My mother had a true passion for creating beautiful homes. I regret that I don’t have a before and after picture of the house I grew up in, but I can assure you it looked nothing like this. Mom, who is a Real Estate Broker, outgrew that house and built her dream home on the coast.

When I moved to Chicago with Apple Computer I bought a flat in the DePaul district – very hip. Little did I know, being from California, that this old brick building was a sieve. The temperature inside was the same as outside. I didn't have the clout or money to tuck-point the building but that's where my interest in HVAC systems began. We rebuilt the porch to maintain our insurance.

This was my dollhouse that I left behind in California to move to Chicago. We added about 300 square-feet to the house to make it a whopping 1200 square-foot space. With the exception of the new kitchen expansion this was my D-I-Y house where I cut my teeth.

Our downtown condominium in Chicago was a bit small and as a Californian I longed for more nature around me. The house we built in Michigan was quite an extraordinary project for us. The main room was two stories with a cathedral ceiling and glass on two sides of the room. The tradesmen spent so much time in that room or quit because of it that we called it the Bermuda Triangle.

We built this home when we moved out of the city. There wasn't much for me to do once it was finished so I focused on landscape design and gardening. I spent the next summer working for a Landscape Designer who creates beautiful English gardens around Lake Forest.

It was a dream of mine to renovate this 1928 English country home and my poor husband was dragged along for the ride. After renovating every inch of it and landscaping the side yard I earned my 'PhD' in construction. You may think you know a lot, but you don’t know what you don’t know until you tackle a 1928 beauty and bring back her original shine.

This was the beginning of my foray into the building industry. I’m hooked and deeply committed to sharing all of my marketing know-how with all of the fine people I’ve met and come to respect along the way. Builders, masons, window manufacturers and dealers, electricians, plumbers, architects, engineers, lighting dealers, lumber companies, roofers, alarm companies, granite companies and their installers, tile outlets, paint stores, hardware, realtors, pavers, landscape and nurseries comprise only a partial list of the people I’ve worked with on these projects.

In 2008, I decided to change the focus of Beyond Ideas to only serving the building industry and show them how to build a marketing strategy and plan that will allow them to stay relevant in the 21st century.

My old clients suggest that I may have picked a bad time to serve the Building Industry. I respond, for what I do for clients, I couldn’t have picked a better time.

Beyond Ideas Marketing, LLC >
Beyond Ideas turns ideas into opportunities and opportunities into sales. Beyond Ideas is for business owners and professionals who understand that this time we live in is not your father's business environment. It's for business people who know they have to act now and act fast, but are unsure what that means. Finally, it is for those who have a nagging sense of urgency and a keen desire to change with the times. As Andy Grove, the Founder of Intel, said, "Only the paranoid survive."


Beyond Ideas specializes in helping businesses to create more successful marketing and sales strategies for the 21st century. It's about aligning old fashioned business values with the power of the network as a driver of business. It's about creating differentiation through innovation and marketing strategy.


How do you make your company successful in the new economy? Beyond Ideas shows companies how to think and act in the real-time business environment that we now live in. Businesses learn that marketing is a way of thinking that helps companies use all of their core assets, tangible and intangible - people, ideas, and information - to drive their business. They learn how to be in contact with customers, partners, and employees seamlessly in order to maximize communications and productivity. They learn how to use their assets creatively to fulfill a market need. They learn how to think and behave as smoothly as the market. Lastly, they learn how to create a business culture that empowers their people to deliver lasting results.
21st Century Business >
What Are Small Businesses Doing to Succeed in the 21st Century?


Increasing economic pressures in combination with a shift to open markets because of the Network, will necessitate that small businesses organize for agility and change. It will not be enough to do what you did last year a little better this year. I talk with small businesses everyday who tell me about a new business software solution that they are implementing company-wide. They say this with some veiled hope that such a move will ease the pain they are feeling about keeping up the the market. Before you sign the dotted line for a new technology solution that holds the promise of lifting you out of the 20th century and into the new economy, back up and think again. Technology is only as good as your objectives and tactics dictate. It will be necessary to be able to do things differently every day, if that is what the market dictates. An information system will help you do that, but there is only one thing that will ensure success and that is to change your business model.


Your very survival will depend on your ability to move rapidly and flexibly from ideas to action, strategy to tactics, financing to production, production to market, marketing to sales, and customers for life. The way to organize and execute with agility in the face of change is to acquire a 21st century model: open, collaborative and totally accessible.


Open means that there are no shared secrets on a Network that operates 24/7/365. Information is currency and transparency is a necessity.


Collaborative means that when information flows in all directions, instantaneously and simultaneously, then it is processed in multilateral ways between people and markets. The business hierarchical model is replaced by a team and an individual empowerment style of a two-way interaction with employees, partners, and customers.


Finally, total access means that power does not reside at a single point of central control, but rather it is dispersed to the margins. Managers need to distribute authority to the appropriate people, in as swift a process as is feasible, in order to ensure competitiveness and timely execution.

It is Darwinian to say that the survival of your business necessitates that you protect and develop those favorable individual differences and variations, which have given you success so far, and be willing to let go of those which may be injurious to your success in the 21st century.

Companies who can think, communicate, and act with openness and collaboration, as well as disperse power and reach to the edges, will survive and prosper. Your marketing strategy will drive this.
Real-Time Strategy >
The first of the powerful influences driving change today is the constant nature of real-time. When computers were first networked together, our marketing slogan at Apple was "anytime, anywhere computing," expressing one's freedom to communicate and create. Little did we know back then that that thought would be replaced so quickly with a new one, "right now, right here."


This constancy of time is expressed in the difference between a digital clock and an old fashion face or dial clock. With a digital clock, time appears and then disappears - you see no future and you see no past. There is only the constancy of now. It is always now so that action and response are simultaneous. Contrast this with a traditional face clock with minute and second hands measuring the passing of time. When you look at your watch you have a sense of past, present, and future and the hands circle the dial. The circle measures life's cycles: seasons, birth dates, traditions, or lifetimes. What happens when our measure of time is no longer the circle but the digital clock? And what happens when space, movement, and speed cease to conform to old definitions?


What happens is that your business success depends on collapsing the time between thinking and doing as if these were simultaneous actions. How do you do that? It begins with a mindset, like a quantum physicist that thinks, what I can measure, I can affect. If you focus your efforts on specific points of leverage, and create measurements to determine whether you hit your targets, you will begin to operate in real time. Amazon operates in real-time. Whether you’re a business owner or service professional, real-time means that information and action cannot be separated. What if you could use a mobile device to view store traffic for the 48 hours following your advertising, or you could place an order for a product that your teenage daughter spies as the next big thing? Or what if you could track the daily price that your best sellers were being sold for around the country? What if you could know instantly what your customers are doing, not what they say they plan to do or want. If you could do these things, you would be operating in real-time. Beyond Ideas can show you how.
10 Traits of a 21st Century Business >
  1. The Internet structures the world. Your website isn’t a business card – it is your entire business.

  2. There is no central control. Power is pushed to the margins - particularly shifting into the hands of individuals. The ability to seamlessly connect multilaterally diminishes the vale of central authorities or depositories. You must empower your employees and customers with the ability to access anything they need.

  3. There is only now. Time and space have collapsed leaving only the power of now. Dubbed real-time by Regis McKenna, you must set your clock to real-time and think and act in real-time. You must deploy the technologies that will allow your to operate in real time.

  4. All businesses are service businesses. Interactive marketing and exceptional service will determine the winners and losers in the next decade. Highly responsive computer systems will allow businesses to exchange information with customers on a real-time basis.

  5. Market boundaries are obsolete. Access to information or customers used to be determined geographically or institutionally. The Internet allows anyone to compete in your market and for you to compete in theirs.

  6. Move bits, not atoms. The Internet minimizes heavy lifting, and efficiently deploys assets by enabling goods to move between the closest two points. In it's perfect form it is friction-free capitalism according to Bill Gates. Learn to use distribution networks to manage your just-in-time inventory.

  7. Everything is customized. Industrial economies of scale have been replaced by the network scalability. It gives businesses the ability to give their customers what they want. Products and services can be designed, packaged, produced, and delivered in an infinite array of choices.

  8. Ecosystems replace hierarchies. Success goes to companies that partner their way to a new business model, not those that acquire excessive capital assets. Businesses focus on what they do best and farm out the rest.

  9. Customer partnerships. Customer relationships become a virtuous cycle of feedback and innovation. Companies are giving customers the tools to design and obtain exactly what they need.

  10. Every product is available everywhere. What sets your business apart from your competitors in this next decade will depend on your brand experience and your marketing differentiation. Building a brand today means creating an infrastructure of distribution, supply, and service which is in place when the customer wants it.