This summer one of my clients, The Blind Guy franchise in Idaho, offered me the chance to join them and 4,000 other dealers at the Hunter Douglas International Alliance Confe-rence (IAC) in Denver, CO. The talk through much of the opening presentation was focused on the new innovation of the product line, but it quickly became apparent that innovation and change were the themes of the show.
THE CRYSTAL BALL
If you have seen any issue of this magazine prior to last July (or D&WC, October 2007, page 57), you would have been aware that the keynote speaker at the event was former Secretary of State Colin Powell. The question on many people’s minds was, what does Colin Powell know about window fashions? Well, basically nothing, as he admitted during his address on leadership. But honestly, I was there to see another leader: Daniel Burrus, Burrus Research. Burrus is a consultant, strategist and technology futurist. As his home page (www.burrus.com) states, “Burrus has established a worldwide reputation for accurately predicting technology driven trends and their direct impact on the world of business.” Did that just say he can see into the future? Yes, and he doesn’t even use a crystal ball.
Now before you start raising your eyebrows and shaking your heads, he actually shared his secret method for accurately predicting the future with us. He simply stated, “I don’t make predictions about which I could be wrong.” At this point, you had to wonder if we were going to learn things that were foreign and mythical to us, or do we already see the future and Burrus was going to help expand and validate our own thinking?
Every dealer in attendance sells window fashions, so the product innovations and the product improvements were of great interest to everyone. But getting dealers to think differently about how they run their businesses and to look to the future to anticipate what they should be doing now to create the future they want is foreign to a majority of this very mature industry. Yes, I said “create the future.” To do that, we must think and act differently in running our businesses today. Some great person once said long ago, “You can predict the future, sit around wringing your hands about it, or go out and create it.” This is about creating it.
VIVA LE REVOLUTION
Burrus’ presentation was too full of great information and details to cover here, but the thing that made the greatest impact, the elephant in the room, is that American industry (and American culture) is in the midst of a new, exponential Information Age and what we have seen since 1990 (powerful computers, PDAs, cell phones, Internet access, smaller technology) will be dwarfed by the changes to come in he next 15 years.
The industrial revolution had a dramatic effect on our forefathers, but I believe, and Burrus agrees, when future generations look back on this time in history the technological revolution in which we are immersed will be viewed as having the most significant and lasting impact on the global economy and our world.
What will that mean for the window fashion industry? In the future, will we be behind the technology wave watching it disappear from sight, will we be standing in front of it trying to stop its progress or will we be riding it reaping the benefits? Will our industry still be using the Fat Max tape measure and a clipboard with a pencil to control its destiny?
Let’s hope not.
Baby Boomers (those born between 1946 and 1964) are undoubtedly a significant force driving our economy. They have the most money and command the most resources, plus they live and work longer then previous generations. According to Burrus, this period in our professional life is significant in that unlike any other time in history we now have four generations in the workforce at the same time. I was meeting with a client recently and made a mental note of those four generations represented in that conference room.
Our industry has the potential to capitalize on this rare opportunity if we choose to create our own future by utilizing the technical capabilities and know-how of our youngest generation. Far too often, there seems to be a war between young and old in business and this mindset needs to change. “The young have an open mind and new knowledge of technology. The older employees have knowledge and wisdom. We need each other now more than ever.”
Burrus painted a vivid picture of what younger generations can offer our older, more traditionally experienced workers; it is also one I recently shared with the principal of my children’s school. In the morning, Burrus’ nephew plays video games on a computer against other players from all around the world via the Internet while his system displays live pictures of each of the player’s on the screen. At the same time, they are able to communicate via a headset. This is not the future, this is today!
This same child who can manage all the input and aspects that today’s technology offers, figuratively steps back in time every day he goes to school. Does it make sense that when this same person comes to work in our industry we hand him a tape measure, clipboard and pencil to do his job?
Someone in my office claimed it’s like challenging him to a soup eating contest and giving him a pair of chopsticks. Does that truly engage and utilize the talents of the future of our industry and our businesses? Will our current methods allow us to advance our businesses while retaining quality employees into the future we are trying to create? We are laying the groundwork for our futures right now.
THIS IS NOT YOUR PARENTS’ TOASTER
The final issue on the session’s agenda related to kitchen appliances. It hit home with many in the audience when Burrus explained that the advanced technology that is being used by this generation every day is no more sophisticated in its eyes then the toaster was to our grandparents. It is not a sophisticated, complicated or intimidating piece of technology to be feared and loathed. It is simply a tool to do what they want to do. It is nothing more than that.
This generation doesn’t use words like intimidation, time or fear to prevent it from accomplishing what it wants with technology. It is the way this generation gets things done. It is obvious that Hunter Douglas sees the future. It is accepting technology as a tool to get more done while growing its business and outpacing the competition. I hope you can see that as well.
And with that, I think I’ll put another slice of bread in my toaster, check my e-mail and my schedule on my Smartphone and get ready for my day . . .
Ray Soltis is founder and CEO of Solatech, Inc., developers and distributors of the Solatech suite of retail and fabrication software systems as well as the SalesPRO Shop@Home selling system designed exclusively for the window fashions industry. Questions and comments can be sent to rsoltis@Solatech.com, or call (336) 889-2455.