I just got back from Denver after giving a speech to a great management and leadership team that is part of an icon of Seattle Business – EJ Bartells. What a great group of leaders and what a great organization that has endured countless ups and downs in the economy for over 90 years and is thriving today! But there’s more to this story than just history…
You might think a company with this age and with the products/services they provide (insulation, fabrication, refraction, manufacturing, etc.) would just find a way to “hang in there.” Not so – in fact they are contrary to what you might think. Many would consider them in one of the “laggard” industries as far as innovation and especially in the area of “New Media/Social Media”. I was there on the second day of their meeting and in time to hear the CEO, Rick Smith, deliver a brief, yet impactful speech. It wasn’t the usual CEO speech I have heard a thousand times of thanking the team for how great they have done all year and keep up the good work and we are going to have the best year ever, blah blah blah speech. Nope…something different.
While he certainly recognized them for their incredible successes in a down economy, he was focused on something else – INNOVATION. As he said, “It isn’t business as usual – it is about how can we innovate in ways to improve both our own operations and processes and what we can pass along to help our customers run their own business better.” This is “Customer Focused Innovation” at it’s finest! What a concept and coming from what many might think of as a “business as usual” type of industry. This is what true leadership is about and what allows great leaders to lead. He is also flanked by Brian Farnsworth, who is equally as passionate and committed to this focus and mission – which makes them a pretty powerful dynamic duo in their industry.
Their mantra going forward is simple – find more innovative ways to help our customers serve their customers better. This could be internally focused, coming up with better processes in any department, or could be in creating more innovative solutions using the same materials to make life easier for their customers. It also means putting muscle behind the words. The words are easy to say, difficult to execute. They are establishing innovation teams, creating an “innovation culture”, allowing people to fail on the road to discovering new ideas, and even blogging about all this in a new blog, SIMPLIVATIVE.
My hat goes off to Rick, Brian, and the team. This is HUGE in this industry and without a doubt will give them a leadership position – one that many others will follow. Will they succeed or fail? They will fail many times on their way to breaking incredibly new ground and establishing this leadership position that others will watch with envy. Not easy – but extremely satisfying and rewarding knowing you have the machete in hand and are carving new trails for your industry. Congrats…can’t wait to follow your SUCCESS!