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Innovation Never Leave a Stone Unturned

In business we seem to always find ways to avoid doing new things or making improvements to our companies. While I was on vacation in Italy, touring around the town of Lucca, I came across a sign that said “Wine-Oil”. I laughed, and began to carry on my way since it was the type of sign you see all over the place.

But for some reason my wife and I decided to go inside to see who the person was that put up that sign. I encountered a solitary man in the small shop and since my Italian is very poor, I began by asking if he spoke English. “Of Course!” he exclaimed.

I explained that I’d been experiencing two issues on my holiday in Italy—one concerned oil and the other wine. Now you understand why this simple sign with two words, caught my eye.

My problem with Olive Oil in Italy, I explained, was that all of the extra virgin oils I tried seemed bitter and they burned the back of my mouth. He guided me over to a bottle of locally produced Olive Oil, made in the region, called Stefanini. After tasting a sample, I promptly bought a bottle.

I was about to leave when I realized I hadn’t mentioned my other problem—wine. I am known, and even labeled, if you’ve ever seen one of my business cards, as the “Connoisseur of Cheap Wine”. I don’t have multiple categories or ways to rate wine; I simply have two—“tastes good” or “tastes like hell”. And I don’t understand what people do when they pay a lot of money for a bottle of wine that “tastes like hell”? Do they reluctantly drink it and pretend it tastes good? So, because of this, I stick to cheap wine. If it tastes bad, then I have no problem pouring it down the drain.

The Italian shopkeeper listened to my whine about wine and immediately agreed. He explained that good wine is not necessarily expensive as he ushered me over to a DOP (which simply means locally grown and packaged) Italian wine called Montrasio. Good wine for $6.00…another sale.

As I was thanking the man for his guidance and recommendations, he asked my wife and I where we were from. We mentioned Canada, to which he replied that he was married to a woman from Canada. It turns out she is from Penticton, BC, only a few hours away from where we live.

So what does this story have to do with business? It has to do with signs. The signs that we as business owners often ignore. To be competitive we need to think differently, and to think differently we need to always be open to ideas (or signs)…some of which might be right beside us. If we ignore what’s around us we’ll miss those “out of the box” ideas that give us the competitive edge to take our business to new heights. The lesson I learned, and what I want to share, is to never leave a stone unturned. If you leave stones unturned, you may never find the Italian wine salesmen with the answer you need to change the way you run your manufacturing business.

Arrivederci Italia!