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Let me take you back, back a decade or two to a less connected and simpler world. A young, fresh-faced, barely out of college Dave was loading up his sporty red Subaru’s stereo for a long road trip across the country. It wasn’t the latest Korn album he chose though. No, not even Blink 182’s newest jams.

In went disk one, track one of A Passion for Excellence, by Tom Peters.
Thinking back on it now, this really was the road trip to the rest of my life.

Tom’s wisdom and advice have shaped my approach to business and business management more than I can say. Of all the things he said in that book though, one had had the most staying power.

“Innovate or Die.”

That’s it. That’s what I strive towards whenever I’m working with a client, 

I live by this quote. I work by this quote. I hold myself and all I do in business to the standards of this quote. 

That quote, hastily but demonstrably hand-written, hung on the wall of my office for three years. The only reason it isn’t still there is my houses tend to have fewer walls these days. 

Some might call it my mantra, a guiding light in my never-ending quest to innovate.

It’s May 2020 everyone. In case you’ve been living under a rock lately, we’re in the middle of a global pandemic. I’ve been hearing a lot lately about reopening, returning to our lives, getting back to how things were. This upsets me though because as Tom would tell you, there’s no going back, only forward. Seize this moment as an opportunity. 

Innovate or die.

It may seem harsh, but frankly, we’ve all been mollycoddled enough.
We all need to wave goodbye to our lives from before March of this year because they’re gone and never coming back.

Innovate or Die.

Our lives, our selves, our lifeblood industry is at a precipice, a turning point. We may not want it, some may not even be acknowledging it yet, but here we are. In a place where we are going to be forced to change; forced to rethink everything we have learned, everything we know about how things work.

But HOW?!?!

Simple. You need an innovation plan. 

Of course, this plan is going to look a little different and will need to be altered for every individual situation, but each innovation plan should come down to three core tenets:

– Value

– Transformation

– Humanity


We need to focus on finding and proving value in the work that we are doing. It should no longer be a question of how many hours did you punch the clock. Time is important, but time is no longer money. We need to focus on seeing the value and worry less about the time things take.

After all, we’re all working from home right now, and working from home should teach us to prioritize. How much of your or your employees’ days were menial tasks, commutes, or water cooler talk?

With those things removed, things should come into focus. It isn’t about time. It’s about goals, and how we accomplish those goals. There is a world of opportunity around you, and you may already have all the tools you need to take advantage of it. 

Hours don’t matter, time doesn’t matter. Why?

Value is the antithesis of punching the clock. 

So let’s all join hands, sing Kumbaya, and wave goodbye to the ridiculous metric of punching the clock. It’s gone, it’s dead, it’s irrelevant. 

Results are what matter. And how do we measure results?

The KPI’s (Key Performance Indicators) that we need to focus on are:

– Output

– Productivity

– Tangible results

Value: In our workplaces, in our industry, in our economy. There’s the innovation. 

Innovate or die.



We must transform both ourselves and our companies.

I’m sorry, but it’s 2020. It is 2020! Let’s be a company in 2020.

We can run most businesses from a smartphone and a laptop. Believe me, I’ve been doing it for years. It’s completely possible. We no longer need to worry about having the people in their cages… err… cubicles. 

Our manufacturing facilities need to leverage technology so everything isn’t floating around on pieces of paper no one looks at. Empower your people to make high-level decisions.

Let your skilled workers be skilled thinkers.

Automate everything that you can, but let your people take ownership by doing high-level work.

How? It comes back to my favorite subject.

Digital Transformation.

You need Remote Viewing and control of your applications. You need people to make data-driven decisions based on real-time values. You need understanding and knowledge of all your systems. You need predictive analytics and maintenance. You need cybersecurity. You need visualization that doesn’t look straight out of 1972.

For many people, this will mean needing to build in layers of additional metrics. For most people, this will mean starting small and building up and out. 

This isn’t a suggestion, this isn’t a possibility, and this isn’t something for “someday.”

It’s here, it’s now. Welcome, welcome to our brave new world.

It’s 2020. You need to act like it




There’s this ugly knee jerk reaction in our industry that innovation means fewer jobs, lower wages, and total disintegration of camaraderie in the workplace. 

I won’t lie. The stakes are high. If we get this thing wrong, it could look like that.

We have to use these massive changes as an opportunity to change how we look at, how we interact with, and how we treat our people. 

It’s about remembering what it is to be human.  A little something called understanding and empathy.
People are not robots. If you want a robot, that’s great, give me a call and I’ll sell you one.
Robots are great, but they aren’t what will make or break your business.

The greatest advantage that we have is being human. We must innovate, but we can’t take humanity out of the equation. We have the opportunity right now to rewrite the rules of the American workplace, to have a hard reset on the behavior of our forefathers. 

After so much time at home, I’m sure many of you miss your offices, your boardrooms, and business travels right about now. I miss those things too. Like many of you, I miss the in-person interactions. I miss the one-on-one, the shop talk, the excitement of crafting and implementing world-class solutions. I miss being there and seeing manufacturing facilities realize their dreams.

What I don’t miss, and what I refuse to return to, is the gambling. I don’t miss the absurd pomp, the ridiculous traditions, the status quo dressed up in an overpriced suit.  We can no longer shake hands and do deals and gamble with the future of our industry, the future of our nation. 

It’s time to realize that the real value is back at our facilities with our choices, our set-ups, and with our people. That’s where we need to invest. That’s where the value, the dollars, the next big thing is. 

We need to trust our people, we need to let them make decisions. We need to choose value over time, and we need to be prepared. 

Prepared for what, you ask?

Next time.
There will be a next time.

From food and beverage to pulp and paper, this pandemic has rocked every corner of our industry. Supply chains are buckling. Facilities are shutting down. Billions of dollars of raw materials are being tossed and slaughtered, simply because we weren’t prepared.

What have you learned?

How can we prepare ourselves so we will not be put into this same position again?

“Innovate or die.”


As you can tell, I’m really passionate about this. I’m also here to help. 

I’m here to help you as you get through COVID-19. My goal is to get our facilities backup and running, and then figure out how to prepare ourselves and our businesses for the next time. 

Please feel free to drop me an email [email protected] and start the discussion.