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In the early 1900s, Henry Ford was well on his way to creating an automobile empire. This king of efficiency was looking for ways to streamline his process, finding avenues of supplying his factories with the raw material required for his new Model T’s. Edward G. Kingsford stepped in to create a wood mill supply chain large enough to meet the demand.

The new mills, although incredibly successful, discarded copious amounts of stumps, branches, and sawdust. Another CEO might just write off the removal of this waste as another business expense, but Henry Ford saw an opportunity. A few decades prior, the charcoal briquette was invented. Popularized by Henry Ford, these heated and condensed wood pellets provided a great way for families to quickly light a fire that would last. In 1920, Ford started Ford Charcoal, later renamed Kingsford Charcoal, in honor of the man who operated the facility. To this day, Kingsford remains a strong brand that owns its space in the grill market. 

Similarly, Slack began as an internal tool for a small group of game developers to chat and share files. Only after their game flopped did they realize what a powerful tool they had created for interoffice communications.

Intellectual Byproducts

If you are like most people, when you think of waste, your mind usually goes to physical trash or residual materials made during the creation of a product or the delivery of a service. However, intellectual byproducts—or the processes, knowledge, or products you’ve gained while doing your work— are often overlooked when assessing an organization’s waste.

As you and your company become increasingly efficient, you start gaining valuable insights that can only be discovered through experience. In a world where content is king, sharing your process is a wonderful way to establish yourself as the authority in your field. Not only will you be able to charge more due to your knowledge and expertise, but you can repurpose your expertise in fun and creative ways — opening up new revenue streams in the process.

Historically, individuals would cash in on their experience after retirement, usually by writing a book or teaching a class. But in a modern era, we have numerous different ways to recycle the information we are gaining in real-time — podcasts, webinars, master classes, blogs, consulting, and social media, to name a few.

Where Do I Start?

Think back on what you’ve learned in the last few years. Perhaps you can package those insights in a way that would be beneficial to others in your field. Need some examples to get your creative juices flowing?

Maybe you’ve spent months developing an efficient system for onboarding new clients. While the time that you invested will eventually pay for itself with an increase in the number of happy new clients, the process you’ve created has value beyond the walls of your business. Your framework may be valuable to other companies looking to solve the same problem.

Do you conduct hours of client calls every week? Record some of them, and find tidbits of knowledge that can be sliced into different bits of shareable content. Do you know how to quickly assess a website’s SEO? Why not use that knowledge to create a lead generator that funnels in potential clients as they search for a solution?

Whether your initial venture proved successful or not, your experience is more valuable than you think. As you continue to learn and grow, take some time to think about how you can repurpose your knowledge and processes and turn them into new opportunities for your business. The unintended lessons you learn just might be the key to unlocking your next big success. Keep your mind open, and don’t let your intellectual byproducts go to waste.

Karl Tremper is The Brand Leader’s Production Designer