I’ve had this article “brewing” for a while. Traveling throughout the US and meeting some of the most successful manufacturing entrepreneurs in the country, I’ve been trying to define this underlying quality that they all seem to have. I haven’t been able to articulate it…then I read Mark Cuban’s book, “How To Win At The Sport Of Business,” and it became clear. Mark described the years when he was building his business and how incredibly focused he was. While friends were watching or attending sporting events, he was reading software manuals on the products he was selling. He not only loved what he did, he loved Business and focused on improving it constantly. When more than one girlfriend asked, “what’s more important, me, or your business,” he said there was no question in his mind, which led to more than one breakup.
The incredible manufacturing entrepreneurs I’ve met in the last 20+ years are the same way. To them, business is a sport. To be successful in the sport, they practice constantly for improvement. Like knowing the playbook by heart, they know their costs & margins on every product. They shop raw material like chicks shop for shoe bargains. They’re constantly reading, studying and consuming information about new industry technologies that might affect their business. They study the competition and their plays like a head coach studies the opposing team’s moves before the Superbowl. They live as though a competitor is working night and day to overtake them, because they know it’s true. Mark Cuban says that you should conduct your business everyday like there is someone working to take everything away. Successful manufacturers are constantly learning and constantly improving every aspect of their game.
It amazes me how many shop owners won’t put forth this same effort when their company is in decline in an effort to save it. They will complain, “There just isn’t any business out there.” When I ask them how they market themselves, when’s the last time you called your customers, or when is the last time you updated your website, their eyes glaze over and they look like a deer caught in the headlights. Their typical response is, “Oh, my customers don’t use the internet to shop for services.” Really? They’re clearly going somewhere other than to your doorstep to buy machined parts. Do your competitors have modern up to date websites? Then you should too! How on earth do you let your business die without doing EVERYTHING possible to save it? How do you let it decline so far that your only choice is to liquidate?
Business is a sport and you must practice your sport if you expect to win. I had a reader comment a few years back that I was a “great cheerleader” for the industry. I will continue to shout this from the rooftops for as long as there is breath in me. I own an industrial auction company, but I’d be happy if there was NEVER another machine shop auction in our country. I’d rather see people exit through mergers and acquisitions into a happy retirement. I’ll never understand why manufacturing entrepreneurs allow their businesses to die without doing everything in their power to save it. I can talk to a shop owner for five minutes and accurately predict their level of success. Successful manufacturers practice success habits. They not only have great businesses, they have great lives. They read books, listen to audio programs, stay abreast of the latest technologies and remain vigilant. They don’t spend exorbitant amounts of time watching television. They understand that good habits breed success.
Where are YOU in the mix? Are you practicing the sport of business? Are you constantly learning how to improve? Are you perpetually figuring out how to outsmart the competition? Or is fear of a declining business paralyzing you into inaction?
It’s not too late and there is help available if you’re in trouble. Consider turning to your state’s Manufacturing Extension Partnership for help. They offer free courses on a variety of topics affecting manufacturers. Or try advice from a mentor at SCORE, it’s free! A search for “free marketing courses,” will return about 207 million results. If you’re in need of a website, they don’t have to cost an arm and a leg. Some, like www.AcceleratedWebSolutions.com even specialize in manufacturing companies.
Running a successful manufacturing company is a sport – play it well!