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Innovate, Disrupt or Get Out of the Way–Panel Discussion at NJ Business Summit

Nov 13, 2017

Rewarding new ideas, promoting risk and accepting failure are three characteristics that were deemed necessary to keep your company relevant at EisnerAmper’s New Jersey Closely-Held Business Summit held on October 24. At this event four innovators served on a panel moderated by Alan Wink, EisnerAmper’s director of capital markets. The panel discussed how these traits can impact organizations in all industries and gave useful tips on how to successfully integrate them into the workplace.

The speakers on the panel included Arnold Kamler, CEO of Kent International, Chris McGarry, director for entrepreneurship in the Columbia University Office of Alumni and Development, Justin Hendrix, executive director, NYC Media Lab, and Tonia Pankopf, a strategist and financial advisor.

Each of the panelists earned their title of innovator through the risks they’ve taken and rewards they’ve reaped. While the majority of companies are looking to move their manufacturing overseas, Mr. Kamler believes that manufacturing can be brought back into the United States. Kent International, a family owned bicycle manufacturer, moved their new factory to South Carolina. McGarry and Columbia University support an innovative atmosphere which generated a start-up lab housing 71 alumni working full time on 40 different startups, housed at the original WeWork headquarters. Tonya Pankopf has seen first-hand how innovators impact the venture capitalist world. As a sell-side research analyst, she has become an expert on what creates value in a company. Taking Expedia public and working with other industry disruptors within a strategic advisory firm has shown her the necessity of innovation. Hendrix works with various universities, including Columbia and NYU, to create a communal effort around start-ups. It his belief that artificial intelligence will change every business and service company through its ability to decrease cost. Technology is moving quickly and the ability to leverage machine learning will change the workplace and their internal processes.

The panelists discussed several topics including how to create a culture of innovation in the workplace, and how to accept the inherent failures that will result. The speakers had different perspectives on these discussion points but agreed that because something worked last year does not mean that it’s the best way to proceed going forward. Sometimes the answer may be bringing in outside talent to help think outside-the-box. When addressing if the ability to innovate can be taught, the panelists believe that generations today are more risk-averse than their predecessors. People should ask themselves why aren’t I taking risks, what is stopping me? Universities should be fostering the mentality that although being an entrepreneur was not your original plan, seeing your ideas through and learning the business side in order to commercialize a scientific idea could result in a thriving operation. People are raised believing that failure is not acceptable. However, if you fail, you have the ability to explore. Fostering and encouraging failure provides an atmosphere to learn from errors and missteps.

The speakers’ lively discussion left the audience with a very important message about fostering innovation in the workplace -- never take your eye off the core business that made you successful to begin with. Innovation should happen slowly and will come from day-to-day tasks while solving problems for your customers. Just remember: While solving these customer problems you must think outside-the-box.  This could lead to the creation of a new market which could result in even greater success.

For more content from EisnerAmper’s New Jersey Closely-Held Business Summit, please see:

Workplace of the Future
All in the Family: Six Strategies for Successful Family Business Planning

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Alexandra Colman

Alexandra Colman is a Tax Partner serving clients in the life sciences, biotechnology, manufacturing and distribution, and retail industries. Allie works with large corporations, both public and private, on multistate returns and tax provisions.

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