Tenney Campbell, the well-known owner of a fluid power distributor, died in mid-January. He was ahead of his time in many ways. He will be remembered as a person who had an impact in this world beyond so many friends among fluid power distributors and manufacturers. He sold his California business to Berendsen Fluid Power in the mid-1990s. He continued to work for the company a few years in the capacity of corporate curmudgeon.
His role in those few years was to “create heat, smoke and discontent” among the company’s management, according to distribution consultant Mike Workman, who called Tenney a longtime friend and mentor. “He was always an ‘and’ guy, not a ‘but’ guy,” Workman says. “His job was to argue with everybody about everything and to force people in the organization to think differently. He had a gift to take what’s normal and convert it into an example that opens your eyes.” Following his retirement, he worked as a consultant for several years.
Tenney was way ahead of all the bloggers today. He built up a list of hundreds of people who received his frequent emails with a mixture of wit, wisdom and food for thought. Often there were scanned articles in PDF format from a wide range of publications attached.
Tenney loved good, creative busines strategy. In his spirit, here are a few books I think he might have recommended in 2010. The first is How the Mighty Fall, by Jim Collins, author of Good to Great. This research explores how great companies sometimes stumble. In the course of identifying five stages of decline with stories about Circuit City, Hewlett-Packard, Rubbermaid, Scott Paper and others, there are some lessons you can apply to your own situation.
The second book is Value Creation Strategies for Wholesaler-Distributors, by Steve Deist, Mike Marks and Mike Emerson, available at www.nawpubs.org. This book provides a great framework for creating a market-driven approach to strategy development and execution specific to distribution companies with real-world examples.
Tenney’s children sent out a nice email last month that captured his essence, with this included: “We would ask that all who have been a friend, been mentored by, prompted to consider new ideas, or just been amused over the years by Tenney to simply raise a glass (or two), pick up a book you might not otherwise read, and most importantly, keep an open and inquisitive mind. Nothing would make him happier.” Well said. Good reading and thank you, Tenney!