Saginaw Innovator’s Lesson: Let Your People Dream

Saginaw, MI – Saginaw businessman Terry Duperon doesn’t let much stand in his way.

It’s a philosophy that’s taken Duperon from a farm field to a corner office, and he says the same beliefs can work for anyone. Duperon said he didn’t give up when he learned he had dyslexia in third grade, and it didn’t end his dreams of becoming an inventor, starting his own company, writing two books or teaching at a university. He’s done all that and more.

“The ability to do anything, without any point of reference, is in every one of us,” Duperon said.

Duperon is founder of Duperon Corporation, a maker of water filtration and control equipment. Started in 1985, the company has grown sales at a rate of 20 to 25 percent a year over the past eight years.

In 1993, Duperon enlisted the help of his daughter, Tammy Bernier, and the two came up with a shared dream for the company’s future. “I wanted a company that would offer endless opportunity for anyone who wanted it,” Duperon said. “In order to be able to do that, I needed to create a company that could grow, which required employees who were able to reinvent themselves every year.” But how to foster reinvention – a process Duperon admits takes a lot of creativity – in a business environment?

By encouraging dreaming, Duperon said. Not only has he encouraged it within his own company, but he’s shared his philosophy with more than 800 people throughout the region through Duperon Education, a course that encourages its students to reinvent, create and dream.

“A dream allows people to be more focused on the future instead of the immediate,” he said. When teaching his class, he uses a visual aid showing two different pages. One has a path leading from early childhood to adulthood, where decisions about school and careers are decided. The other page is blank. His point: Anything can be created on that blank page, and the only thing limiting the possibilities is the person filling it in.

“On the blank sheet, there are no paths and there never will be,” Duperon said. “Nothing outside of you is keeping you from your dreams. The ‘how’ always reveals itself.”

Before teachers and staff at Merrill Community School returned from summer vacation, they spend a day with Duperon, learning how to have an individual dream while sharing a common dream, too. Superintendent John M. Searles said for the district to reach its full potential requires individuals realizing that furthering the dream of the organization can help further their own dreams.

“What you get is synergistic,” Searles said, adding that he’s already noticed some change. “I’ve seen people thinking about how their decisions or actions impact the entire organization.”

Duperon said his methods and philosophies can be applied to any industry and even to a person’s private life, and the most important thing to remember is to keep dreaming, just like a child would. “Having a dream is important because without a dream, wherever you are right now defines you, whether you’re the burger flipper or the electrician,” Duperon said. “With a dream, the place you’re going and the person you were meant to be defines you.”