Survival of the fittest Featured

8:00pm EDT August 29, 2006
 Kevin Mintie doesn’t fear change, he embraces it. The president and CEO of Mintie Corp. knows that for his company to continue to succeed, it must continue to evolve.

Since 1940, when Mintie Corp. was founded by Mintie’s grandfather to provide indoor air-quality solutions, it has adapted its focus to meet the changing markets and new opportunities brought by each decade.

“Everything is an evolution of our past services and not a complete change in direction or expertise,” Mintie says. “We’re constantly thinking about how we can evolve and stay ahead through innovation.”

In 2003, the company introduced a line of containment units designed to control the spread of harmful airborne particles during construction or maintenance — a big shift for the traditionally service-based company.

“Our risk was, yes, we could make an investment, and this might not be as big a success as we’d hoped it would be but ... to pass on it would be worse than taking a risk and have it (be) only mediocre,” Mintie says.

Since then, the company has seen annual average sales increases of 25 percent, and Mintie expects a minimum growth rate of 18 percent to 20 percent for each of the next five years.

Smart Business spoke with Mintie about how he nurtures an environment that encourages change.

What is the key to anticipating and adapting to change?
This ties back mainly to knowing our customers and listening to their needs. Through close personal relationships and always being available, we’re able to help our clients and customers find solutions to their challenges.

We kept an eye on various industry developments and how they affect or created new opportunities with our own business. We worked hard to stay focused within our own fields of expertise.

Innovative ideas come from so many different places, so we make sure we’re listening to our customers, our channel partners and then our employees. Our employees are key to the ideas, because they’re actually out in the field and see what’s taking place and what the needs might be.

How do you promote a culture that values innovation?
It’s basically challenging that entrepreneurial spirit. Innovation can and should be the backbone of a growing business. We promote a culture of innovation at Mintie by challenging each other to think differently, and I think the overused term is ‘think outside the box’ and just do things better than before.

My experience has been people tend to be motivated by being able to make a difference, to have their efforts mean something in the overall picture. So by allowing everyone to bring their ideas to the table and often be in charge of developing those ideas, we keep this culture of innovation alive.

How do you keep employees adaptable to change?
With success and growth comes change, and that can sometimes be difficult ...You bring new people in, and some of your longtime employees may feel threatened. You bring in new technology and processes, and someone may feel intimidated.

You must try and create a collaborative culture where employees feel they have a stake in the success of your company and where their efforts actually make a difference. What we do is we come to the understanding that change makes us all more effective and, in the long run, most likely (makes us) more creative or more innovative.

Change also requires effective communication, a lot of personal involvement in changes that are essential to helping an employee adapt to a growing organization. Teamwork and collaborative meetings help change evolve naturally, because they allow the employees to be part of the process or the changes you may be trying to achieve.

How can a company prepare for growth?
The challenge now is not to be seduced by the excitement generated over a hot new product. Instead, we want to make sure we keep our eye to the future and be ready for it when it arrives. This has required us to do a lot of careful planning ... and appropriate the resource allocations necessary to continue into the future.

For a small business, resources are finite, so it really becomes a challenge. But I believe it’s just absolutely critical to stay focused on your future if you want to come out ahead — even though you’ve got something positive right there before you.

Stay focused on the needs of your employees and your customers. If you can be truly committed to shaping your business around that and are willing to challenge conventional thinking, instill responsibility in your employees and make the changes necessary, whether in your office or in the marketplace, you can accomplish more than you probably ever dreamed.

HOW TO REACH: Mintie Corp., www.mintie.com