November – Can You Spare Some Change?

By Tony Shepley,

I like to think that we’re in the beginning of a mini Renaissance at Shepley. In 38 years, we have never looked at our business harder or from different angles in order to improve what we do and how we do it. Old habits die hard because our natural default is to what is familiar. In evolutionary terms, the new or the unknown can typically represent threat; however, in today’s world they also represent opportunity.

Nobody wanted to give up buggy whips a little more than 100 years ago, but they quickly faded into obsolescence with the advent of the automobile. Henry Ford and others like him made it just about impossible to make a living manufacturing buggy whips, over a period of just a few short years. It was simply time for a new business model.

Recently, a good long-time customer asked me why one of our staff had been moved off his Shepley sales team to another job in the company. He said he was frustrated as now he felt he would have to train someone else to take care of his needs. I told him I understood how he felt, but let him know that moving someone into a new position is how we can broaden their experience and increase their knowledge and value. It is our chance to promote someone within the organization and to keep them engaged and challenged. Our customer replied with a wonderful comment. He said, “You know, I guess changing staff from time to time can be good for me too. It could keep me from getting stale by doing business the same way, from month to month and year to year. A fresh set of eyes on my sales team could be good for my business too.”

Needless to say, you could have knocked me right over with a buggy whip when I heard that. Bingo, he hit the bullseye. Yes, change takes some effort, but gives us the potential for discovery.

If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.”  The author of that gem of a saying is our old friend Henry Ford: the Prince of Darkness for the buggy whip industry in the early 1900’s.

Disruptive new technologies tend to painfully replace older technologies and never at a faster rate than today. Embracing change may not be easy, but stopping it can be like slowing down a speeding car by dragging your foot out the door . . . noisy, painful, and not very effective.

I really enjoyed the way our customer looked at the staffing change, not just as an inconvenience but as an opportunity. He reacted the way any of us would, but he took the time to look beyond the obvious . . . to find the opportunity. When the employee being transferred next crosses his path, he’ll find them better educated and effective than they were before the move, and he’ll have another asset in the person who took their place. Sometimes a win/win is better than a simple win!

Stay thirsty for change my friends!


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