Week 13 – Climbing Up onto the Soapbox
Hope all is going well. It has been a productive two weeks since our last blog, although we are starting to see signs all around us that summer is coming. The time in between email responses is becoming longer and decisions about different programs get delayed. Unfortunately, we have no control on these outside forces and when you add supply chain issues, it can really make you anxious. For all the years that we’ve been in business, you would think by now that I would be used to it, but that hasn’t happened. As a small business owner, time is never on your side. Large companies can afford delays or to “think” about things because they have enough resources to do that. For small businesses, the old saying that “time is money” really holds true. This is why when partners or customers work with us, they are usually blown away with how fast our team can solve a problem or ship a product out the door. This is something we pride ourselves on and understand that the faster we can work, the faster we can get paid. To add to the anxiety, many large companies have decided to not pay bills for longer periods of time, some even out to 90 days. Can you imagine not paying your home bills for 90 days? The collection agencies would be at your door. Yet, this has become an accepted practice, likely since some accountant or business person thought it would be better to hold onto the company’s money a little longer. I wonder if they realize (or care) that this can put a lot of strain on small businesses. This is why when Tina gets an invoice from a small company, payment gets out the door in 2 weeks or less. If we can do it, why can’t they? Guess we are not very good business people.
While I’m up on the soapbox (got up there a little earlier than I thought I would so I guess I’ll just stay up here), that brings me to my original topic about innovation. To understand innovation, we need to understand the meaning. Here is the definition provided by google search: a new method, idea, product, etc. Innovation can be something as simple as improving an existing design (i.e. creating a spill-free bottle top for your ketchup) or creating something brand new (developing and testing a vaccine that saved lives). Innovation is important because it touches all of us, improving how we live life. Without innovation, we are still living in the Stone Ages. I consider our team as innovative so this is a topic near and dear to my heart.
You may be asking yourself why I am so hung up on innovation. My fear is that true innovation is being missed by corporations where “innovation” is either being evaluated by those not qualified to assess it or is determined by how much it costs (a.k.a. the hype factor), not necessarily that it is truly innovative. What set me off this week was an article I saw in biotech business news that mentioned a global biotech company was purchasing a building and that this space would drive innovation. This gave the connotation that having a really swanky space would truly lead to innovation. The company is sort of missing the point that it is the people in the space and the people assessing the technologies, both home-grown and from external sources, that will bring potential innovative solutions, not the building.
Many companies either do not want incremental changes (spill-free bottle tops) or don’t want to spend money on something that may generate a modest return. A perfect example of missing potential innovation is in the artificial artery space. There are 3-4 companies that dominate this space. Very minimal changes have occurred in this space over the past 60 years. Even when we presented potential solutions over the past several years, the first thing we were told was why should they invest and make a small return when they are still selling these devices and making money, even though these devices do not work as well as they could for patients. I was contacted by one of my vascular surgeon friends a few weeks back and she was asking me about my thoughts on different artificial arteries. She sadly said all of the options for patients are problematic (better than doing nothing but still problematic) so then it comes down to cost. Why are the only option for these patients adequate or lousy? Surgeons know there is a need. Patients know that there is a need. So where is the disconnect? I see this time and time again. For patients with fistulas, artificial arteries, etc., it’s the same story.
Another reason for missing innovation is the lack of qualified personnel to assess what is truly innovative (shout out on this topic to Vincent Ling commentary on LinkedIn - https://www.linkedin.com/feed/update/urn:li:activity:6945706501202198528/). For some companies, there is a disconnect between the business and scientists/engineers about what is innovative. What I’ve witnessed first-hand is that some external companies bring their “innovation” with a larger price tag. The assessing group, which is not qualified to really to evaluate the technology, buys into the snake-oil sales (asking a lot for it so it must be great) and spends like there is no tomorrow. More times than not, these technologies “surprisingly” fail. Unfortunately, this cycle continues to repeat. I call it high-stakes gambling, trying until you maybe get a hit. The need to hit a grand slam instead of hitting doubles and triples (for all the baseball aficionados). More technical people that I’ve spoken with from the acquiring companies tell me that their company keeps buying stuff that doesn’t work and do not listen about technologies that they feel could make a difference. The cycle just keeps on going. Sadly, this is driving really innovative people out of these companies.
I am now stepping down from the soapbox. Thanks for entertaining my rants.
Thanks also to everyone that continues to check out our #FactualFriday. It has become a big hit! Please check out our next one on July 1st, just before for the long holiday weekend. We’ll see you back here on July 8th.