This is an original article written by Katie Rapp, Writer/Editor for the MEP National Network.
In their recent IndustryWeek webinar “The 7 Essential Traits of a Resilient Growth Strategy,” Chris Scafario and Sylvia Wower from the Delaware Valley Industrial Resource Center (DVIRC, part of the Pennsylvania MEP) shared insights from their experience helping companies innovate, market and grow their businesses successfully. Together, Chris and Sylvia have delivered over 900 projects to manufacturers across the country and helped generate over $300 million in value-added impact through market research, lead generation, digital marketing and overall growth planning. Their insights and tips are especially important now and can be adapted by any manufacturer in any industry.
The definition of 2020 is adversity, and we all have been impacted in ways we never could have imagined a year ago. It’s taken us all by surprise, yet some manufacturers are making the most of this really trying situation – even thriving and growing their business.
While we couldn’t predict all the challenges 2020 has brought, disruption and economic downturn can happen to any company at any time. Disruptions can be intimidating, but companies that put thought and resources into contingency planning and continuous improvement are often in a better position to respond to adversity. Investing in a growth strategy and marketing are important to building resiliency in your firm.
What do resilient companies do differently? Here are seven traits discussed by DVIRC’s Chris and Sylvia.
1. Astute Situational Awareness
Too many companies are oblivious to changes around them while an equal number become frozen because they don’t know how to adapt. Business leaders should be aware, alert and engaged. This means talking to suppliers in the market segments they serve. Constant awareness of what’s coming helps companies avoid being blindsided. The OODA Loop is a tool that can help: observe the current situation, orient yourself to where you want to go, decide on a path and how to handle challenges, and act on the plan to implement your decisions. Planning a growth strategy and driving change takes time and structure. Market analysis, structured product development, and consistent marketing and sales efforts make all the difference!
2. Leverage Organizational Competencies
Why do companies buy from you instead of other suppliers? Your strengths are important, but they shouldn’t be all you think about. Resting on your strengths can be profitable but leads to stagnation. Companies that need to reboot and recapture the spirit of innovation can find a SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) helpful. It’s a great tool for sparking a critical dialogue with diverse members of your team. It’s also important to talk to customers and suppliers to get the external perspective. Talking to these folks can instantly clarify opportunities such as problems your firm can solve. A single success such as meeting a customer’s need can transform your company culture and your employees into innovative problem-solvers.
3. A Growth Strategy Should Be as Unique as the Business It Serves
2020 has suddenly left many companies with no customers and nothing for their employees to do. What do you do to keep the business going and keep people employed? The Doblin Model is a tool that helps companies think through the core elements of how they add value. It can enrich existing and new products and makes it easy to spot missing dimensions that will strengthen a product. The Doblin Model can also create insights about your competition. Recognizing core elements and envisioning complementary products and services can help a company diversify … or in 2020, to pivot successfully and pursue an incredibly rapid path to innovation by serving, for example, current needs for personal protective equipment.
4. Take Thoughtful Actions That Are Measured and Managed
Set key performance indicators that keep your company on track and moving forward. SMART goals help you grow by putting you on a path to selling or marketing to carefully identified target audiences. Many smaller manufacturers struggle to put structure around how they target new opportunities. SMART goals help provide a structure and a pathway to lead generation and diversification. Market scouting (more on this later) is key to this – it’s a major effort and relies on structure, goals and transparency with your team.
5. Connecting Individuals With Opportunities
Make connections that lead to growth. Imagine new markets and new audiences and go a step further to identify the individuals that you hold in high regard in those markets. You know your firm can add value, so communicate that to the right people in the markets you like. Build their trust, and you’ll be positioned for success when you’re ready to expand. And don’t forget your current customers. There are frequently opportunities within your existing customer base. Find the time to review your customers and their market segments and then prioritize the path of least resistance toward increased sales!
6. Adapt Quickly to Changing Conditions
This is sort of a cousin to situational awareness. Markets can change quickly. Customers find other suppliers. It happens. Market scouting is a process that helps you face adversity with structure. You take a hypothesis and test it to see if it’s the best way forward. Market scouting involves getting your ideas in front of the people you think will benefit from them, and then tracking data from these interviews to identify opportunities. Basically, you come up with an idea and take it directly to potential end users to see if they would use it. Market scouting is a rapid-fire way to move forward if you think your existing core competencies match the needs of other industries.
7. A Resilient Growth Strategy Energizes the Culture of a Workplace
Companies that succeed have a culture of success. Yes, the saying is true: success breeds success. If people in your organization love what they do, they will do their best. If they see your company is innovative, they’ll be innovative. The path of continuous improvement is contagious, and it makes your company a very desirable place to work. Attracting the best talent means that growth sustains itself. You really can’t overstate the impact an energized workplace has on manufacturing. The role of being resilient doesn’t fall on one person – it’s not just the CEO’s responsibility. Your company’s culture should be one of resilience and problem-solving. With that, tremendous growth can occur.
Where to Start?
Take the first step forward that is most comfortable for your organization. For many companies, that’s simply a customer survey. You can also contact lost customers to see how you can earn their business back and follow up with prospects that didn’t pan out in the past. Manufacturers can often find opportunities instantly by asking customers what’s next and how they can help.
Good times for your business can change on a dime, so don’t be complacent. Start creating a resilient growth strategy for your firm. Review the tools mentioned above and pick one that feels right for your business. Work with your team – from leadership to the shop floor – and your customers throughout the process. Build resiliency and innovation into your company’s culture so if market or customer demand suddenly changes you can adapt and thrive no matter the circumstance.
Remember, you’re not alone in this journey. You have IMEC, part of the the MEP National Network™ at your fingertips. There are MEP Centers in every state and Puerto Rico. We have over 1,400 trusted advisors and experts at approximately 375 MEP service locations ready to help you solve your manufacturing problems.
Let the IMEC and the MEP National Network be your resource to help your company move forward faster. Contact the Illinois Manufacturing Helpline today to get quick and reliable help from the experts at IMEC.