Note: This article is the sixth in a series of six that appeared in the
Canadian Institute for NDE (CINDE) Journal throughout 2012. These articles address valuable business ideas for identifying, understanding, improving, enhancing, expanding, and collaborating NDE services in terms of the elements listed below.
- Introduction / Identifying Services
- Understanding Services
- Improving Services
- Enhancing Services
- Expanding / Collaborating Services
- Conclusion: Knowledge & Relationships
The Sixth Element – Knowledge & Relationships
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832) said that, “He who moves not forward, goes backward.” Restated for business in 2012, this could read as, “If you are not gaining clients, you are losing clients,” or, “If your business is not expanding, it is shrinking.” Nothing is static, especially business. Instead of relying on current services and existing clients for future success, you must continually showcase your business as the best service provider for your client’s specific wants and needs.
This series of articles provided many practical ideas for identifying, understanding, improving, enhancing, expanding, and collaborating NDE services. Part six saves the best for last, by focusing on two key pieces in your success puzzle: developing knowledge and relationships.
Education is an ever-important part of a successful career, but your education is not finished after obtaining a diploma or degree; the secret is that your learning should never stop. Taking business or technical training courses offered by commercial and educational organizations is always an option, but the time and resources may not always be available to do so. This is especially true if travel to and accommodation in another city is required, or if you are working in the field or out of town. An alternative to formal continuing education is Alberta’s business information service, Business Link, which offers cost effective learning sessions that are conveniently available. They can be attended in person or in a group webcast with video-conference services, or by obtaining the recorded playbacks. Session topics include marketing, taxation, financing, social media, and employee management, to name a few.
E-learning is gaining in popularity and many colleges, universities and other educational organizations including the Canadian Institute for NDE (CINDE) and the Canadian Institute of Steel Construction (CISC) now offer online courses and webinars, with the benefit of “attending” from your own home or office. See more at CINDE On-line Courses and CISC-ICCA Education. The CINDE website also has regular postings with industry news and an extensive list of links to other websites that puts a wealth of reading materials for your business and professional development at your fingertips. These include everything from industry and product news to trade journals and other publications.
You can also subscribe to news alerts or newsletters that interest you. Many blogs, websites and newspapers offer informative articles with relevant topics and new ideas. If receiving even more email seems overwhelming, then use a separate email account dedicated to your career and business development activities. Or set-up Really Simple Syndication (RSS) feeds with folders to download articles and materials of interest to be read or referenced anytime. Keeping on top of new subjects and information is a good use of time when your energy level is low, or the time available near the end of the day isn’t conducive to starting a demanding job or new task, or just for something to do on a Friday afternoon.
Technical articles that are a short read can offer a flash of inspiration, such as “A Toaster-Yes, a Toaster-Triggers an Idea for Innovation”. It describes how Ray Turner, founder of Edmonton-based Lenmak Exterior Innovations Inc., turned a $7 lunch into pure gold.
Another article, “Innovation Almost Bankrupted LEGO,” tells the LEGO story and has advice from David Robertson about why companies should not blindly follow a mantra of innovation. He states that management and evaluation must be at the heart of any innovation strategy, and although it is not good for a firm to remain stagnant, unbridled innovation may not be the answer either. The article also mentions blue and red oceans, which are important business concepts from the book Blue Ocean Strategy. This strategy provides a systematic approach to creating uncontested market space and making competition irrelevant.
Author Brian Tracy says that reading an hour every day in your chosen field works out to about one book per week, or 50 books per year, and will help guarantee your success. If you want to guarantee your success, then the nearest book store offers limitless reading opportunities. If you don’t know where to start, the books shown in Table 1 offer some interesting ideas. Great ideas are not limited to books hot off the press; equally enlightening books can also be found at any used book store at a reasonable cost.
The importance of networking, connecting, and developing relationships with colleagues and clients simply cannot be overstated. The secret is that these contacts are equally as important as your technical knowledge. Attending society meetings, industry events, or trade shows can provide excellent networking opportunities and access to new business and technical resources, which is good. Volunteering to serve on an executive board or committee and exhibiting at trades shows can provide you with a focused audience, which is even better. Giving demonstrations or presentations as well as writing articles can provide you with a captive audience, which is the best. Instead of waiting for new clients to find you or identify your services, find and reach out to them first by getting involved in the industry outside of your day-to-day business with existing clients.
If the only thing holding you back is the fear of public speaking, you are not alone. It is a well-known fact that most people would rather die than speak in public. Upgrading your speaking, reading, and writing skills is always a worthwhile investment of time and energy. Anyone can benefit from sharpening their presentation and communications skills, and Toastmasters International has excellent programs for communications and leadership training. With over 10,000 clubs in 90 countries around the world; 1,335 in Canada alone, there should be one near you. If not, then a new club can be started!
Developing relationships and communicating with your business partners is just as important as it is with your colleagues and clients. In the article, “The Business Case for Open Book Management”, Gene Siciliano states that in sports, every player knows the game plan, their evolving role in it, what the end goal is, and if they are making progress. He describes how the practice of Open Book Management (OBM) can improve the employer-employee relationship, as well as productivity and profits. For example, public companies share financial information because they want to sell stock on the basis of their dividends; Gene says private companies should too, so that employees become truly aware and invested in the company’s success.
So what is the very best way of connecting? As Timothy E. Wilson so aptly stated (with a very relevant thought about a totally unrelated subject), “To hell with smart phones: the best way to get anywhere, in my opinion, has always been to use that killingest of apps, the human”. So to get to where you want to be, always make time to connect with your business partners, colleagues, and clients, to discuss their wants and needs, and of course, to use your exceptional service as a basis to develop new work and request referrals to other clients.
I truly enjoyed the opportunity to provide this series of articles for the CINDE Journal. The time and effort I spent was more than repaid by the knowledge and information I gained while researching them. An added bonus was that I sharpened my writing skills as I worked through the edits that were inevitably suggested by the CINDE staff. My sincerest thanks go to them for their advice and support.
This article was originally published in the Canadian Institute for NDE (CINDE) Journal 2012 Vol. 33 No. 6 and in the CINDE Journal 2012 Special Reprint Issue Vol. 33 Nos. 1 – 6. http://www.cinde.ca/journal/
About the Author
Roy O. Christensen is a Welding Engineering Technologist who has over 35 years’ experience with O&G, pipeline, and other projects. He has authored countless instructions, manuals, plans, proposals, reports, specifications, and other documents that continue to drive success for many projects. He is the founder of the KT Project that saves organizations significant money and time, by providing key resources to leverage expert knowledge transfer for successful project execution.
- Puzzle http://wrplacement.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/UniquePuzzlePieceSelection-300×203.jpg
- LEGO Light Bulb http://www.qualitydigest.com/inside/quality-insider-article/innovation-almost-bankrupted-lego.html#
- Pubic Speakin http://www.transitionmedia.memberlodge.com/Resources/Pictures/Justin_1.jpg
- Business Link website, http://www.canadabusiness.ab.ca/
- CINDE On-line Course Calendar, http://www.cinde.ca/courses/online.phtml
- CISC-ICCA Canada website, http://www.cisc-icca.ca/content/education/default.aspx
- Edmonton Economic Development Corporation, A Toaster-Yes, a Toaster-Triggers an Idea for Innovation, http://www.albertametal.ca/resources/alberta-metal-articles/180-a-toaster-triggers-an-idea-for-innovation.html (Dead link)
- Knowledge at Wharton, Innovation Almost Bankrupted LEGO, http://www.qualitydigest.com/inside/quality-insider-article/innovation-almost-bankrupted-lego.html
- Kim, W.C. et al, Blue Ocean Strategy, Harvard Business School Publishing Corp., ISBN 1-59139-619-0, Boston, 2005
- Siciliano, G. ,The Business Case for Open Book Management, CoatingsPro Magazine March 2012 Vol. 12 No. 2 pp 36-37 http://coatingspromag.epubxp.com/i/56829
- Wilson, T.E., Mexico City in Transit, http://lapoliticaeslapolitica.blogspot.ca/2012/06/mexico-city-in-transit.html#more
- Creative and Informative Reading List. Roy O. Christensen