Friday, July 08, 2005

New products. Same story. You pick.

Last night in Chicago we received an important national new products award. The National Society of Professional Engineers, an association of engineers with the highest professional certifications available in the US, presented us with the US Small Business New Product of the Year Award for 2005.

As I was driving back from Chicago, something about our approach struck me as odd but informative.

You should understand something about us. We're not just a new products shop, we're an EXTREME new products shop. The new product development skills of the people around me are breathtaking. In new product development, I promise you I don't impress easily. With this bunch, bless them, innovation is like a high-speed quantum contact sport for brains. Imagination and new products get fired up long before the morning coffee and don't get turned off.

And yet, when anyone asks what we do, we don't talk about the blue sky cool new stuff. We tell a story. The same story. Over and over.

It's how we explain ourselves to ourselves and ourselves to the world. It's our story, and I'm stickin' to it.

In my opinion telling your story well is the core competency of any successful enterprise, from start up through dotage.

This is what our story says: "We design and build the best tools in the world for removing floating oil and contaminants from industrial fluids. Our patented and proprietary systems are built to last a lifetime, use no consumables and require minimal maintenance. Our goal is to help our customers operate more efficiently at reduced cost, while greatly improving environmental performance."

That idea started life written on a napkin. It moved to a big post it note over my desk. It soon became the mission statement. Years later, it's become a story we put on almost every public document we share with stakeholders.

Telling your story is your way of welcoming your idea to the world and vice versa. Your story needs to potentially involve everyone important to your market. In the nicest possible way, forget about everybody else. Your story needs to be short, pleasant, highly accurate, understandable and hopefully informative enough to represent your position as the best in the world at something.

We've got many more new products in development (as if we could stop). Some may be duds. Some may win more awards. But I guarantee that all those new products will always fit very nicely into our same old story.

New products. Same story. Can you pick which one is really most important?

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