Dare to Well, Just Dare to Do Something Different

Oct. 1, 2007
Last issue, I started this column by noting that I was troubled. The trouble went away. This month, I'm dissatisfied. Yes, it sounds like some middle-age

Last issue, I started this column by noting that I was troubled. The trouble went away.

This month, I'm dissatisfied. Yes, it sounds like some middle-age kvetching, but the dissatisfaction is something that you also have. Or should.

Allow me a circuitous approach. A very smart, former vice president at Honeywell who has taught me a lot about business told me he was a strong believer in process. That is, an approach to tasks or duties, when applied with intelligent, thorough planning and consistent application, was fundamental to successfully managing projects. I knew this intellectually, but he helped clarify it on a professional basis in the context of my work.

So, we agree process is good, and an excellent process is the hallmark of a smart businessperson. After all, fail to do so, and you are (forgive the cliché) reinventing the wheel.

One antiprocess approach, however, merits attention. I don't know of a name for it, but I've always liked what I call the “lightning strikes” phenomenon. It means doing the unexpected.

Let me explain. As a reporter, I, along with my cohorts, would conduct virtually all of our interviews via the telephone. We did this because it made the most sense from a timeliness standpoint. It still does. You can call literally dozens and dozens of people in one day (I certainly have, chasing down a story). You'd be lucky to interview more than half a dozen people in one day (thinking of a daily newspaper deadline) with face-to-face interviews unless they were in the same location.

But smart editors URGED reporters to get out and see things. The rationale is so powerful, clear and simple, and yet, because of human nature, I suspect, so often ignored. What this means is that when you talk to someone (from a reporter's perspective), you'll see, hear and even smell something that wouldn't be evident over the telephone.

In short, you can learn something unexpectedly but only if you take some unexpected action.

But that also means breaking a routine, and humans are, if nothing else, almost slavish in their commitment to routine.

Some of you drive to work and have two or three possible routes. You choose one and follow it for reasons you've chosen, with great adherence because it works for you, so why change? But if you alter your route, would you come to work a bit more refreshed because you started the day with a slightly different feeling that the drive aroused in you? Would you discover a new restaurant you had never noticed before or a service station that might serve as an alternative or a house of worship that seems to beckon? I don't know, but I do know that unless you expose yourself to the possibility, you'll also never know.

As some of you know, I do some editorial consulting. I was sitting between two fellows on a Southwest Airlines flight and, instead of burying my head in a magazine or booting up my computer, I glanced at the man to my right. I said, “Wow, you look just like a fellow I heard speak at a national convention.” (I didn't tell him, but I swear this is true, it was a NHRAW conference.) He said, “What does he look like?” I paused, then remembered I had kept the bookmark the speaker passed out. I dipped into my bag, whipped it out and said: “Well, he looks like this.” There actually was a resemblance. We chatted, and that man's company (an internationally known supply chain consulting firm) has been with me for years.

All because I did something a little different. I spoke to a stranger.

I'm suggesting, no, urging, that you do something different at the HARDI Conference this year. Only you can decide what.

Maybe it's to attend a council or committee meeting that you've always thought about but never followed through. Possibly, it's FINALLY talking to that manufacturer whom you've been thinking about (for 10 years, no less) but somehow never quite got around to approaching. Maybe (my selfish reason) you pick up the first annual issue of the Show Guide provided by this magazine. Or could it be just sitting on a sofa watching your fellow attendees walk by, savoring the moment that you are part of a terrific industry.

Dare to be different, even if the difference is slight.

HVACR Distribution Business welcomes letters to the editor. Please send correspondence to Tom Peric', Editor, 2040 Fairfax Avenue, Cherry Hill, NJ 08003 or e-mail [email protected].