Ideas to Read and Pass Along

Kevin & Jackie Freiberg

100% Accountability

Ambitious maybe, but not impossible.

yeah butA huge perk in our business is meeting and learning about really cool companies, gutsy leaders, extraordinary employees, and innovative practices. Recently, Tandus—not just an ordinary carpet company but the global leader in closed-loop recycling—hosted their biannual sales conference in San Antonio, Texas. The conference theme was Assume 100% Responsibility!

Tandus wanted a meaningful message that would fuel continued accountability and, even more importantly, a message that would equip their team with passion and timeless strategies for growing market share. So they brought the BOOM! message to their senior leaders, sales team, and corporate support staff—with an innovative twist—Jackie kicked-off the event, and Kevin wrapped it up! Two speakers, one seamless message, deeply and creatively rooted in the hearts and minds of 200 people!

While doing our research for the event, we discovered some inspiring stories worth bragging about! Stories that might seem impossible; yet accountable, forward-thinking people were able to prove possible.

Fifteen years ago, Mary Head and her manufacturing co-workers were looking for a way to recycle used carpet. They thought, “WHAT IF we could repurpose that prehistoric extruder that’s collecting dust on the factory floor?” So Mary called the manufacturer of the machine for some engineering advice. The experts said, “Yeah, interesting idea, BUT it can’t be done—it won’t work.”

Mary disagreed and chose to be a player, to experiment, and find a way to repurpose the extruder and use it to recycle old carpet, waste materials. Mary was ambitious; she took on what the experts said was impossible! She began teaching herself how to reconfigure various components to control feeding, pressure, heat, and extrusion. The result? Mary and her team created the very first carpet-recycling machine! This led to a process now known as closed-loop recycling and earned Tandus the exclusive bragging rights to “leave no trace™.” Now, after fifteen years and over 120 million pounds of recycled waste repurposed and reused in new carpet, Mary’s choice to own and run with an idea, continues to make a big difference! And Mary? She’s now the department manager at the Tandus Center for environmental innovation.

What makes Mary extraordinary? She chose to be 100% accountable! Mary chose to be a player; serve her team; innovate for the company; and engage in extraordinary environmental stewardship. Mary blows the doors off business-as-usual. What makes Tandus an extraordinary company? A commitment to sustainability, a culture of innovation and responsibility, and an unending quest to make a positive and lasting difference. Tandus inspires people everywhere to look beyond business-as-usual by asking, “what if?” Tandus is blowing the doors off carpet manufacturing as usual. One person and one carpet at a time, Tandus brings professional responsibility and corporate social responsibility to life.

In many organizations, people allow the “yeah but” syndrome to crush or kill innovative ideas. Sadly we “yeah but” ideas to death by accepting the standard line: “But, that won’t work here or no, that can’t be done.” At Tandus, Mary didn’t accept “yeah but” and “no it cannot be done.” Instead, she and her team embarked upon an innovative adventure and “what if’d” an idea to life! Ambitious, you bet! Not impossible though!

TO DO: Work collectively to make what seems impossible, possible. Inspire everyone to think like an innovator. “WHAT IF…” an idea to life. Start by encouraging people to read the Tandus story, and then ask if there are ideas that have been tabled that should resurface? Defy business as usual! Challenge people at all levels in your organization to replace “Yeah but” with “What if…”