By: David Power
Everyone knows every company needs a strategy, a goal, a purpose. Often strategies come and go, goals are achieved or diluted, and companies begin to drift. Activities of assorted departments become so routine there is never a spark or event that forces change. Eventually, a dramatic change does occur either in market, competition, technology etc. and then the company leaps into action to address the resulting crisis. As the company has been so comfortable with the status quo for so long, leaping into action is a bit difficult, and that dramatic change often results in the failure of the company.
Having been around for four plus decades now, I have seen hundreds of companies that they become blurred in my memory. One distinction that is very clear, however, is there are two kinds of companies. There are those that know who they are, what they are doing and why they are doing it (they are “Pure of Mind and Purpose”) and those that do not.
Many years ago, I worked for a medium-sized privately owned company. Early after starting with the company, a friend explained to me how to be successful with that company. He explained that years ago the owner of the company had a dream, and that if I want to help the owner achieve his dream, I would do very well with the company. However, he warned, “Don’t ever think the owner was dreaming about you” and for sure “Never think that you have a dream that is better than the owners.” Those words rang very true, and as I prospered at that company, I never forgot that wise advice.
Eventually, I felt that I did have a dream that was better than the owners, so of course, the result was my departure from that company and striking out on my own. A decision fraught with risk but never with regrets.
So, I took that dream and developed it into a strategy with the follow-up on tactics that implement and achieve that dream. Certainly no small task.
In the early years, all candor thoughts of a serious long-term strategy were put onto the back burner in lieu of the daily battle just to survive. Anything other than fighting to live another day was an unaffordable luxury. Slowly, over the first few years, the company became a little stronger and spending some time on the long-term issues became a possibility. Having never forgotten the dream, I began to mold it into a strategy.
One of the challenges of working with the Chinese people is that they dream big; big Olympics, big buildings, big factories, and big customers. In an early partnership in China, we developed manufacturing of surgical gowns, a single product, with 90% of our business going to only two customers. The Chinese were happy, as this was a big company with over 3,000 employees with two big customers. I, however, couldn’t sleep at night in this environment. On any given day, we were one phone call away from bankruptcy. If one of those customers stopped buying we were gone, bankrupted. There was no path forward to recover. Not my ideal situation.
And, so I departed that partnership, and with those resources, started Exact Medical Manufacturing, Inc. Our strategy is now very clear; to make a company with staying power for a strong existence for the long haul. Almost every decision I make these days involves “risk mitigation”; how do I make the company stronger for the long haul. The tactics to achieve this vision are clear. Exact Medical Manufacturing, Inc. needs two things. A long list of customers and a broad offering of products and capabilities.
To this end, we have invested in our engineering capabilities for product and process development, our quality capabilities that we can be attractive to larger and more sophisticated customers, our production capabilities that we can improve our service and our marketing capabilities that we can communicate our vision. We are pleased that these investments have found traction with our customers and our company continues to grow in the number of customers we have, the list of products we produce and the resulting sales revenue. It is gratifying when a dream, vision and strategy result in such strong success.
To weave these efforts into a single team effort has required the development of self-managed work teams and synergy-based management. Future articles will delve into the mechanics we used to accomplish these important parts of our program.
I am pleased to announce that everyone at Exact Medical Manufacturing, Inc. knows who we are, what we are doing and why we are doing it. We are PURE OF MIND AND PURPOSE.