Happy New Year and welcome to 2014. I love this time of year, new beginnings and a clean slate. I love September for the same reason. I still get that “back to school” feeling of a fresh new start every September. What better time than a new year to check the health of your manufacturing business. Will you be in the same place this time next year? Will your business grow? If you want it to, you have to MAKE it happen! Here are some things that you might consider to give your manufacturing business a health “check up.”
Corporate Image: What’s your corporate image? Is it young, toned and lean? Or is it like an overweight dude who is well past his prime? If your web site has not been updated since its launch and you’re lost in Google Siberia when someone tries to find you on the web, it’s time to update! Oh, you don’t get business from the web you say? Answer this for me please – how old are all the purchasing guys in the companies that you’ve done business with over the years? What happens when your buddy Joe, who is the purchasing agent of your biggest customer, retires? Some young guy who does not care that you NEED his business will in all likelihood replace him. He’ll be out to make a name for himself and establish his own network of “peeps.” The younger generation automatically turns to the web when looking for suppliers. If you can’t be “found” there, you’ll be toast! While we’re talking image, how’s that corporate brochure and company logo looking? Does your corporate brochure still depict machinists running machines from the 1970’s with long side burns? That won’t help you get business – update it! While you’re at it, you need to have an electronic version of your corporate brochure to send to people instantly.
Marketing: Once your corporate image is looking lean and fit, take it out for a spin and see what it can do for you. I’m not talking a Sunday drive once a month. I’m talking about a regularly scheduled marketing plan that you do like clockwork and like the life of your company depends on it – because it just might! Start with the customers you already have. Communicate with them on a regular basis. “What else can I do for you,” should be your mantra with existing customers. The squeaky wheel gets the grease – get out there and make some noise! What about obtaining new customers?
Do you have a plan in place to obtain new business?
How about targeting the competitors of existing customers. Do they not need the same type of service? Create a “Target-25 List.” A list of the top 25 companies that you are not doing business with, but you would like to. Use web sites like LinkedIn to find out who the key players are in these companies. Who is in their network that might be able to make an introduction for you? Forget the six degrees to Kevin Bacon – this is about networking your way to NEW BUSINESS. For more tips on finding new customers, check out our ongoing series on, “Finding New Customers For Your Manufacturing Business – The Ultimate How To Guide.”
Risk Assessment: This is about not ignoring the “what ifs.” What if the key industry you serve experiences a disruptive technology change? Will new technologies make your product or service obsolete, (think 3D printing)? Do you have enough diversity in industries served to survive the loss of an entire industry? How old is your staff? The average age of manufacturers is approaching 60. What happens if your key machinist announces his retirement? What happens if you lost your top three customers? What happens if the landlord refuses to renew your lease? What happens if a virus wipes out your office computers? Is your information backed up offsite? What if your key customers don’t pay on time? This year I urge you to take a look at every area of your business and ask, “what if.” The manufacturers that don’t do this will be the ones going to the auction block.
Aging: What is the status of your building and equipment? Will you need to make capital investment for repair or replacement to keep the business going? Is there a plan in place to address these issues? Is a portion of your budget earmarked for this? If financing is needed, will you be able to get it? Don’t wait until the crisis hits to find out!
Customer Service: Do you deliver what you say you will on time? Do you experience returns because of quality? Are you losing customers because you don’t keep your word? What does your shop look like? Is it so messy that you’d be embarrassed to have a customer drop in? Do you have customers that are ALWAYS a problem? If you dropped the “problem” customers could you provide more production time to your ideal customers?
The Competition: Who are your main competitors? What do they provide that you don’t? How are they positioned in the market place? What does their web site look like? If you can’t answer these questions, your competitor is probably kicking your ass! Vow to change that this year.
Am I being too harsh? I don’t think so – just telling it like it is! Don’t forget, I’ve been an industrial auctioneer for 20 years. I see why companies close every month. I am also a manufacturing business broker who sells millions each year in successful businesses. I see what works in manufacturing businesses. Answering these questions will give you a great start for 2014.
You’ll build and protect your manufacturing business AND be preparing it for a successful retirement exit at the same time.
The Rave – New Engineering Technologies And Disruptive Game Changers:
I recently read about the following new technologies and companies:
- A car seat that can be removed and carry its rider through airports and shopping malls
- A Long Island based company that is accepting 3D printer files, printing to customer specifications and shipping back to the customer – like a Kinkos of 3D printing
- A bladeless turbine that is 2.3 times more efficient than blade turbines
- A low cost water pump that increases farm income by 500%
- Amazon.com using unmanned drones to deliver packages to your door within 30 minutes
I learned about all these things on www.industrytap.com. I am always writing about the importance of staying informed on emerging technologies, especially ones that can disrupt entire industries. Going to one place that provides quality information, well written and easy to navigate – now that is something to RAVE about! Check it out and let me know what you think.
The Recommendation – Pinterest For Engineers:
So you thought www.Pinterest.com was just that stupid web site that your wife posts recipes to? Think again! I actually discovered the web site I talk about above, www.industrytap.com through a Pinterest post by Manufacturing Stories who I follow on Pinterest – http://www.pinterest.com/mfgstories. If you want to see some really cool stuff, go to Pinterest and type in “new technologies” in the search field. If you like visuals, (and what guy doesn’t….haha), Pinterest is a great place to visit. I like to visit when I’ve been intensely working on a project and I need a little break, down time or inspiration. Unlike the more serious industrytap.com, Pinterest will keep you informed, AND give you some good dinner conversation with your wife and kids. Fast recipes for busy weeknights, the latest trends in clothing and music all in one place….your kids will be saying, “who are you, and what have you done with my Dad?” Enjoy!