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Implement a Valuable Business Model

Aug 19, 2008
Rogers Corporation provides an interesting example of how advance thinking about business models can occur and add valuable business model insights. The company is a long-established one, based in Connecticut.

A strong research tradition made the company rich in polymer-based materials knowledge that could be used to create higher performance products for electronic components in the telecommunications and computer markets. Unfortunately, the company was not moving fast or profitably enough to take its expertise from the laboratory to the customer.

When Walter E. Boomer arrived as president and chief executive officer in 1997, he saw that the company needed an improved business model and began to craft the vision to build the business model before a single test was run. He could start with vision because he found the company in good shape on values. If he had not, values would have been his starting point. To establish this initial vision, he analyzed the successful and unsuccessful experiences the company had already had, treating them like business model tests.

His investigation showed him that Rogers was slowing its internal efforts in hopes of avoiding making small mistakes, and the resulting delays in reaching the market were turning into a comparatively big mistake. His initial goal became to narrow the time and perceptual gaps between the company's research labs and customer's design engineers.

The organization needed to operate by enabling "wires of authority" rather than a hierarchy of authority. The key principle Mr. Boomer pursued was to free up people to make small mistakes in order to gain speed and overall effectiveness in reaching and performing in the market.

This insight led to the choice of areas for expanding the company's business model experimentation. Previously, the research labs and manufacturing function had not been very involved with one another during product development. As a result, when a new product came out, yields were often low and costly.

In addition to working on this hand-off problem directly by creating a new organizational focus, the company has also been adding to its successful joint ventures with partners who bring integrated technology and manufacturing expertise relevant for high potential products the company would have difficulty pursuing by itself.

The incentive to go with more joint ventures to establish improved material was also encouraged by Mr. Boomer's noticing that the markets for its products would be predominately located in Asia. Joint ventures there also provided the benefit of local partners who could help obtain market acceptance.

The principles that Mr. Boomer used illustrate how you can start to hypothesize what your new business model should be. Many of the elements that he considered to start establishing the new business model at Rogers have been important as well for other successful business-model innovating companies. As someone new to the company's industry, you can see that his approach is also likely to be accessible to the widest range of company leaders.

In case you are wondering about Mr. Boomer's experience and track record before he became CEO of Rogers, you may be interested in knowing that then-General Boomer headed the Marines in Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm before retiring after 34 years in 1994 to become head of the Babcock and Wilcox Power Generation group at McDermott International.

To summarize, Mr. Boomer looked at:

(1) Whether the company had a solid base in values;

(2) Where taking lots of affordable risks can reduce or eliminate bigger, unaffordable risks;

(3) How the company's past performance can stand as a surrogate for experiments in adding benefits, adjusting prices, and reducing costs;

(4) Where he could make fast progress on several fronts at once in adding value for customers and other stakeholders;

(5) What kind of organizational structure would work best for creating his future experiments in business development; and

(6) How he could instill a better spirit of teamwork and cooperation for mutual advantage.
About the Author
Donald Mitchell is an author of seven books including Adventures of an Optimist, The 2,000 Percent Squared Solution, The 2,000 Percent Solution, The 2,000 Percent Solution Workbook, The Irresistible Growth Enterprise, and The Ultimate Competitive Advantage. Read about creating breakthroughs through and receive tips by e-mail through registering for free at

http://www.fastforward400.com .
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