I wish I had a dollar for every
time a business professor, marketing consultant or successful entrepreneur has
said to me over the past six months that “things have to change” if
you’re going to be successful in manufacture.
The problem is, how do you find
the time – or the resources – to change? How do you remember your goal was to
drain the swamp when you’re up to your *** in alligators?
Here’s an example: One of the
ways companies locked into a barely-profitable supply chain can increase their
success is by selling to new markets – like China or India. That’s a huge
challenge. You have to find the right trade shows to attend, take the time to
go there, make contacts, and eventually spend some time overseas, all the while
handling the tasks you already don’t have enough time to accomplish.
I’ve written about companies that
have successfully marketed overseas in previous posts. In many cases, the
secret to their success was that they had a senior person on board who was born
in China or India, spoke the language, and already had contacts. What do you do
if you don’t have that guy one your team?
Another path to escape from what
marketing guru Doug Hall refers to as “supply chain slavery” is
product diversification. Instead of manufacturing for aerospace, for example, you
diversify into biomed. While this is absolutely plausible – I’m aware of
companies that have done it – it’s also a daunting challenge. For starters,
beyond belonging to the generalized category, “biomed,” who will your
new customers actually be? How will you find them, come to understand their
requirements, and figure out how much capitol investment, re-tooling etc. will
be required to meet those requirements?
One strategy for overcoming these
problems is to hire the missing piece to the puzzle. Nobody on your team who
speaks Hindi? Hire him. Nobody who knows biomed? Hire her.
This may seem like an obvious
idea, but it obviously isn’t. If it were, more companies would be selling
overseas, and fewer would be facing extinction in the brutal competition for
contracts from OEMs and tier ones.
In a company with a close-knit
(and often family-oriented) management team, hiring an outsider isn’t easy, nor
is integrating that person into the team. But if you find a self-starter, set
clear goals and provide the support the newcomer needs, you can find a path for
growing both the top and the bottom line, plus long-term security for the