Many people who know me or follow me on Facebook know that I work with a company here in Nashville called UpDesk. UpDesk is a great and growing brand in the sit-to-stand desk market. UpDesk is a client but apparently I talk about them so much I’ve had dozens of people ask me in the last year if I have some sort of ownership stake in the company.
While I don’t have any equity in the company, it’s a fair to say that I’m a huge advocate for the products and my connection goes beyond the average consultant/company relationship. I love many things about the company but at the top of the list is that they have guts to try things that aren’t proven but seem like the right thing to do. The fact that UpDesk even exists is just such an example.
In The Beginning
Sometime in the spring of 2011 I met Teresa, the sales manager from a radiology supply and manufacturing company here in Nashville called Techno-Aide. I had never heard of Techno-Aide and I didn’t know squat about radiology. They wanted to talk about how social media could help them in the radiology business and through the first two conversations I discovered they had a line of ergonomic furniture as part of their catalog of products.
I had an overwhelming sense that there was an opportunity for them to create a brand focused on stand up desks for the consumer market so I went in one day for a meeting that was supposed to be talking about radiology and I pitched the idea for an entirely separate consumer brand. I remember thinking, “this is going to either go really well or they’re going to kick me out of the office.”
Guts From The Top Down
Fortunately both the sales manager and David, the VP of marketing, were willing to hear me out and I discovered that it was something they had discussed on and off through the years. They had the guts to entertain some of the crazy ideas and to bring me in a few weeks later to a meeting with the CEO.
Jean, the CEO, is a man who is just as likely to quote a movie he loves to make a point as he is to give you a candid and discerning impression of a situation. Over a series of conversations and research I provided he ultimately pulled the trigger on creating UpDesk and expanding the focus of the 40 year old company. As with any decision like this there is no guarantee it’s going to work. It can go completely the opposite direction and be a colossal waste of time and money. It takes guts to see that and move forward anyway and that’s what Jean has.
Jean will often quote Peter Drucker’s famous line about daring to make a difficult call: ”Whenever you see a successful business, someone once made a courageous decision.”
Still Have Guts
Now, over a year after launching the UpDesk brand we’re seeing significant growth and sales exceeding our expectations with many great opportunities on the horizon. UpDesk has lived by Drucker’s quote but it’s not just a single courageous decision, it’s a whole slew of decisions. The fact that a forty year old radiology supply and manufacturing company started a consumer brand of desks was just one of the first.
A few months ago UpDesk released the UpWrite desk, the first sit-to-stand desk with a whiteboard top. Needless to say it took guts to launch the product but it’s very much been worth it.
Everyday they have the guts to engage customers on Twitter and they have no idea how the conversation will go. Every week they have the guts to respond to customers and make sure they are 100% satisfied no matter what it takes. The culture of guts and grit that started the brand play out in the brand daily.
The lesson for all of us is that thoughtful, deliberate risk in a world with less control than ever is a great way to build a business that people will love. UpDesk continues to prove this and that’s why I’m so enthusiastic about them.