Business Growth by Listening

posted in: Business Strategy | 0

The difference between a business that grows by the great success of a single product and one growing by adding more products is longevity. How long does a business survive when the success disappears? The point here is to have overlapping successes from multiple products, no matter how small or great their successes. We are learning this as we grow in our own ways. We are yet to feel the great success from a single product, this is a matter of time as we keep introducing useful solutions to the world. This experience of adding products is a fascinating one, fueled by our steady increasing number of sales, repeat customers and new ideas from the field.

Lately I’ve been delegating more of technology development work and focusing more on business development because Encole is taking more custom projects than I alone can handle. We are engaging more engineers to focus on technical tasks, which frees time to take more custom work, which increases our throughput – all good things for a growing business. And more importantly, we are learning that the custom work we do is not custom at all, but rather variations on the same theme. Well, it used to be custom about a year ago, but not any more as we became really good at this. Most of the custom work we do is a variation of sight windows for different pressures, temperatures or mounting designs. Sometimes, the customers want compliance with some nasty chemicals covered by NACE, so we carefully listened to that too. Basically, what we hear is a need for a specific product line that fits a range of custom requirements.

So, the most logical thing to do is to productize something repeatedly custom. This approach of listening to customers and developing a line of released products makes technical sense, because we do not have to engineer a variation of the base part over and over again. There is a lot of stress to produce a custom part on time, within specification and price. All three – promised lead time, cost, performance must be met in order to continue building credibility, reputation, and in the long term lasting business. Would it be easier to build products for the shelf for later distribution, rather than meeting the time-cost-spec triage? Absolutely. All lead times are internal, so no stress of shipping late to the customer, product performance is tested over a number of times, so no worry there, where with custom designs we have to offer testing every time we ship a newly developed product. That’s expensive and sometimes turns the customer away.

The strategy of being open with the customer about lead time and what’s involved has been working for us. We grow by listening.

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