Connections – Bringing breakthrough ideas to life: Just do it

Posted on Apr 1, 2015 :: Connections
Margaret LeBrun
Posted by , Insight on Business Staff Writer


Dan Barnett

Dan Barnett

Great ideas are a dime a dozen. Dreams can come easy, too.

But if you can’t take a great idea or a dream and create something, you will have nothing to show for it.

So it is with innovation. It’s making a commitment to a specific goal and following through on it when important changes happen, says Dan Barnett, owner of Make or Break Execution, a Nevada-based speaking and consulting company.

“It’s one thing to have a good idea, but if you can’t execute it well, it’s not going to do any good,” Barnett says. “How do you make it happen in your company in an effective way? How do you focus your efforts so you can really cause it to happen?”

Barnett, who explores such challenges through real-life anecdotes and stories, will deliver the keynote speech at the fourth annual Technology & Human Innovation Networking Conference hosted by Insight Publications LLC the afternoon of May 19 in Menasha.

Insight Innovation Award winners will also be announced at THINC!

Barnett’s talk, sponsored by TEC-Midwest, will address how companies can overcome obstacles in their path to innovation.

“What it’s really about is, of all the things you have to do in a company — and you have to do lots of things to be successful — what’s the most important thing you can do? If you are going to change something in a way that will cause you to realize your vision, the way you go about doing it will make all the difference.”

Barnett brings years of experience guiding companies through change. He has held leadership roles for some of the world’s largest corporations, including Nestlé, Pillsbury, Weyerhaeuser and Constellation Brands wine company, where the stock price tripled when he served as president and CEO. He was chief operating officer of Vistage International for seven years and continues to serve as a Vistage chair in Reno, Nev.

In addition to his speaking and consulting firm, Barnett is currently the CEO and owner of The Primavera Company, a real estate and natural gas company with operations in three states.  He has appeared regularly on CNBC’s “Squawk Box,” Bloomberg and the Wall Street Journal, speaking on CEO confidence and leadership.

In his keynote, Barnett will share stories of specific actions he has taken to help leaders make game-changing decisions.

For example, when he served as president of Pillsbury’s Van de Camps frozen food business, competitors were focusing on crunchiness and texture. Van de Camps decided it would take another route to being No. 1: It would “own” freshness. Examining every step of the process, from the ocean catch to the processing and packaging, the company identified specific changes it had to make to achieve its goal. By focusing on freshness, the company moved from a distant No. 3 in the market to being the No. 1 brand — in spite of the fact its next competitor was three times the size.

“It all reinforces this idea of focusing on the most important thing,” Barnett says.

Key to maintaining focus, he explains, is convincing everyone in the company the identified goal is paramount.

“In the end, it gets down to your ability to get your organization to believe in this new thing you’re developing. To the extent you can get them to believe in it, they can stay focused on it. Your behaviors are based on your belief.”

This, of course, sounds easy on the surface. The reality is much messier.

“Here’s what really happens to all of us: We get so involved in these alligators and squirrels that jump up when we walk into the office — we never get involved in the most important things.”

Barnett has found ways to help leaders avoid such distractions and focus on what it takes to innovate.

“You have to put together a value chain which allows you to start facing forward to cause these things you want to happen tomorrow. If you can identify the activity you have to do today that will give you the result you want tomorrow, then you make sure those activities are happening each day.”

He also talks about the critical role of leadership in innovation.

“You’ve got to get the people in your organization from the top on down to support that this (innovative idea) is so important that it’s not going to be preempted by anything else. They have to believe that this innovation is going to change this company and if they don’t, it’s not going to happen.

“It’s about passion and creating enthusiasm. It’s not about being a Tony Robbins-style charismatic, but you have to believe in it yourself — then it will spread.”

Winners of Insight Innovation Award to be announced at May 19 event

Tuesday, May 19
James W. Perry Hall, UW-Fox Valley Communications Arts Center
1478 Midway Road, Menasha
To register, go to:

Margaret LeBrun

About Margaret LeBrun

Co-Publisher, Executive Editor View all posts by Margaret LeBrun →