Volume 2, Number 2 - February 2, 2004

Sales of Big Dog Motorcycles, built in Wichita Kansas, continue to experience strong growth. Their next 3 months production is already sold. With major Asian competition, a price tag considerably over $20,000 on an item most consider discretionary purchase, and a nation-wide recession just ending, how do they do it?

Simply, they have removed anything that smells of “commodity” from their product and replaced it all with “unique.” Want your gas tank the colors of your alma mater with a picture of your mama on the side? No problem. As plant manager Willie Shew says, “if it’s okay for grandma to see, then we’ll paint it on.” Big Dog’s 300 plus employees (and growing) are all cross-trained, eager to support whatever the next customer
orders require.

Differentiation of product, service, and experience of the customer are keys to avoiding the lowest-price battles of commodity businesses. Frank Perdue and his chickens proved that anything can be differentiated. But operations must be able to support the promises profitably.

Perhaps for your industry, shipment within 24 hours of order receipt would beat back the “we’re cheaper” competitors. Perhaps the customization capabilities of Big Dog are the springboard to your success. Perhaps frequent leading-edge product introductions would rock the market and grow your share.

Position your operations to do what the marketplace can only dream of. The customers win, your employees win, and you win. But wishing won’t make it so. With sales and marketing, define the difference that Operations could make happen and the market will buy. And then define the operations strategy that will enable you to implement those promises profitably.

Under the leadership of Vince Nardy and the ownership of RockWood Equity Partners, Hunter more than tripled its sales since 2000. And that success led Behrman Capital to acquire Hunter within the last few weeks. Knowing a good thing when they see it, Behrman participated with Hunter’s senior management in the transaction, resulting in a stable management team with an interest in the business. Congratulations to Vince and his team.

Winston Churchill once describe the UK and America as two countries separated by a common language. But we don’t have to go across the pond to find confusion.

As our operations and our markets increasingly include international business, we have to understand cultures, politics, and language different from our own. But many of us trip over misunderstandings within our own walls, with sister operations, with our domestic suppliers and customers, and with the business world around us. Whether you are talking to an “English as a first language” person or not, a few tips to avoid unnecessary and costly confusion include:

1) Avoid AA (Acronym Assumption) – Do not assume that your listener understands acronyms the same way you intend them; always describe what you mean with an acronym, at least the first time you use it in a conversation.

2) Utilize the experience of new employees to recognize when your company terminology causes question or confusion. One way is to have the new person take minutes at meetings; encourage them to ask for clarification of terms used to ensure accurate minutes.

Fulcrum ConsultingWorks, Inc. All rights reserved.
For reprint permission, just give Rebecca a call
or e-mail her at [email protected]