Whether you wait for a fat man to come down the chimney or celebrate Festivus and prepare for the Feats of Strength with George Costanza, one thing remains true — the holidays are here. As a country we celebrate diverse traditions across the nation, many of which entail some type of gift giving. In keeping with my holiday traditions I have begun to write a wish list. Besides the Millennium Falcon Lego set I have had my eye on all year, I couldn’t decide what else I hoped to see under the tree. Stumped, I began to think what HVACR distributors might want to help celebrate their holiday seasons. I wondered if there was some item they might need or benefit from this year. Gradually it came to me. Distributors need innovation.

The question is, “How do you wrap up innovation and give it as a gift?”

It’s pretty simple actually. Head to the store and grab a copy of the movie “The Internship.” Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson work their way through a Google internship after finding out their job skills aren’t what the market needs anymore. Without giving too much away, I watched this movie in awe as it perfectly described the situation those who refuse to innovate will likely find themselves in as time and technology advances. I would consider it a must see. Perhaps it could even be a special holiday treat at the office with your staff. Popcorn, candy, soda, and a healthy dose of comedic reality that if ignored won’t be so funny in the future.


Innovation on Purpose

Why am I so hopped up on innovation? This fall I attended UnleashWD, an innovation conference for wholesaler distributors. I listened to speaker after speaker present the consequences of refusing to move forward in business. We aren’t talking about completely changing the way a distributor does business, although that wouldn’t necessarily be terrible. We are talking about taking new ideas and concepts and looking at them not strictly through the current business model, but in ways that business hasn’t been done before.

One speaker noted that 20 years of success could be the absolute worst thing for a company. His concern was that in a business who’s tendency is to be profitable and comfortable, owners and managers forget to investigate the changing world around them. Instead they adapt for the customers they are currently serving, but not for the customers that are coming in the next five, 10, or 20 years down the road.

This type of change and innovation must be attempted on purpose. Of course accidental discoveries of genius happens, but most innovation success comes from time and resources investment, as well as hard work and the acceptance that there will be times innovation attempts fail. If you do decide to show your staff “The Internship” as a cautionary tale, that could be the first step to fostering purposeful innovation in your business. Once you have opened the door to an expectance of creativity and new ideas from yourself and the staff, it is important to continue to foster an environment where creative thinking is encouraged, rewarded, and accepted.


Play Nice with Millennials

Another innovation gift idea is to find out what the hot gift the Millennials are wanting this year and buy yourself one. Figure out how to use it and start examining how it could make a difference in your business or for your customers.

As part of Generation X, I understand the annoyance many have with the all hail Millennials attitude that is infiltrating business. In suggesting you buy the hot Millennial gift, I am not suggesting that your business acumen is now worthless and your experience irrelevant. I am, however, sending a message to all generations in hopes that each will understand that there is value in the experiences and the technology that they understand. That goes for the Millennials too. Perhaps it is time to partner together and overcome the technology and experience learning curves while working with each other instead of against each other. If we remove the generational competition and insecurity and acknowledge each other as valuable to the business process, then perhaps the HVACR distribution industry can truly achieve innovation that will protect it from possible irrelevancy in the future.

 I am going to continue working on my list while the industry starts working on its holiday feats of innovation.