Teerlinck: Disruption can benefit businesses

Posted on Jan 15, 2019 :: Insight on Business, Web Exclusive.
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“Disruption” is one of those business buzz words making the rounds in companies’ C-Suites. But what if businesses used disruption to make positive changes at their business?

That’s the message Scott Teerlinck, president of Werner Electric Supply, looked to make at a talk Tuesday morning at the St. Norbert CEO Breakfast Series at Butte des Morts Country Club in Appleton. He says disruptors are everywhere in business, from how Uber completely transformed the taxi industry to how Redbox and then later Netflix changed how viewers watch movies at home.

“A disruption doesn’t always need to be a negative. It can have an upside, too,” Teerlinck says. “If you play your cards right, you can use a disruption to your advantage.”

For Werner, Amazon clearly is a disruptor since the online retailer sells many products below Werner’s cost. Teerlinck says Werner decided to focus on the added value it can provide to its customers.

“We won’t beat Amazon at the price game, but Amazon can’t teach customers how to use the products,” he says, adding Werner’s website provides more detailed information about its products and offers an app to reach customers. The company also held two Werner University events in 2018 where customers could come in and learn more about the company’s products and see how they work.

“Service is definitely a differentiator,” Teerlinck says. “We have an enclosed modification machine we sell, but we can work with our customers to customize what setup they need with it, so they don’t need to do their own modifications.”

The lack of talent is one disruptor affecting nearly all businesses. At Werner, Teerlinck says the company uses multiple approaches to attract and then retain employees.

“We’ve worked a lot on our culture at Werner. We not only try to make it a fun place to work with trips to Miller Park, for example, but we also take time to recognize our employees’ personal achievements,” he says. “For example, we recognize employees when they get married, have a child … that really means a lot to them.”

As for millennials, Teerlinck learned something this past summer when talking with the company’s interns. When asked what they enjoyed most about their experience at Werner, “It wasn’t the trip to Miller Park or something like that. It was the day they spent volunteering at Riverview Gardens,” he says.

“I believe if you get your employees involved in volunteering — especially the younger workers — it helps with the stickiness they have to your business and helps with morale.”

The next St. Norbert CEO Breakfast Series event will be held on March 5 starting at 7:30 a.m. at St. Norbert College’s F.K. Bemis International Center. Tweet Garot CEO Christopher Howald is the speaker. For more information or to purchase tickets, please visit snc.edu/ceobreakfast.