the past few years, we have heard much about the importance
of "entrepreneurship" to the success of new product
development. But what if the company culture is unable to
support the entrepreneurial spirit? What if the company
cannot support new product development staff full-time,
but recognizes the time and/or skill limitations of existing
Thompson, Chairman and CEO of Hunt Corporation, and Todd
Peterson, a Principal of Foster Chamberlain, talk about
extra-preneurship, and how it has benefited Hunt Corporation's
new product development process.
Give me some background on Hunt Corporation.
Hunt Corporation is a 100 year-old, publicly-traded, manufacturing
company that is trying to transform itself. We define ourselves
as a leading provider of products used to enhance and expand
the use of images, with a focus on digital images.
Can you tell me about Hunt's new product concept?
It's a revolutionary way to make mounting and laminating
images, generally signs and presentations, much easier.
With our new product line, a novice can simultaneously laminate
and mount images to foamboard, saving time and money. Currently,
lamination tends to create a lot of waste from destroyed
images, since few people laminate enough images to refine
the subtle skills needed to do it properly.
Additionally, the image mounting process is highly labor-intensive,
and current spray mount adhesives post both health and environmental
in conjunction with one of its customers, identified the
need for a solution to the problems commonly experienced
by end-users of mounting and lamination products.
How does it work?
Hunt's new product line includes a special type of foamboard
called pouchboard that has a sheet of laminate hinged to
it, creating a pouch, into which an image can be slipped.
The pouchboard is then run through a newly created, multi-purpose
machine, which simultaneously mounts and laminates the image
What was so different about this product concept?
We have expertise spanning laminates, adhesives, foamboard,
machines and images. We knew we had a high-potential new
product idea, but there was no clearly appropriate business
unit in which to develop it because the opportunity cut
across all of Hunt's distribution channels. We wanted to
ensure that we exploited the full potential of the product,
but simply weren't set up to do so.
Why not develop the product in-house?
Hunt has a small marketing department that is already pressed
with just its day-to-day work. And we are trying to reinvent
ourselves as well. I knew we needed intellectual capital
with new, fresh and innovative approaches as well as the
focus that can only be provided by full-time resources.
Why not recruit talent from outside Hunt?
There were several reasons. They boil down to time and money.
One approach would be to hire a marketing professional from
Proctor and Gamble or Frito Lay. This would be a lengthy
process, because it is difficult to attract such talent
to what is essentially a manufacturing organization. By
hiring Foster Chamberlain, I could find what I needed overnight.
I don't burden the corporation with the cost of a specialized
function. While we need a lot of expertise now, next year
we will require less.
You said that the product concept was originally developed
inside one of your own business units. Did they have any
problem with giving up "control" of the concept's
Not really. Although our marketing department came up with
the idea, they understood that this was potentially a blockbuster
for the company. They also knew their strengths and weaknesses
. . . and their limitations. Consequently, they wanted Foster
Chamberlain's resources and expertise.
also say that it helped a lot that Todd Peterson and John
Ulrich, principals at Foster Chamberlain, did a good job
of working with our people. Their work spanned all our business
functions manufacturing, marketing and sales. The
fact that they were outsiders actually helped. They didn't
come with a lot of biases, and therefore they were perceived
as very supportive.
What is the concept behind the term "extrapreneurship?"
Extrapreneurship is the term we coined and then registered
to describe our outsourced business development services.
Essentially, we act as "contract entrepreneurs"
for our clients. You probably remember that a few years
ago, the new thinking in new product development revolved
around intrapreneurship, the notion that success was linked
to the ability of the product management team to think and
act like small company entrepreneurs. But experts tell us
that few large companies are able to retain a sufficient
amount of entrepreneurial talent, partially from a failure
to reward entrepreneurial behavior. It is simply counter
to most large corporate cultures.
extrapreneurs, companies can overcome this phenomenon by
accessing entrepreneurial resources on an as-needed basis.
Isn't this what all consultants do?
I think our implementation focus makes us different from
consultants. We don't install new product development processes
or train product developers. We manage the business development
continuum from the fuzzy front end through launch, often
acting as temporary management until the product or business
is up and running.
How does this differ from outsourcing?
I'm not sure that it does. Companies are less averse these
days to using outside contractors for such functions as
IT, research and development and industrial design. They
realize that they don't have to have core competency in
all of these areas. It is, however, critical that the external
companies work as though they are a fully integrated part
of the client organization.
When I think of outsourcing, I think of "work."
When I think of consulting, I think of "intellectual
capital." This project differed from straight outsourcing
in the sense that the emphasis was on creativity and intellectual
capital, although Foster Chamberlain is now translating
that intellectual capital into actionable "work"
in its current project.
Give an example of the deliverables.
Initially, we developed a business plan for the new product
line: market opportunity, marketing and operational strategy,
staffing requirements and action steps, etc. However, it
soon became clear that this new product opportunity represented
a departure from the Hunt's traditional new product work.
I believe that really good marketing is iterative. That
is to say, the marketing process should be continually refined,
with customer feedback driving ongoing product devlopment
and improvement efforts. Because this new product line had
such broad potential, I realized that we had to refocus
the whole company toward a solutions-based approach to the
market. To do this, we needed an organization that we didn't
Can you further define the concept of "consumer solution?"
Solution is a nebulous term. Fundamentally, any product
that satisfies end-user needs may be called a solution.
However, the important insight is that by engaging in "solution"
development, as opposed to product development, companies
focus on the product attributes that really matter to end-users.
Truly outstanding consumer solutions are able to disrupt
the competitive structure of an industry and alter or even
eliminate entire pieces of the value chain.
What unique services did Foster Chamberlain provide?
The combination of entrepreneurial drive and analytical
rigor. Here is a group of really smart, hard working people
who are not part of some old, huge, main-line company. I
really felt they were working both for and with us.
What lessons did you learn as a result of this project?
This process has confirmed the value of basic, sound marketing,
which is hard to do in small manufacturing companies. It
validates my belief that companies like Hunt are really
marketing companies, working to integrate our core competencies
with the needs of our customers.
Don mentioned that good marketing is iterative. It is critical
in both business and product development for companies to
capture and incorporate customer feedback immediately and
to use this data to enhance new products rapidly. Too often,
companies fail to capture valuable insights that early adopters
can provide to create a better mass-market product.
instance, one of Hunt's distribution channels has already
sold hundreds of machines into their customer base,
which represents a valuable source of lead-user information.
We want to know how, why, and when these customers are
using the product. This information is valuable, not
only for product enhancement, but also for designing
promotions. By better understanding the applications
that end-users have found for our products, we can educate
potential future customers about the usefulness of our
Do you have any other advice that you would offer companies
developing new products?
Be sure to monitor product launch using critical performance
metrics so that adjustments to the marketing mix can be
made immediatley. Work with finance and accounting to make
sure you capture sales data in a format that enables meaningful
analysis and robust decision-making. Often, sales data is
not captured in a useful format, requiring product and financial
managers to manipulate imperfect information to get information
that is, at best, directionally accurate. You can do everyone
a favor by orienting the company towards capturing information
on a real-time basis.
My advice would be to ensure that you have the talent to
manage external resources. It is important to understand
that while external resources may work more quickly, managing
them to achieve the desired results demands a rare blend
of skills. First, a strategic perspective is necessary to
ensure that work is directed toward the vision of the company.
Additionally, strong communication skills are required to
convey the corporate objective to the external resources.
Finally, managing outsourced work demands detail-oriented
project management expertise to ensure that commitments
are completed on schedule.
Corporation is located in Philadelphia and is known
to the market place for many consumer and office product
brands, including X-Acto (artist knives), Boston (pencil
sharpeners, staplers, etc.), and Bienfang (foam board).
Chamberlain, LLC, a business development company, is located
in Philadelphia and provides extrapreneurship services to
its corporate clients.
this new product line had such broad potential, I realized
that we had to refocus the whole company toward a solutions-based
approach to the market. To do this, we needed an organization
that we didn't have."
project differed from straight outsourcing in the sense
that the emphasis was on creativity and intellectual capital
. . .
Diana Laitner, Laitner and Associates (email@example.com)
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July, 1999 PDMA Visions