John D. Sanders, Ph.D.,
Good community service builds good business relationships.
The federal laboratories have had community involvement by employees as a part of their operating plans for many years. These outreach programs have benefited many of the regions in which the federal labs are located. Programs have included organized efforts by the laboratories as well as direct service involvement by employees.
In fact, my first direct introduction to the Federal Laboratory Consortium was through a summer technology voluntary training course for teachers in a local public school system in the Washington DC suburbs about a decade ago. The sponsoring organization was the Army Research Laboratory (then Harry Diamond Laboratories), with the program led by Clifford Lanham of the Office of Research and Technology Applications (ORTA). For many of those teachers, this course was an initial eye-opener to the new technologies that would become such a vital part of their students' lives. It was a satisfying experience for both Cliff and me, but it also began our personal friendship that resulted in a number of joint efforts between our two organizations.
Recently, I had a breakfast with George Newstrom, Corporate Vice President of the Government Systems Group of (EDS) Electronic Data Systems Corp. George and his company have a major presence in many community service organizations and charitiesÑ such as the United Way, Virginia Technology Council, Chamber of Commerce, Women's Center, Make-A-Wish Foundation, and Adopt-A-School Programs. EDS has a corporate commitment to such programs, and encourages its employees to become personally involved. However, our meeting was focused on how to get more of the technology companies in this region to provide leadership and greater efforts in enhancing the charitable and community service organizations and efforts. Business leaders in many technology companies haven't yet stepped forward as much as should be expected; and, as technology becomes an ever-stronger driving force for regional economies, these companies need to be leaders also in the broader community base.
Community service goes beyond any moral and ethical demands or personal satisfaction. It's just good business. First of all if the overall community doesn't meet basic standards, attracting the right employees will be ever harder. Second, increasing the averages increases the overall attractiveness of any community and makes for a broader business base. Further, within any organization greater teamwork for getting a job done is developed by such projects that are part of the volunteer networks. Its' not just softball teams and gathering around drinking fountains (now laser printers) that build teams within an organizationÑ it should be productive efforts involved within the broad community.
For managers and marketing professionals, there is no better way to also develop those personal relationships that allow jobs to be better performed. Knowing your business partners on a first-name basis increases the communications lines between the parties. You will also be thought of first whenever an appropriate business reason arises. Who better to do business with than your friends. No, I'm not referring to moving any one to the head of a line in which he doesn't belong. I'm talking about that competitive edge that makes the difference when all else is equal. And, if you know the players, you've got a better chance to get that call "out of the blue". That's good business.
The federal laboratories don't have to expand their community roles just "because they're government". Use every good reason to meet business counterparts within your region and across the nation. You will expand your contacts with technology business leaders while enhancing the overall quality of life and economic base. Begin with yourself. Then encourage your management and other employees to seek out those programs that their respective marketing or technical expertise can be useful.
Yes, it's good business. It's personally rewarding. And, it's fun.
I would appreciate comments; contact me at Technology Transfer Business magazine: phone: 703-848-2800, ext. 151; fax: 703-848-2353; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
prepared for the July, 1996 Issue of the Federal Laboratory Consortium NewsLink