Innovation, the Essential Strategy in a Changing World

December 15, 2017

Accelerator Report from Daniel Pitts Winegarden, JD

A sure route to failure is to just keep doing what made you successful.

Counter-intuitive? Yes, but true. Customers change. Competitors change. Markets change. A company that doesn’t change with them gets left behind. Change is inevitable. You can get rolled under by the wave of change, ride the change, or even lead the change. The great ones lead and shape the change.

Wayne Gretzky explained his stellar hockey success with, “I skate to where the puck is going, not where it has been.” It’s a well-known business mantra, maybe even a cliché. Sounds easy right? It’s not like other hockey players don’t try, but it’s hard to replicate Gretzky’s innate ability to read the rink.

Successful, entrepreneurial companies seek to lead the change. But like Gretzky and hockey, saying it and doing it are very different. Reading the market is no easier than reading the rink, and it still takes the fundamental skills or tools to deliver on the vision.

The great entrepreneurs learn and apply some proven lessons and tools to deliver. The Pappajohn Accelerator recently organized a seminar to share the playbooks of some of North Iowa’s most successful C-suite leaders of entrepreneurial, innovative companies. We offered everyone a chance to learn what it takes to lead change through innovation.

The October 10, 2017 Innovation Roadshow was co-sponsored by the NIACC Pappajohn Accelerator and the BrownWinick Law Firm, and hosted by Sukup Manufacturing Co. in their Tech Center auditorium. BrownWinick offers a savvy intellectual property practice that works in harness with local business counsel, whether in-house or in-community. Sukup Manufacturing Co. offered the incentive of a post-program plant tour to see advanced manufacturing in action.

Supporting sponsors included Iowa State University’s Center for Industrial Research and Services (CIRAS – the federal Manufacturing Extension Partnership or MEP for Iowa); the Iowa Association of Business and Industry (ABI); and the North Iowa Corridor. All are recurring partners with the Pappajohn Center in supporting Iowa businesses to import dollars and jobs from out-of-state customers.

Collective efforts drew 129 attendees to this fee-based event, including many from outside of the NIACC service territory. The real stars, however, were the area C-suite executives that shared the methods behind their companies’ success in national and international competition: Steve Sukup of Sukup Manufacturing Co., Steve Doerfler of Metalcraft Inc., Matt Schroeder of Stellar Industries Inc., Steve Weiss of NutriQuest LLC, Camille Urban of BrownWinick Law Firm, Emily Sukup of Sukup Manufacturing Co., and Christopher Proskey of BrownWinick Law Firm.

One way to shorten the learning curve and improve performance is to copy the best. North Iowa’s best shared their secrets at the Innovation Roadshow. Three themes repeat in the best advanced manufacturers:

  1. Leadership – clear vision of a better future and effective team communication to get there
  2. Innovation – intentional creativity in product, relationships, and processes to solve new problems
  3. Partnership — willingness to work with other experts, to stay focused on unique advantages

We plan more Innovation Roadshows around different topics or industries. Advanced Manufactures dominated our October 10 program. But big data and information technology came up repeatedly as a way to extend the customer relationship beyond the one-time sale of equipment. Marketing and sales channel innovation is another topic. Let us know what you want next. What’s your biggest pain point? How do you choose where to pursue innovation?

Over the next few weeks, we’re featuring the Innovation Roadshow’s keynote speakers and their valuable insights into pursuing and achieving business innovation.

Part II: Steve Sukup of Sukup Manufacturing Co. and Steve Doerfler of Metalcraft Inc.

Part III: Camille Urban of BrownWinick Law Firm, Emily Schmitt of Sukup Manufacturing Co., and Chris Proskey of BrownWinick

Part IV: Matt Schroeder of Stellar Industries and Steve Weiss of NutriQuest

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