Are You Developing Close Relationships with Your Customers?

May 17th, 2020

During turbulent times, relationships move faster than at any other time. Will they move in a positive direction or a negative one? That is the only question. In fact, customers will be reevaluating what they buy and when they buy it. Consumer behaviors are evolving and business buying behaviors are evolving. Are you in the loop with your customers as to what is top of mind? Listen to our conversation with an expert in creating customer loyalty on our Navigating Through Volatility webinar series on creating a Forever Transaction.

What Should We Consider and/or What Impacts Could Arise?

As a customer, I have less patience with slow response when I need it the most. Our customers are no different. On the other hand, a few suppliers stand out in my mind in making my life easier and being ahead of the curve. I will remember that as the pandemic winds down. Identify your top customers and make sure your relationships are moving rapidly in a positive direction. In fact, it is appropriate to drop low priority or unprofitable customers. Otherwise, your key customers might not gain the value they would otherwise.

Look for opportunities to provide value. Ask questions to understand your key customers’ current situation and what would help. Simply look for opportunities to help your customers be successful. If you can offer help and/or ideas, it can go a long way! Don’t worry about expanding business during your conversation. Provide value and your customers will be more successful. When your key customers are successful, you’ll be more successful as well. I’ve addressed this topic as well as your strategy, priorities, key trends, and your restart recipe for success in my eBook,  Future-Proofing Manufacturing & Supply Chain Post COVID-19 

Please share your stories, challenges, ideas and successes. Contact us and please join in our free webinar series and listen to our archives.



Immediate Strategy

May 7th, 2020

Do you want to be Amazon or Sears? Sears used to be the Amazon of its time, but they failed to change with the times. There is little life left in this former powerhouse of retail. On the other hand, Amazon continues to evolve and is clearly doing quite well in these trying times. In fact, our clients are experiencing growth across the board in only one category – e-commerce. Amazon continues to rule the day!

As I state in my eBook, Future-Proofing Manufacturing & Supply Chain Post COVID-19, if you want to be more like Amazon, you will rethink strategy but NOT like you might think. It should not be a lengthy process that looks across multiple years. Instead, create an ‘immediate strategy.’ What does that look like? Read about an immediate, 3 and 9-month strategy in the eBook:

  1. Immediate Strategy: Focus on establishing immediate priorities, assessing risks and understanding your customers, suppliers and other partners.
  2. 3-Month Strategy: Focus on how to keep moving forward and increasing value
  3. 9-Month Strategy: Focus on how to redesign to take advantage of the opportunities

As you think through the strategies outlined and determine your path forward, please keep us in the loop. We are interested in your journey, what works, and what pitfalls to avoid so that we can share insights and ideas. Don’t worry. We will protect the innocent; however, keep in mind one of the tenets of the eBook is to fail forward with innovation. Those who innovate will have a unique opportunity to sail past the competition as the world creates a new normal over the next year. If you’d like to discuss your strategy, please contact us.

Did you like this article?  Continue reading on this topic:

Coronavirus and the Economic Impacts
The Strategic Use of Data



Think Twice About Your Manufacturing Supply Chain

April 11th, 2020

My recent episode from my new video series related to “What’s Happening?” in manufacturing and supply chain addresses reevaluating production outside of the U.S. There has been a lot of activity lately impacting sourcing decisions. Just consider the new phase 1 trade deal with China, offset by a very worrisome law that went into affect in China in December related to data privacy (and lack thereof!) and a BIG win for manufacturers with the new USMCA trade deal with Mexico and Canada. Are you staying up-to-speed on these essential changes and trends?

Our most successful clients are on top of it! In fact, they are typically ahead. In today’s Amazon-paced, customer-centric world, it is no longer an option. You must be proactive just to survive. Get out of your chair and attend a key industry event, join us at our next Harvey Mudd executive roundtable to discuss the digital transformation and related impacts and network with peers, say yes to participating in the latest economic forecast event or the like. In addition, read highlights about the latest technologies and how they might impact your industry, seek out experts who can help you think through the top priorities in today’s Omni-channel world (whether related to you or not; you’ll pick up valuable insights to apply regardless), take your trusted advisors to lunch and ask them for their insights and more. The bottom line is you must be informed, proactive, collaborative and agile.

When it comes to thinking about your supply chain strategy, don’t get side tracked with all the hoopla. As Roy Paulson said in our 2019 predictions document (my favorite quote), “As a view looking forward in these auspicious times, expect to see more talk of tariffs, threats and waving of hands, all the while, those of us in exporting will be busy making deals, signing contracts and getting business done.”  I cannot tell you how true this statement is across the board. Thus, instead of getting into debates and moaning about your current situation, put a plan in place to thrive amidst the chaos.

As it relates specifically to China, China alternatives and our North American neighbors, watch our interview with John Tulac, international business attorney to learn more. We had a great time talking philosophy and throwing out issues and ideas on how to navigate China. I’ve committed to sharing widely to get the word out. I believe fully in being upfront and proactive, and I hope you’ll join with us in spreading the word of caution. This topic also squarely fits with our new theme on future-proofing your manufacturing operations and extended supply chain.  Contact us to discuss further.



All Roads Lead Back to People

December 30th, 2019

All roads lead back to people. In working with executives from diverse industries of aerospace, building products, healthcare and food & beverage, whether a $10 million dollar family-owned business, a $50 million dollar private-equity backed company or a multi-billion dollar global conglomerate, the most successful have the best people. Little else seems to matter. The best strategies are destroyed by poor leaders, and the most mediocre of plans are wildly successful with the right leaders.

Since many of our clients are manufacturers, and October is manufacturing month, we thought it would be the ideal time to remind you that “all roads go back to leaders”. As much as it is relevant to stay on top of the latest technologies (learn more about artificial intelligence and computer vision in our “Just for Clients Section”) and search for the best practices for your business (such as SIOP (sales, inventory, operations planning) and lean manufacturing), it is even more important to think about your people. In fact, if you have the ‘right’ people, the rest will fall into place.

When thinking about people, you should consider several important groups:

  • New hires – Spend more time ensuring you have the ‘right’ person before wasting time and energy on a non-performer! Stop thinking about job descriptions and tasks.  Instead, think about what results you need and whether the person you are interviewing can ‘turn them into a reality’.
  • Your employeesThe most important category is your employees. If your people aren’t involved and interested, how do you expect to create fans of your customers?
  • Your suppliers – Do you consider your suppliers an extension of your team? You should! They can make or break your success.
  • Your customers – Certainly, there is such a thing as choosing the ‘wrong’ customer. Are you just taking any customer that comes your way or are you making sure they are a good fit for your business? Some customers will take you to new heights and others will send you accelerating backwards.
  • Your trusted advisors – Pay attention to who you listen to! Bad advice is far worse than no advice at all. As trusted advisors, we can attest that when our clients find ‘inexpensive advice’.  They come running to us because they tied up people getting nothing accomplished, or worse, the situation has gotten worse! In addition, having the ‘right’ banking, financial and legal advice at the ‘right’ time can prove invaluable.
  • Your trade & professional organizations, alumni groups etc. – The story is very similar to trusted advisors. You can gain invaluable insight and resources if you consider your network an important aspect of your business.

Watch our interview with  Ismael Reyes, Jr. and Cindy Baughman of Ingram Micro, the Manufacturing Council of the Inland Empire’s Innovation Award winners. We talk about the relevance and importance of talent and leadership as well as the dramatic impact it can have on bottom line results. They achieved over a million dollars in savings in process improvements.  And, they consider the key to success to go back to people.

Are you interested in bottom line improvement AND/or developing a superior customer experience? If so, start with your people!

If you are interested in an assessment of how you stand vs. the industry norm and would like recommendations and priorities to drive results, read through our articles for ideas or contact us to discuss further.



Priorities, Priorities, Priorities

November 21st, 2019

When teaching a CSCP class for a large Target distribution center recently, one of the managers asked me about what drives results across all clients. One of the great benefits of speaking and teaching is that attendees stimulate new ideas and/or insights. I gave him what popped to mind immediately.

However, it got me thinking. Why not share these with my clients as it might stimulate ideas across the board! Here’s what popped into my mind: We gained the biggest benefit when figuring out where to focus attention to achieve the desired end result (such as increasing revenue, profit or cash flow). In essence, what is the priority?

Unfortunately, this sounds so obvious that most people think they have it covered but they do NOT! I’ve yet to meet a client with the following situation:

  • Just a few key priorities that were best suited to drive the results they desired
  • Key players in the organization (and perhaps key supply chain partners) were aligned on this same page.

More typically, there are FAR too many priorities AND the issue is that they all sound like priorities.

  • The Board wants x.
  • Our key customer is demanding y.
  • There are projects to launch new products.
  • There are projects to save costs.
  • Employees need education and training to know how to grow the business.
  • And the list goes on.

So what should we do? If it were easy, it wouldn’t be so commonplace. Yet, it is doable. We start at the end and work our way back. What are the desired results we need x months or years into the future? Then we look at how we get from where we are to where we need to go. Again, it sounds quite simple but, of course, it isn’t. And then, we look over what we see as priorities and how they fit into what we need to get from here to there.

Next, we look at three aspects:

  • What is the impact of the priority?
  • How urgent is the priority? This is often confused with impact. Often, they are NOT the same.
  • If we did nothing, what would happen? Would the situation get better on its own, stay the same or get worse?

Re-think your priorities. Why are you doing what you are doing? I was just reminded of this recently by a partner. She asked about the results we were achieving jointly and wondered if the level of effort was worth the outcome. I had to say, she was right! What were we thinking? Consequently, we are re-evaluating our priorities.

How about you?  It also often takes an outside view to stir the pot to re-think priorities. Are you comfortable? If so, you might want to take another look.