The Lettinga Center Is Open For Business

May 8, 2002
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GRAND RAPIDS — Executives looking for national and global industry information to help with their decision-making might not need to look any further than the Lettinga Center for Innovation, a new nonprofit organization affiliated with Davenport University.

The Lettinga Center formally opened its doors when the new millenium arrived, on Jan. 1, and it did so with a mission to develop innovative approaches for it members.

“It’s a membership-based, leadership community focused on helping busy executives build tomorrow’s leading organizations. Our services focus on innovation and organizational development for our Michigan-based members,” said Jerry Callahan, president of the center.

Pursuing leadership excellence, exploring future trends and strategic change, organizing people and their work and integrating knowledge mark Lettinga’s purpose. The center intends to inspire learning, create knowledge, challenge thinking and build community. It hopes to accomplish that through its business research and environmental scanning services, along with its connections with business leaders throughout the world.

“So the executives can make more informed decisions about what directions to take their organizations and their companies,” said Callahan about the center’s bottom line.

Membership in the Lettinga Center is not limited to any industry type. It’s open to all business sectors, whether manufacturing, service or retail. But Callahan pointed out that the center is concentrating on helping executives of smaller and medium-sized firms.

“A lot of the bigger companies, the billion dollar-plus type companies, are getting more than enough resource services thrown at them from the huge corporations and the huge universities, like the U of M, or more importantly, Anderson Consulting and Deloitte and Touche,” explained Callahan.

“It’s the small- and medium-sized ones that we envision as being caught in the middle. These firms are actually competing with the big players, and are doing everything possible just to focus on the month-end, quarter-end and year-end. They really don’t have the time and the resources to think about the future,” he added. “Well, that’s where we come in.”

Members are offered resources, tools and research that aren’t limited by geographic borders. For example, the center’s researchers are located in California, Illinois, New York, Washington D.C., Richmond, Virginia, Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo.

“We tried to bring together the same caliber of talent, the same caliber of business thinking and future-focusing business thinking to Michigan-based businesses that the large players on the coasts get all the time,” said Callahan.

The Lettinga process runs from idea to action. Callahan remarked that the center didn’t invent the process, but he pointed out that it was practical and logical — especially for the executive who is strapped for time and often feels overwhelmed by the sheer amount of information that is available.

Here, in a nutshell, is how the process works. The center lets its members quickly scan all the information they may be interested in, but only after it has been collected, analyzed and organized by the Lettinga staff. Then the business idea is usually generated and a deeper exploration into the data begins. When that’s completed, the details are added.

“We work with them to overlay their own unique set of experiences and insights onto that information we are gathering for them to help make it more actionable,” said Callahan.

“Then we work with them on planning, on how they might be able to implement the idea or thought. Then we work with them on bringing it into their organization.”

Callahan said The Lettinga Center chose Davenport University as its partner because it not only wanted to be tied to an entrepreneurial organization that supports business, but to one that is also a living member of the business community. The partnership, which very well may be the first of its kind in the nation, was formed last summer.

“In June, we formally incorporated and that is when we developed our Web site and all our materials, and when we purchased all our databases,” said Callahan. “We started with nothing in June, then we started making our sales calls in mid-to-late September.”

For more information on becoming a member, either call the Lettinga Center Marketing and Sales Director Greg Gkekas at (616) 233-2588 or visit www.lettingacenter.org.

“We’re about supporting busy executives and helping them scan the world’s information, find the information they need when they need it, and then make it actionable,” said Callahan. “Our tools are designed to do that; these are not point-in-time sensitive, and we are there for them constantly.

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