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UTAH FIRMS REAP REWARDS OF INNOVATION

What do WordPerfect, Jiffy Lube, SkyWest Airlines, Franklin Quest, Hogi Yogi and Vertical Technologies all have in common? They are all successful entrepreneurial endeavors that began right here in the state of Utah. Utah, particularly the Wasatch Front, has been one of the best places in the nation to start a new business for the past several years. One of the reasons that these and other Utah companies have enjoyed so much success can be summed up in one word: innovation.

Innovation depends on two key elements. First, the idea has to be a new combination of ideas. In other words, the product or service being offered has to be unique. The more unique the new combination of ideas is, the more innovative it is said to be. Second, consumers have to like the product or service enough that they are willing to pull out their wallet and pay for it. This is called product-market match.To better understand the elements of innovation, let's look at the companies that I mentioned before.

- WordPerfect. Who would think that a company could be successful selling only one product? But what a product WordPerfect has! With the progress of personal computers, WordPerfect developed a powerful but relatively simple word processor. The idea was relatively new at the time and consumers wanted the product.

- Jiffy Lube. Although the idea of the 10-minute oil change sounds like old news, it was something very new when the owners of Jiffy Lube opened their first location in Ogden. It solved the customers' need for a quick and inexpensive way to change car oil.

- SkyWest Airlines. Most airlines are losing millions of dollars a year. Why then did SkyWest make over $3.5 million last quarter alone? Their strategy is to fly shorter routes several times a day. Their flights are usually full, and they have little competition because the big jets cannot land on the short runways in the small towns that SkyWest services.

- Franklin Quest. From a small operation to an international corporation, this Salt Lake City-based company is the leader in day planners. People are busier now than ever, and keeping track of what is going on and when has become a necessity. Franklin saw this as an opportunity. They are successful because they are innovative. They saw an opportunity to sell planners, and they have become very successful at doing it.

- Hogi Yogi. You may not have heard of Hogi Yogi, but you will soon. They saw the success of Subway and the increasing popularity of frozen yogurt and came up with an innovation - to serve both sandwiches and frozen yogurt in the same fast-food restaurant. The concept has caught on and in less than five years, 17 stores have popped up all over Utah and California. This number could double in another year.

- Vertical Technologies. This company has made bar coding accessible to even small companies. Until recently, supermarkets were the main users of this technique for keeping track of inventories. Vertical Technologies saw the potential of bar coding and developed a reader that is flexible yet affordable enough for even the smallest of retailers. The product is unique because it does not need an external power supply nor does it require a decoder box, which can get in the way. This is especially useful for lap top computers. This innovative product won Product of the Year recognition from TD Systems Magazine. The bar coding industry is growing very rapidly, and Vertical Technologies will reap the rewards because of innovation and timing.

If you have dreams of becoming a successful entrepreneur, follow the path these companies have taken. Develop a new combination of ideas that the public is willing to pay for. And remember the key word - innovation.