Learning from a Leader: Problem Solving with RIA President Rich Litt

By Brian Huse, Director, Marketing & PR for Robotic Industries Association 

Problem solving is one of your duties when you are president. I recently learned that Robotic Industries Association’s new President, Richard Litt of Genesis Systems, is a very tenacious problem solver and a man who pays great attention to detail.

Rich was at our headquarters this February in advance of a board meeting for RIA and its two sister associations. From a new Robotics Online Web site to industry seminars like Robots 2008 the next year will be full of big initiatives, and Rich and other top industry executives on the board provide leadership and guidance for our staff.

As it turns out, one little issue was really bugging Rich and he brought it up during our time together. Why, he wondered, did he get RIA newsletters in ugly, old, plain text? In the next few days he and the rest of the board would be addressing much bigger business issues, but I came to see he considered even this little detail to be very important. It wasn’t just an irritation to him; he knew it might be affecting others and inhibiting our ability to communicate.

So, this little detail became the focus of quite a bit of scrutiny while he was here. In the process, he pushed me and the rest of the staff to look beyond our assumptions.
You see, I was certain it had something to do with his computer settings. Robotics Online newsletters are sent by an e-mail client that offers plain text or html. This is a common setup for blast e-mail clients, because experience shows that some recipients can’t accept (or don’t want) html. The solution is to provide an option for plain text.

“It must be a function of settings on your computer,” I told Rich. “We don’t manually determine which way it gets delivered.”

I was as sure of myself as I could be. We checked with his IT staff and sent some experimental e-mails. For no obvious reason, this went fine for them – they got html no problem. Then he asked questions that led to curiosity about the form that is used to register for the newsletter, so we looked to see if a different answer could be found there. Sure enough, there is a setting on the form that allows you to pick html or plain text.

Here’s where it gets murky. It turns out this setting on that form is the equivalent to a broken link. Thanks to a glitch we didn’t know about: that part of the form does not talk directly to our e-mail client and therefore has no bearing on whether you get plain text or html. This line of investigation yielded a bit of a red herring, but on the other hand it helped us see the form was not doing what we thought it was and we can now fix it.

Tech support is on the case, and whatever else, this little detail raised a bigger issue: do other subscribers suffer from the same annoyance? I know I had some faulty assumptions. The implication is we should (probably) change the setting for others who get only plain text e-mails from RIA.

I’ve had just a few chances to spend quality time with Rich, but as I hear his stories and see how he works, I suspect one reason he has been so successful for so long is thanks to great attention to detail. Another thing I’ve learned is that he is a wealth of information on how to negotiate. (Ask him some day to explain how to drive a “Hard Bargain.” Don’t be surprised if the answer involves a Boston Whaler.)

You can find out for yourself how little details and a big perspective can lead to greater success for your company when RIA President, Rich Litt, speaks at Robots 2008 in June in Boston, Massachusetts. He and a very powerful lineup of RIA executives will be there to help robot users and integrators ask the right questions and make the best decisions for success with robotics in any business and any application.


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