SEATTLE—It's hard to believe a large, highly charged group of innovators in the belting industry could be further motivated by a speaker.
But Newt Gingrich did just that at NIBA—The Belting Association's annual convention, held Sept. 24-27 in Seattle.
The former speaker of the House and governor of Georgia and the current co-host of CNN's Crossfire was the keynote speaker at the conference.
He talked about the need to manage a business properly and, most importantly, innovate and upgrade to remain not only competitive but ahead of the crowd.
Constantly interjecting humor in his address, he avoided partisan politics but often used various U.S. federal government departments that have failed to do their jobs as examples of what businesses shouldn't do if they want to survive in a very competitive world.
For instance, he said the inner-workings of the Veterans Administration and the Internal Revenue Service are so far behind the business world's technology that they can't be modernized any longer—they have to be replaced.
Many within the VA, he noted, are working with programs from the 1980s that aren't doing the proper job in 2014.
He added that the huge amount of square footage at the Pentagon was due to the fact that when it was built, it had to accommodate people using manual typewriters. His suggestion: With technological advances, perhaps the Pentagon could be reduced to a triangle.
Another example of keeping up with the times as opposed to staying in the past was the fact that it took about 11 seconds for an ATM in a foreign country to give him the amount of cash he requested in the local currency, and those seconds included the machine verifying his identity, bank, other information and his typing.
Yet, he said, it still takes the VA months to set up an appointment or make a payment to a qualified veteran in the U.S.
He compared modern bureaucracy to the use of the manual typewriter, adding “they just have to stop working overtime at being stupid in Washington.”
Gingrich said the same holds true in business. Companies have to continue upgrading, remain innovative and use the technologies at their disposal if they want to stay on top of the game.
Simply put, they need to replace outdated technology with newer innovations available to them or eventually face the prospect of closing their shops.
The belting industry is highly competitive, he noted; to stay with or ahead of competitors, businesses need to use what works best and discard cumbersome technology that position companies in the back rather than the front of the line.
Another piece of advice he offered: if possible, avoid inking contracts for products with the government because it's not worth the hassle.
During a question and answer session following his address, Gingrich was asked if he'd ever consider running for president again.
He simply smiled and said he came out of the campaign $5 million in debt. “So, no.”