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  May 6, 2011
Teaching Pigs to Sing...

 
"Never try to teach a pig to sing...you’ll never succeed and it just annoys the pig"
-Robert Heinlein (science fiction writer - 1907-1988)

This past Wednesday and Thursday, I found myself at the Del Mar Electronics and Design Show, a local trade show for the electronics, biotech and medical industries.  This local exhibition has been around now since before I joined the workforce in 1985, and attracts some 400 exhibitors and 7,500 guests early each May.

What amazes me is not that the show is still around (most trade shows have gone the way of the dinosaur) but rather how the show continues to thrive.

The "secret formula" of this successful exhibition is pretty simple:

  • Make it convenient - the site is in a central location to most San Diegans so it is very convenient for industry people to "pop-in" for a few hours on a Wednesday or Thursday afternoon.
  • Make it low cost - Booth space costs less than $1,000 for exhibitors and admission and parking is free for patrons.  The low cost provides value to the participants whether an exhibitor or patron.
  • Make it informative - Throughout the two days, free instructional classes and seminars are held, providing valuable information to the participants.  In addition, the exhibitors display new products and/or services to provide new knowledge to the end-user.
  • Make it personal - the show has become THE place to see old friends and make new contacts.  The show organizers facilitate this point by hosting an open cocktail party on Wednesday afternoon providing free food and drinks to participants in attendance.
The success formula for the DMES is really no different than any other type of business whether it is a restaurant, shoe store, accounting services or automobile repair shop.  Convenience, value, information, and personalized service are what drive business to success.

While at the hosted cocktail party Wednesday evening, I struck up a conversation with the owner of a local distribution company.  He explained to me that his company was doing fairly well but could be doing better if they could find some quality sales people.

I asked him a few questions about his company’s interviewing process and sales training program.  He explained that his company really had not yet systemized their hiring process.  The selection process was typically based on the candidate’s prior employment history within the industry, regardless of whether or not they have experienced any success in their previous employment.

Once that sales person was hired, there was very little training being offered as it was implied that the person already possessed knowledge (supposedly from their previous employment).  

After listening to him for a moment, I said to him, "I guess you guys just grab someone at random and throw them in the deep end of the pool and see if they can swim" but then are amazed at how so many people drown"...but you continue to repeat the process over and over. 

I thought to myself, It’s no wonder why he can’t find any good sales people...the company hasn’t done their job in hiring a person with the proper talents and trained them so that they are equipped with specific skills and techniques.

A quality sales person, waiter, chemist, accountant, nurse and/or mechanic require certain talents and aptitudes to succeed.   A square peg needs to be placed into a square hole in order to fit properly.  People need to be able to fit into the position that they are best suited for in order to find success.  

Not everyone possesses the innate talent to become a sales person and even if one has the talent, those talents must be honed into skills, through specific training and coaching, to really be effective.

The same might be said for other professions as well.  Some people may have an aptitude to become an engineer, a carpenter, or a teacher but to become truly effective, specific training is required.

The converse is also true, no matter how much training is provided, it is nearly impossible to train someone do a job for which they have no real talent but I see this happen each and every day with people and companies.

Training comes in the form of education and education is provided by our schools.  Unfortunately the curriculum in our schools is now mainly focused in the area of math and science.  Unfortunately, not all students have an aptitude for math and science yet we force feed this core curriculum to our children and expect them to succeed.

As I talk with parents of teenagers, I see this disconnect.  Many of today’s children are failing because they do not possess the interest or talents in math and science.  For these young adults, it might be best to learn an industrial trade.

Machining, welding, drafting, carpentry, electronic assembly and auto mechanics are no longer being offered as alternatives to the math and science track.   This would allow our children to develop skills in areas that are still vital to our communities.

Today, our schools teach to standardized tests that focus on math, science, and language arts.

Perhaps it might be better to allow children to follow different paths to their own success instead of a single track...

It just might lead to a greater number of successes and an overall better trained workforce.

Thank you for your support of OptiFuse where we hope to support all types of educational endeavors...


Jim Kalb
President
OptiFuse
jimk@optifuse.com


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