John Feehery: Speaking Engagements


Three Kings of Business

Posted on December 14, 2011
Inventors, Manufacturers, Salesmen

There are three basic kinds of people in the business world.

Inventors come up with new ways to make things.  Manufacturers make the things that the inventors invent.  Salesmen sell the things made by the manufacturers.

Inventors, manufacturers and salesmen sometimes work together in seamlessly.  Usually, they don’t.

Inventors are disrupters.  They have the biggest stake in innovation.  They are the poets of the business world.  They see the possibilities of the future.  They take the biggest risks and if they protect their intellectual property, they reap the biggest rewards.

Manufactures are the most conservative.  They like to turn the innovations of the inventor and then make money from them.  They come up with the processes of delivering the products to the consumers.  They make things to make money.

Salesmen work for the manufacturers, but they are always looking for the next big thing to sell.  Salesmen are the first to know when their products are not selling.  Sellers keep an eye on the inventors, because they make money by selling the hot products.

Salesmen are people-persons.  Inventors?  Not so much.  Manufacturers?  They swing between both extremes.

We live an era of innovation.  Inventors rule the roost. Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, the Google boys.  They are all inventors.  They harken back to the time when innovation ruled everything in the late 19th century.  Alexander Graham Bell and Thomas Edison and other inventors dominated the era.

That slowly gave way to manufacturers, because like Henry Ford, who paid attention less to innovation and more to turning out the product.

The era of manufacturing slowly turned into the era of salesmen.  Advertisers ruled the airways.  As documented in the television series Mad Men, the Madison Avenue boys dictated how we saw the products invented by one guy and manufactured by another.

Inventors rely on copyright and patents to protect their investments.  But often, the big manufacturing companies try to either buy them out or squash them like bugs.  Then the manufacturers turn to the ad guys to help them sell whatever products they are producing.

Creative destruction is great for inventors, great for salesmen, terrible for manufacturers.  Except, of course, when it is really bad for salesmen.  It costs a bunch of money to build manufacturing plants.  When things change suddenly, manufacturers lose money.  Think about those poor suckers who used to manufacture armoirs in the era of the big television sets.  Nobody knows what to do with them any more.

We live in an ever-changing world.  Sometimes the pace of change is too fast and sometimes, some industries want to slow it down a bit.    Policy makers continually have to balance the needs of all three, the inventor, the manufacturer and the salesmen, to limit their conflict and keep the pace sustainable for all of our business sectors.