Working On My Business: Winding Up or Whining Down - Lead or Bleed

  There are times when I get the feeling that this malady is not only widespread, but contagious throughout the industry as well. I see it in organizations time and again.  


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Insanity: Doing the same things over and over again and expecting a different result!

There are times when I get the feeling that this malady is not only widespread, but contagious throughout the industry as well. I see it in organizations time and again.

Symptom: We have always done it this way! It has worked this way for 25 years, why change it now?

And then in the same breath, I will hear:
There just isn't any work out there - the industry is slow!
Everything today is price!
Customers want shorter leadtimes.
They want lower costs.
They want ... They want ... etc.
Our employees must have constant supervision or they'll screw it up!
These people just don't get it!
I just can't find good people!
Attitude is a big problem! These people just don't want to work!
Our turnover is much higher than I would like!

If these don't provide the solace and give comfort in rationalization, we can always blame the economy or overseas competition. Oh yes! This is still fairly common practice. Why? Quite frankly, I don't know. Hello! Is anybody out there?

For those who read this column, I've tried to give you the tools, the concepts, the ideas and the methods for changing your environment, changing the rules of competition and enhancing your business operating performance.

Some of our readers have taken many of the principles (i.e., time-based strategy, market development, human capital, leadership and strategic thinking) to heart and are putting them into practice. Guess what? Their sales have increased. Profits are up. They have revitalized their entire business and rejuvenated their employees, their customers and their suppliers. They are working on their business!

For others, I guess this must be just too hard or they are still working in their business!

Opportunity zooms by and no one even sees it! Case in point: In the January article, I recapped some of the ways that I have employed the principles that we have been discussing in my own business. I also noted that one of my immediate challenges was to find a plastics molder for some new products. Not one reader inquired. Amazing! Either, no one is reading the column, business is so good that everyone doesn't need new customers, new products, new work or maybe the readers were so engrossed in their day-to-day activities that the opportunity was overshadowed and missed!

Are you working in your business or are you working on your business? Where are you today? Ask yourself a few basic questions.

  1. How much time did you spend today thinking about and planning for the future?
  2. What have you done today that will create a better tomorrow?
  3. What five core competencies that your people now possess can be leveraged in the market to catapult your sales growth?
  4. What one or two core competencies that your people do not now possess, but if they did, could change the value equation in the market and give your company a quantum leap in competitive advantage?
  5. What is the number one bottleneck in your system of processes that is holding back your growth in sales, profit or both? What are you doing to resolve the bottleneck?
  6. If you had to itemize price everything (Yes, everything!) that your employees and you do each day on an invoice that you submit to your customers for payment, how many of these items would your customer recognize as value-added and be willing to pay for?
  7. If you were your biggest competitor and you know what you now know about your company, how would you put your company out of business?
  8. How do you recognize an opportunity for growth? What are the parameters? Where do you find these opportunities?
  9. Has the company's annual revenue dollars per employee and annual profit dollars per employee increased, held fairly constant or decreased during the past five years? What is the trend and what specifically are the top two reasons why this trend is occurring?
  10. How do your company's performance figures (as defined in number nine above) measure up against those same figures of your competitor?
  11. Why is there a difference (regardless of the direction and trend)? What are you doing to change them now?
  12. When was the last time you saw a co-worker do something really great? What did you do?
  13. If you were a mouse in a corner in your customer's conference room, what would you like to hear them say about your company as a supplier? What are you doing to ensure that they are saying those words?
  14. How many new customers did you acquire last year?
  15. What would happen to your business if your two largest customers were to be acquired by another company outside of your sphere of influence?

I recently spoke with the owner of a moldmaking company that participated in the conference that I facilitated (i.e., Time-based Strategies) at the MoldMaking 1999 Conference and Expo (Columbus, May, 1999). During the conference he told me that he intended to implement the principles throughout the entire company. In fact, he had done just that. Results: He relayed that his sales had increased by more than 20 percent without adding any additional staff. He also was in the process of moving into a new facility, which was 140 percent larger. Do time-based strategies work? My guess is that he would say yes.

One of my clients implemented virtually every one of the concepts that I have shared with you. We started in January 1999 with a focus on strategic thinking and business operations management. This was followed with an operations management and leader-ship development program for the employees. The management team of this third-generation, 50-year-old company learned how to practice the principles of strategic marketing and customer development. They also participated in a leadership development process. One year later, the results are staggering.

  1. First quarter sales versus last year's sales at the same quarter are up 112 percent.
  2. The leadtime for every product group has been reduced by an average of 30 percent.
  3. On-time delivery has improved from 89 percent to 99.2 percent (order basis).
  4. Net profitability increased (now more than 20 percent).
  5. Nine new hi-tech machines added.
  6. Two new employees added.
  7. Three new major customers added.
  8. Rapid prototyping leadtime reduced to 48 hours.

Probably the biggest payoff for them came just three weeks ago. One of their largest long-term customers had opened a new manufacturing facility for a new product line outside of the U.S. After approximately two months, their customer called and said that they were having problems. My client was recently awarded a contract to do all of the manufacturing that was originally slated for this offshore plant because, as their customer stated, "They were lower in cost, could fulfill the quality and delivery requirements consistently 100 percent of the time and provided innumerable other value-added elements such as consulting support in product development (i.e., design for manufacturability)."

My client also implemented a process that recognizes individual contributions for innovation. This year's recipient found a better way to improve throughput and leadtime for one of the products that they contract manufacture. He designed the process improvement on his own time, proved it out during his lunch break hours, tested and retested, documented it and then presented it to the management team as a solution for consideration. The implementation saved the company an average of 20 percent of the cost to manufacture each unit.

Ingenuity, courage, care, professionalism, creativity and the desire to be better were the drivers of this shop employee. He deserved the Innovation Award and the recognition that he received. It became the model for all other employees. It also set the standard for excellence.

At the current rate, my client will exceed last year's overall sales by more than 200 percent and profits will continue to rise. The entire workforce understands and is living the principles.

So, the next time you have this urge to blame someone or something for your state of affairs, practice your liturgy in front of a mirror and see if that person in the mirror would buy it.

For those of you who have a desire to learn more about these principles, I'll see you in Cleveland at MoldMaking 2000. Join me at the one-day conference on Strategic Thinking - The Core Competency For Success or the mini-seminar Home Field Advantage - How to Create the Rules of Competition in Your Market.

This is not about rocket science. It is about the five Cs: Commitment, Courage, Communications, Capital and Cashflow. It's about leadership. As a leader, are you doing the things that will supercharge your team and wind up the performance or merely whining and, by default, allowing the company to die a slow death.

My client has growth and prosperity down to a science - it's the people factor. You can too!



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