Volume 10, Issue 5 - September/October 2008

Customer Service

God Bless the Innovator
by Carl Tompkins

IWAS SITTING IN THE BOW position on my boat, operating the electric trolling motor in and around docks on Hayden Lake, fishing for large mouth bass, while listening to my guest, who was fishing from the back deck seat. His stories were intriguing in that he was sharing a number of programs and business strategies he had developed and implemented for his company. Each one of them had earned new customers, increased sales and higher profits. And yet, he was concerned that the ownership of his company wasn’t in total favor of his actions, was constantly questioning his tactics, and rarely provided recognition for his work.

Knowing of my years in business and how the majority of my time has  been spent consulting with companies aimed at accomplishing the same results he has achieved, his concluding question was, “So, what should I do?”

What Do You Think?
Thirty-three years of experience has taught me to always try to answer questions with questions, in that most people respond better and participate more through this approach. So I asked, “Why do you think the ownership of your company acts this way?” After some head-scratching, followed by the repositioning of his ball cap, he responded with, “Well, my guess is that they are uncomfortable with what I do because they’ve never done it before.”

“Bingo!” I replied. “Do they mind the results of your work?” “No, they love the money,” he chuckled.

My advice to the young man (since he asked) was to always be himself and continue doing what he was good at— being an innovator. Knowing very well that this young man would be the recipient of criticism and rarely receive trust by upper management for the remainder of his career, I turned, held up on my next cast, and said, “God bless you for what you do!”

We Need Innovation
You see, it takes innovation to advance any company into a positive future and, because our world is so short on innovators, partly because they are wore out justifying themselves with their boss, businesses fail. I cannot help but refer to a comment made by former  manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers, Tommy Lasorda, who said, “There are three types of people; those who make it happen, those who watch it happen and those who wonder what the hell just happened.”

There are very, very few who make it happen. My estimation is that only two out of every 100 people in business represent the traits of a true business  innovator. Simply put, innovators have a strong will, they see the future, and introduce change through new ways of conducting business.

While management delights in having more money, they’ll take it as long as nothing has to change, no risks must be taken and the course of business can move along without much additional work or need of creating new habits.

A Shocked Witness
Closer to home, I witnessed the name-calling of an innovator who had established quite an incredible record for a former Fortune 500 company within the glass industry. His record was so significant that he was recognized at the international stockholders meeting for developing the most significant new division of business, which provided 60 million dollars of additional revenue. Yet, during a conversation among a group of people attending a national glass conference last year, the executive vice president of that company referred to this gentleman as being a person of “high maintenance.” As I heard this, I shook my head in disbelief that such a supposedly intelligent vice president would make such a foolish, short-sighted comment.

My closing advice for management is to be wise enough to understand the value of innovation and work closely with innovators to assure your own comfort of business advancement. Concentrate on the review of timing, completeness of work and accuracy of assessment and you will have every reason to think that your innovators will remain within your employment.

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