Muskegon is a manufacturing town-period. Muskegon made things….engines, appliances, bowling balls, office/lab equipment, castings, paper. Now manufacturing communities are under stress….even here in North Carolina!
My Dad worked at Continental Motors during WW II. He was on the plant floor expediting aircraft engines. Continental Motors has been around a long time, 103 years. Over time, it has had several owners. Yet even in 2009, the Getty Street plant is a rising star according to a recent article in the local paper. The Continental Getty Street plant was built during the war to make tank engines. I can recall seeing the tanks rumble around the test track which was next to the plant. For the past 60 years the plant has always manufactured some type of engine, gun turret, or transmission.
L-3 Communications purchased the plant in 2005 and renamed it: L-3 Combat Propulsion Systems. They have invested $24 Million in the 1-million square foot facility as well as $ 36 million in R&D.
A lot of our customers worked at Continental. The Plant always provided a foundation for the economy. Some of the previous owners weren’t that good. I am glad that L-3 has made a significant investment in this icon of manufacturing.
I am puzzled why some business/organizations don’t pay enough attention to their customers/constituents?
If they don’t, they simply won’t be around. Up until last year, organizations got by simply because if one customer wasn’t paid attention to another one would pop up. Those times are gone!
Being in business today means revisiting your customers. Understand what they want. Bending over backwards to make absolutely sure you are making the connection to them and keeping it secure. Customers determine the success or failure of a business or organization.
It’s time to ReImagine/ReVisit a businesses customer interactions.
Keep Calm and Carry On
I liked this story in the today’s Chicago Tribune about a poster from England that was printed in 1939 but never distributed. About 9 years ago a copy was found in the bottom of a storage box by a bookstore owner. There are only two that are thought to be in existence.
The poster certainy projects English understatement: Let us keep calm now and we must carry on for another day.
And of course the entrpreneurial success of folks reproducing the poster. It surely fits the time!
Read the story:
We were in the retail furniture business during economic times similar to what we are experiencing now. Operating a business in our community was a test in developing character and perseverance. We had to have a strategy to market our business and reach customers in those difficult times.
This Sleepy Hollow chair was very popular. What we wanted to say to the customer was that our business provided great value and an excellent product.
We over delivered on value.
A customer could have our Sleepy Hollow in 15 different colors of Naugahyde or 12 colors in velvet. Our price was $149, chair & ottoman. The competition’s was $249. The only requirement was that it took a week to have it made. We had a manufacturer in Grand Rapids that could give us this turnaround. We had developed a strong relationship that made us partners in selling hundreds of these chairs.
We were the only ones who used this marketing strategy. We weren’t willing to be like the other competitors….instead of selling perhaps 50 we sold double that amount. Result: 50 additional customers that were willing to give us a try.
We over delivered on value. Being willing to forgo the normal profit margin we were able to create value for our customers and develop a strategy that positioned us in the market as a worthy competitor.
Everything Rises and Falls on Leadership!
What really makes an organization work?
Sure it’s the right products….Good customers….Great customer care….Talented and motivated people. Yet at the end of the day it always comes down to Leadership. Yersterday, I was with a group of folks that I thought had some great potential. I visited with them a few months back and recently visited with them again. I was disappointed this second time around. Not much had changed. Little movement forward. The same small group. Sure they were friendly. But where were they headed? What did they want to accomplish? How were they going to get there?
I have known the leader for several years. I finally came to the conclusion….this person just doesn’t have the right Leadership DNA. He doesn’t see a different future. While I thought he recognized new ideas….He doesn’t know how to execute them. It’s not in his DNA!
He doesn’t want the ball!
So what does a leader really do! They point the organization in the right direction. Someone has to say this is where the compass points. Follow me on a new….different….better path.
Give me the ball!
I follow this fellow pretty closely. He told this story:
He went to Australia last fall for a week long conference. His hosts invited him to play rugby. Rugby is like our football minus all the protective gear. They gave him the ball. He ran and probably got pulverized a few times. So he stepped to the side so he wouldn’t get the ball. After a few plays, he realized he really wasn’t in the game. He wanted to get back in the game. He wanted the ball.
Leaders want the ball. Only when you have the ball can you advance it down the field.
Who wants the ball?
Little better than Bigger
I like PipSqueak businesses/organizations. These folks are doing cool and different stuff. The free enterprise system is what makes our country strong economically. Certainly we face challenges. Winston Churchill wrote a powerful message of Great Britain’s darkest hour about overcoming the assault on England. England prevailed.
Read what Oren Harari says about PipSqueaks:
” But in today’s environment, it’s the lean, cost-efficient, knowledge-based, high-talent, agile, fast, and imaginative organizations that are more likely to win. They may be smaller in terms of tangible factors like sheer size, but they are huge in the intangibles listed above. Years ago, conventional wisdom would have confidently asserted that Blockbuster, Albertsons, Pfizer, Motorola, Citigroup, General Motors and Microsoft would have crushed pipsqueaks like Netflix, Whole Foods, Genentech, Nokia, Public Financial Management, Toyota, and Google, respectively. Not only didn’t that happen, but in fact the pipsqueaks—who were loaded with those intangibles—were the ones who enjoyed steady competitive success and booming profitable growth. Ironically, these latter companies now enjoy the benefits of tangible size (scale, scope, reach, etc.) while still focusing on the intangibles which brought them success in the first place. “
PipSqueak businesses will also prevail and lead to a revitalized economy. I am 100% certain about that!
I discovered Kogi today. Watch the Newsweek video. The fascinating thing about Kogi is that they use the idea of social media to promote themselves. I probably should say their customers promote them. What is it?
Twitter –people communicating in a social network.
Twitter and the other web social media are fast becoming the new means of communication, telling your story and expanding your network.
So two lessons from the Kogi story.
- The entrepreneurial success of Kogi Korean Tacos
- Social Media….a cutting edge tool to engage customers
Today I am attending/watching a conference via the Internet….live….with other people watching….commenting via twitter in real time. What I am reading is that even e-mail is a thing of the past. A new generation is using all the cutting edge tools to keep in touch.
Businesses and organizations have to do the same.