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UC Goering Center news

Cultivating a change mindset in an ever-evolving world

By Danise DiStasi

Part one of a three-part series

The coronavirus has changed how we communicate, relate to others, and how we do business. But change is not new. In fact, it is said to be the only constant. For perspective, I interviewed John Goering, founder of the Goering Center, together with his colleague, Marvin Dejean, futurist and digital marketing strategist.

Part One: Technology

During our time together, John reflected on the many changes that have occurred during his time in business. Marvin shed light on the changes John shared and what it could mean as businesses tackle some of their most pressing challenges in a rapidly changing marketplace. During this discussion, John casually shared that one business he was involved with had a comptometer. He continued to talk about the business, but I had to stop him.

“A what? Can you spell that? What was it? What did it do?” John was more than happy to explain.

“It was a mechanical piece of equipment and had rows of buttons and each row represented a space and a number. You multiplied by repeat addition. That's the way we calculated the information that went into an invoice. It was mechanical and highly used during the thirties and forties.

“I can still picture the office at the Ideal Meat Packing Company packing house my family owned,” John reminisced. “It wasn't even a multiplying machine. Back in the day our accounting systems, billing, inventory control, accounts receivable, and sales analysis were individual steps — they were all separate. Each step was independent and not coordinated at all. In the packing house we had no idea what a computer was, everything was manual. The comptometer seemed like a dream come true. It was invented long before the adding machine, the calculator and certainly the computer. Talk about changes!”

During his time in business John experienced a tremendous amount of change, culturally, technically and in business.

The advent of computers was one of the biggest leaps. “We moved from a comptometer to a calculator. One of the first things I did was to get our companies to use NCR’s punch paper tape. That was a big jump. We coded the invoices and then sent the tape to NCR, and they'd process the information. That was a step forward and we couldn’t imagine technology advancing beyond that. With that information, we knew what our gross profit was by customer, by inventory item, etc. and life got so much easier for us all.”

We continued to talk more about systems like the IBM 1410, which took up an entire room and was the Cadillac of the day, yet our little cellphone now has hundreds of times the power.

“I've witnessed this cycle from absolutely nothing to our technology exploding today, which is amazing. And I've been out of active business since 1989,” John said.

But the advent of computers improved the general satisfaction of the employees because employers could see results. It spared them the mechanical errors that might otherwise have occurred. But they could get their work done quickly, more accurately.

“I think computers, though there are exceptions, but from my observation, really improved the work environment,” John said. “Then we progressed from that to a minicomputer and at that point, I got heavily involved with our data processing center at the university.”

“Imagine,” Marvin chimed in, “not only progressing to the minicomputers but to machines that are self-propelled and can easily clean the aisle of a major retail store like Walmart. I went to Walmart, there was one just right behind me. It knows exactly where the aisles are and where it's going and what it's cleaning. Nobody needs to take care of them. They're robots with sensors and are completely automated.”

Marvin explained that these fully automated machines are not just cleaning, they are monitoring traffic — the amount of people at a certain time, at a certain location inside the store.

“They are collecting data as well as cleaning. Their use is functional as well as allowing Walmart to know exactly the level of traffic throughout different times throughout the store and where people are congregated.”

Fully automated, data collecting, self-cleaning robots are a long way from the comptometer. Seeing these kinds of shifts and predicting where these shifts may take place is invaluable in our world today. And living through the changes the pandemic has caused has made us aware the disruptions are going to occur. Are we ready?

“There will always be losses as our world changes,” Marvin said. “Walmart will save a bucket load of money not having to deal with hiring a company to take care of their cleaning or that aspect of cleaning. Plus, they collect data on their most important clientele, people who are walking in and out of their store every day. These are the things people are either not thinking about and don’t see coming and they're really panicking about that, as opposed to seeing what opportunities are available. It's just going to be impossible for a business owner to say no to that kind of efficiency or even competitively.”

There were other disruptions back in John’s day; a war, the advent of the automobile, Civil Rights, etc. What does Marvin see on the horizon for what our future holds as we reflect on these disruptions?

In our next article, we’ll share the changes John witnessed through the war, how the GI Bill helped promote education, and the benefits of a society that invests in the education and development of its people.

Danise Distasi is president and owner of Distasi Advisors. Reach Danise at 513-477-7624 or danise@di-advisors.com.

Featured image at top: Glenn Carstens Peters/Unsplash

About the Goering Center for Family & Private Business
Established in 1989, the Goering Center serves more than 400 member companies, making it North America’s largest university-based educational non-profit center for family and private businesses. The Center’s mission is to nurture and educate family and private businesses to drive a vibrant economy. Affiliation with the Carl H. Lindner College of Business at the University of Cincinnati provides access to a vast resource of business programing and expertise. Goering Center members receive real-world insights that enlighten, strengthen and prolong family and private business success. For more information on the Center, participation and membership visit goering.uc.edu.

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