by Mike Sleppin

Mike Sleppin's specialty is creating significant positive change in people-intensive industries whose business environment is changing rapidly. For example, since 1989, Mike has worked with firms touching every facet of the construction, transportation and printing industries as well as the other professional groups (Architects, Accountants, Engineers, Commercial Insurance etc) that service those niche markets. As a highly experienced, global business traveler, he helps small to mid-sized organizations understand and plan for their successful expansion into global markets. As a result of Mike's body of work, organizations achieve the goals that are important to them on a regular and consistent basis.

This century is all about innovation, if our country and your business is to prosper! We must start in our schools and continue to innovate in our businesses. We are now in a global competition, and if our schools don't teach people how to compete our lives in the future will not be as comfortable as they have been. You as a business owner must teach new skills. How many meetings in the past twelve months have you conducted with your managers regarding innovation? If the answer is none, or not many, your business is at risk (see Creating Innovators: The Making of Young People Who Will Change The World). When you and I started our careers the focus was on existing knowledge. We are no longer competing with the guy down the street. Leaders in business should work ON the business even more than they work IN the business. Working on the business means constantly looking at new threats and new opportunities. Two small countries, Finland and Israel, are leaders in innovation. Their young people focus on concepts and creativity. The facts are learned on the job. We've often said, "knowledge is not power, applied knowledge is power." If I hold a pencil next to my raised left hand, you will tell me that the pencil is to the left of my hand. I will tell you that the pencil is to the right of my hand. Where we are and how we understand our competition will determine where we end up. Do you have a budget for investment in the future of your business? If you have no budget for investment you are not working on your business.

Up until the 1930s we were adapters. We began to be creative when we spent money. It is important to know the difference between expense and investment. Usually rich companies get to the future before others do. If you develop drugs and medicine, for instance, not every effort is a blockbuster. However, if you fail to take risks, you'll be irrelevant in a very short time. What are you doing that is new and innovative in your organization that you were not doing five years ago? Are you pleased with your answer? Even what might be considered companies in mundane businesses, coffee for example, have innovated and changed the public's perception in positive ways that insures future success. Innovation is not only for companies competing in information technology. Innovation at your company is necessary for your future success. Work on your business!

One of the essentials for innovation to succeed is to welcome diverse opinions. Get to know members of the firm very well and then give long leashes to those you rely on to keep you at the top of your game. It will pay back well!