Opinion: Tools for Building a Better Box

Let me introduce you to my friend, and new partner, and his unique way of thinking

By 
Joe Vonder Haar, Co-Founder, iSee Store Innovations

Two years ago, my company was struggling with what our future looked like when I reconnected with a longtime friend of the family, Bill Donius. Bill had a successful career at Pulaski Bank, where he rose to CEO and grew the company eightfold during his tenure. He then served as a banker appointee on the Federal Reserve Board under Ben Bernanke.

During our reunion, we talked about building a company and the challenges that go along with it. After his banking career, Bill did several years of research on a unique approach to problem solving. The result became his best-selling book, “Thought Revolution,” also the subject of his TEDx Talk, which you can find on YouTube.

After the book’s publication, Bill’s consulting career instantly flourished. He took an interest in iSee and the industry, applying his methods for unlocking creative thinking to decision-making and problem-solving. Two years and a significant amount of work later, the path for the company is clear. Also, to the delight of our team, Bill is now part of iSee.

What compelled this banker and author to invest his time and resources in the convenience industry? Let me introduce you to my friend, and new partner, and his unique way of thinking:

On Investing in Convenience

“As bankers, we get the opportunity to take a deep look into a wide array of industries and individual companies to understand them well enough to make good lending decisions. Once in a while, a company or industry captures our interest. The convenience industry captured mine, because it’s one where there’s been a great deal of innovation that’s resulted in making lives easier and better for consumers—important in a time-starved world.”

On Tough Decision-Making

“As a bank CEO, I did due diligence on 19 different acquisitions over 10 years, consummating only one. But that one worked out really well. One bad deal can sink a bank. “Strategic decisions should be analyzed using both sides of the brain. It’s essential to build a conventional, logical, analytical model to frame a ‘Build, buy or sell’ decision.

“But if you stop there, you may come up short. Turning to the right side of the brain allows for a different type of analysis that captures all of the nonlinear parts of the decision that conventional thinking may miss.”

On Applying a Fresh Approach

“We’ve all heard the definition of insanity, sometimes attributed to Einstein: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Yet we tend to want to stay in our familiar comfort zones and often do the same thing over and over.

It’s part of the reason many companies don’t get the innovation they need to stay competitive. We’re admonished to do this in business sessions but never told how to do it.

“Bottom line: Find an approach that gets the team out of the same analysis. It’s a worthwhile exercise to do at least once a year, even if you disregard the findings.”

On Spurring Innovation

“It’s inspiring to think we can make people’s lives better, easier, even if in small ways. A clever innovation may bring a smile to a consumer’s otherwise busy, tough day. The bonus is we’re part of a virtuous cycle of improving American ingenuity that hopefully inspires others toward innovation in their  industries too.”

Welcome to the industry, Bill!


Joe Vonder Haar is CEO and founding partner of iSee Store Innovations LLC. Reach him at [email protected].