News Roundup

May 2011

+ Scandinavian Child:  A Raleigh business that has a very specific market:

+ I am constantly intrigued by the proliferation of high-end mattress manufacturers ($1000+). We sold Restonic….a good line. The Original Mattress Factory has a nice story:

+ Leadership is always the key element in business/organization growth/success – completed Gen. Hugh Shelton’s book ( see 05.09.2011 post). Impressed that this is where he focuses his efforts:

+ Communicate: If there was one course severely lacking in my business school days….it was public speaking and presentation skills. Toastmasters is a worthy endeavor:

+Flew on JetBlue for the first time (RDU-JFK). Newer aircraft….E-190….nicely quiet. RDU check-in was slow….easier at JFK. All-in-all a solid B on this flight for JetBlue.


Solid Progress in MI

I wrote recently about the lost manufactures in the town where I grew up (05.04.2011).

Now a new generation of companies continues the manufacturing tradition in Muskegon: Eagle Alloy….GE Aviation….SAF Holland….Diversified Machine….Fleet Engineers….Alcoa Howmet ( the largest with 2300 employees). Certainly there are still some of the older companies….Kaydon….Brunswick….Cannon-Muskegon….L-3….Knoll.

While there are very nice beaches, water parks, golf courses….maufacturing is still vital for business growth in Muskegon. Each of these companies started small and grew. For the most part they manufacture value-added products. That is they make stuff that takes highly-skilled workers and technology. That is the only way to compete in a global word.

Interestingly, Eagle Alloy has not sold to the  automotive industry.

Manufacturing isn’t at the level of the old days….yet it has to be a vital part of the economy. It is still important to make stuff from raw materials.

Note 1: The parts in the photo are for bridge support. Photo from The Muskegon Chronicle.

Note 2: Our former building/property ironically is now the home for Eagle CNC Technologies. Great that its use is now manufacturing.

Jiffy Mix

Customers and People

I like great companies and their stories. Around Ann Arbor, MI are several small towns….Dexter….Chelsea….Saline….Manchester.

Chelsea is the home of Chelsea Milling Co….the makers of Jiffy Mix products. Chelsea Milling is a 120 year old family business with sales of $100M +

“Howdy” Holmes took over the family business 24 years ago….at that time it was unprepared for the future.

This is his quote from Crain’s Detroit Business and key to the story: 

“Business is easy,” Holmes said. “It’s people that are complicated. But it’s not magic … we just said, ‘be nice to people.’ You treat them (customers and employees) as if they were the last person on the planet.”

Out of Stock

Lost Business

I just returned from a visit to a local super store….that advertises that it carries over 13,500 different items….all except the one I wanted to purchase.

The item I was looking for has been a standard stock item….nothing special. Yet, for me or any other customer if what you want or expect isn’t there we are disappointed (and yes I did look over all the shelving….just to see that I did not miss it)

The old retail philosophy still applies: You can’t sell from an empty wagon

In my recent visit, I left the store with no purchases (I had intended to buy some other items).

I’ll return in a few months….perhaps the wagon (shelves) will be restocked.

Found Niche

Frac Sand Bins

Amber Waves….a Richardton, ND company located in the middle of the oil fields of western North Dakota, has found a niche in constructing Frac sand bins for sand companies.

Frac sand is a heavier sand used in the oil industry. Amber Waves manufactures grain bins used throughout the midwest. The Frac sand bins are made of heavier steel to hold the heavier sand particles.

Amber Waves is an example of expanding its market base on using their well-developed manufacturing skills.

The bottom line: Be on the lookout for new opportunities.

Protect Your Name

Brand humility is the only response to a fast-changing and competitive marketplace. The humble brand understands that it needs to re-earn attention, re-earn loyalty and reconnect with its audience as if every day is the first day. – Seth Godin

Seth understands marketing and any business/organization that doesn’t pay attention to what he says….is missing the boat.

In our family business we protected our name. We wanted customers and potential customer to think positively about the Baker Co. and us personally.

I watch Food Network (a long story!) and one of the stars is  “The Barefoot Contessa” or Ina Garten. The Barefoot Comtesse is also a brand (and name). The Barefoot brand has several products….their pricing is high-end.

The Question: Do the Barefoot products reflect their the image and quality?

In a test by Americas Test Kitchen one of the Barefoot products was tested and not recommended ….it was also 3 times the price of the highly recommended product.

The Bottom Line: If a business/organization puts its name on a product/service that product/service needs to be worthy of that name.

I suspect the tested Barefoot product is made by a outside source….does the Barefoot Contessa (Ina Garten) make sure the product is worthy of her name.