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I don’t know about you, but this drives me absolutely nuts. You’re in a meeting, and you come up with a good idea. But before you finish getting your idea out there, this guy across from you (you know the one, a graduate of the Dilbert School of Discouraging New Ideas) jumps in with a smart smirk on his face and starts listing the reasons why it won’t work. And he has a great time doing it.
After all, your company hasn’t tried anything new since the Nixon administration, so why start now? Now, this guy doesn’t deal in specifics; he doesn’t deal in what the bulk of your customers would think. No, he goes right to the exceptions, those few people who are not going to like your idea for that new product offering, a group that might make up 3% of your customer base. Then he sits back and folds his arms, with that smug look of glee on his face as if he’s thinking, “Great! Strike one for the great status quo!”
Or you get past this guy, this objector, this champion user of the word “but,” and you are going ahead with your idea. Oh, there are a lot of worried people around; after all, it’s not every day that your company tries something new and, almost, daring. Finally you are going to get a chance to see if you can bring your company into the 20th century. No, that’s not a misprint. I meant to say 20th century. Heaven forbid you would be in the 21st.
So, you try your idea, you send out a mailing describing your offer and lo and behold, it’s a hit! The majority of your customers love it; a whopping 20% take advantage of your offer and try it out right away. It’s all a great success, right? It’s all good, right?
Well, unfortunately two customers called in to complain. Yes, two customers. You sent the offer out to 125 customers, but your company has doubts about ever doing it again because two customers complained. And here is their complaint: “If you can afford to make this offer, then you are making much too much money and I want you to lower your prices to me.”
Well, guess what? Deal with it. Handle that objection because I guarantee that there is always someone who is going to say something like that. That’s just the way it is. There are always going to be some customers who are unhappy with anything you put out there. They are simply the corporate version of that guy sitting across the table from you with his arms folded and that smirk on his face, just looking for a reason to be unhappy.
Oh, and a quick sidebar about those two customers’ objections: There are companies out there, particularly in our industry, who are absolutely petrified that circuit shops are making too much money. Hell, they are petrified at the mere thought of us making any money at all. Ours is one of the few industries where our customers hate it if we make a buck. Why? Anyway, that’s a column for another day.
But back to the point. If you want to be daring, if you want to try new things, if you want to do things differently from the way you have been doing them, or even differently from the way the rest of your industry is doing things, then you’d better be prepared to take some heat. You’d better be prepared to hear some objections. People hate change, and people hate to try new things, so if you’re trying something new, you will have people hating you for it.
Remember a few years ago when a bright young man from Colorado got the idea to start doing some marketing? He started sending out postcards for follow-on orders and then he started sending out popcorn and coupons for pizza for his engineering and design customers. Remember that? Remember the brouhaha that caused? Critics jumped, hell, leapt out of their chairs screaming about all the reasons this was unfair, waving long lists of reasons why this would not work? Well, that company is still going strong today and they are still giving away pizza and popcorn.
Then, there’s my personal favorite: Nesting, the art of putting multiple part numbers on one panel. Try this sometime. If you’re sitting around a table with a bunch of bored PCB executives at some boring industry event, throw out the subject of nesting panels and you’ll see that table come alive faster than you can say “controlled impedance.” You’ll be barraged with all kinds of derisive comments covering every negative aspect of that subject, from 150 reasons why it can’t work to why it can’t work in their company to accusations that the people who are doing it are out-and-out cheaters!
I warn you that if you decide to bring this subject up, you’d better be prepared to take some serious heat. And if you decide to defend the fact that nesting makes sense, you’d better be wearing your worst suits because it’s going to be covered with pasty mashed potatoes and rubber chicken before the night is over.
But nevertheless, keep those ideas, inventions and innovations coming, because we need them now more than ever. It’s high time that the companies in our industry start thinking about how they are going to grow their business instead of how they are going to stay in business. It’s only common sense.