While I'm driving on the highway, I often find my compact car hemmed in by high-powered sports cars
proceeding at well below the speed limit, despite having engines that could easily speed up to 140 miles
per hour. What's with that?
Well, many people are more interested in putting on a show than in actually accomplishing more. These
drivers probably want to have the fastest look at the curb, rather than on the road.
Consider, instead, that in many business activities performance ultimately counts for much more than
If you've been working in a business for any length of time, you probably have lots of good ideas for
improving it. However, many such ideas are never implemented. That's because some people are
completely satisfied by just knowing that they could potentially do something better than their leaders.
Other people like to gain a little credit for their thinking. They may share a few of these insights over
coffee or a beer after work with family and friends.
More adventuresome people will actually tell a coworker, and they may enjoy a laugh or two by pointing
out something silly that the bosses do.
Occasionally, someone comes along who would like to see what can be accomplished and shares his or
her views about improvements with a supervisor. That's an important step that often feels
It's hard for an individual to gauge what a supervisor will do as a result of such a conversation, and there
can be unpleasant consequences such as receiving an angry hearing... or even being disciplined in some
Even when superiors are discouraging, a few people keep making new suggestions. When one of the
ideas attracts support, something magical can begin to happen: Instead of just being someone who is
doing a job in the prescribed manner, the employee becomes someone who sees the job as providing
potential for doing something far better.
Someone who keeps identifying successful improvements will at some point be seen as a person who
could help lead desired changes. Such people are hard to find, and organizations usually treasure them.
Eventually, such an improver may realize that many organizations need assistance in identifying needed
changes and leading them into practice... and will compete to get the help they need. Why not launch a
business to do that?
While looking for more opportunities, such a person soon becomes aware of the value of adding
knowledge, skills, experience, and credentials for attracting more business. With enough of these added
resources, a vibrant career can be launched as an independent professional. At that point, someone
who is excited by such work can seek to do all the business he or she can handle.
In spelling out this particular pathway into a better business career, I don't mean to suggest that only a
chosen few can succeed. Rather, I believe that almost anyone who can spot a useful way to improve can
have such a career... by simply following the right steps.
To help demonstrate the validity of my belief, let me tell you about the background and experiences of
Mr. Andrew Scotchmer, a recent MBA graduate from Rushmore University. As a youngster in the United
Kingdom, he was attracted to drawing and painting. Leaving secondary school at 16 after a so-so
academic career, he found enjoyable work as a designer for English footwear factories.
When local manufacturing was replaced by Asian plants, he, instead, earned a living as a poorly paid
farm laborer. Needing more income, he read a book about freelance writing and began writing and
selling articles. Ironically, his first sale was for an article telling students how to better prepare for their
Seeking better opportunities, Mr. Scotchmer learned to cook and worked in the kitchen of a hotel and at
some restaurants. After that, the potential of earning a larger, steady paycheck drew him to unpleasant
work plating bread tins.
College began to look like something worth considering, but there were bills to pay. Despite disliking the
work, he continued with tinplating for three years.
In the meantime, Mr. Scotchmer became interested in computer programming. He became adept at this
work by learning on his own and formed a part-time hobby business with a few friends designing Web
Having spent seventeen years after leaving school at such activities, he decided to launch a higher
potential career. As a first step, he was pleased to obtain a job with the UK National Health Service
(NHS) as an assistant in the microbiology lab of a hospital's pathology department. It was a lowly
position not requiring any prior experience or training, and the work didn't pay well. He hoped that
promotions from this job would eventually provide more appealing and better paying work.
In the meantime, he needed more income. Mr. Scotchmer was pleased to find that art galleries were
willing to sell his paintings, an unexpected source of income from his long-held artistic interests. He also
wrote about art history. Based on these writings, he was accepted into the Association of Art Historians.
After a few years at the NHS hospital, he decided to play a higher profile role and volunteered for a role
in assessing quality standards and performing quality audits. He found the work to be interesting and
began studying management, quality assurance, and statistics on his own due to encouragement from
the pathology department's quality manager.
For these studies, Mr. Scotchmer earned a diploma and a certificate in management, a professional
certificate in quality assurance from the Institute for Quality Assurance (IQA), and a fellowship in the
Royal Statistical Society. Soon thereafter, he published an article in IQA's magazine, Quality World.
Shortly after gaining recognition for his newly acquired management and quality-improvement
knowledge, the local NHS CEO requested improvement suggestions for review. In response, Mr.
Scotchmer wrote a paper describing how the quality-improvement method of kaizen (the Japanese
method of continually improving processes) had been applied in the pathology department and how its
use might be expanded to the rest of the hospital.
His project proposal was approved, and he was chosen to help implement the new project.
Having become quite interested in quality assurance, Mr. Scotchmer decided that an MBA degree could
help him deepen his understanding of applying kaizen to develop an organization to gain the best results
from it. Because he was going to be working full-time on this challenging new project at the hospital, he
needed some way to study part-time, on his own schedule, for the MBA. Consequently, he chose an
online MBA curriculum.
He selected Professor Richard Priestley as his academic advisor, someone who had recently retired from
serving as a CEO within NHS. During the first few months of his MBA studies, the NHS hospital selected
Mr. Scotchmer for a management career, and he was promoted into being a senior analyst in the
management intelligence department.
After doing well in this new role, he decided to start a freelance quality consulting practice. Since it
required a lot of effort to find and to serve clients, he took a sabbatical from MBA studies.
During the early days of this practice, Mr. Scotchmer turned two of his first MBA papers into articles that
were published by British management magazines. One of the articles was also included in a new book
by the American Quality Society.
This recognition for his writing about quality encouraged him to write a book, 5S Kaizen in 90 Minutes,
which was published in 2008. After completing the book, he refocused on finishing his MBA.
Reflecting on these career-building experiences in 2011, here's what Mr. Scotchmer had to say:
"When I look back over the past five years, it seems amazing how my life has changed. From a lowly and
anonymous position in a large hospital with some 6,000 employees and a life where it was a struggle to
meet the bills each month, I went to sitting at boardroom tables with chief executives and executive
"The last few years have certainly taken me on a breathtaking high-speed journey, and I can honestly
say that if it wasn't for the online MBA education, I doubt if any of this would have been possible."
Do you want to do all the business you can? I'm sure you do. Just take a few moments to consider what
skills, knowledge, experience, and credentials you lack to make much more happen. Then go get them.