Volume 8 Number 7 - July 13, 2010

If you know a company — customer, supplier, friend, or your own — that could benefit
from improved operations, from improved operations, let us know.
Your best interest is our best interest.

The Finish Strong® monthly e-newsletter is for business leaders who recognize Operations as a strategic function that creates competitive advantage, profitability and brand loyalty to the marketplace.

Businesses with 1, 10, 30 or even 100 year year history are not guaranteed the future. Long time markets disappear (land line telephones), customer expectations skyrocket based on one great experience (iPhone), and the maxim that “people buy from people” has been altered by the internet (iPhone app for online stock trading). Today’s “have” can easily become tomorrow’s “have-not.”

Today a few manufacturers are setting new records for revenue and profit. On the other side, each of us see the detritus of empty buildings, remnants of businesses that didn’t survive. But as I listen to manufacturers around the country, I hear two predominate and distinctly different stories. One is of sales hanging around 30 - 45% below 2007 - 2008 levels, with few encouraging signs. The other is of sales rebounding to near pre-recession levels, with nervous optimism about coming months.

Those two groups, different as they may be, both face a critical juncture with no room for error.
Socio-economists have long studied and publicized the widening chasm between individual haves and have-nots within the US and among countries. Darwinism and the 2008-2009 multi-pronged economic jolt are creating a similar gap among manufacturing businesses, one that engenders less empathy from most observers.

Just as extensive public resources are invested in helping have-not individuals find educational, work, and geographic alternatives that better position them to become haves, many companies are crying for aid in fending off their “unfair” circumstances.

No company can afford to wait for the government to ease its plight and help business flourish. Successful manufacturers garner creative, bright, and energetic resources to help them find and profitably serve growing markets. They continuously improve processes, metrics, and provide clear leadership. They take responsibility for their own futures. They don’t claim to be too busy, or insist the future holds a better time to begin shaping their future.

Take action now to ensure your company’s “have” tomorrow. Waiting merely slips you closer to the ever-expanding pool of have-nots.

As a rabid Cleveland Cavaliers basketball fan, I hated to hear the words “South Beach” roll off the tongue of LeBron James mid-way through his recent “ego-thon” on ESPN. But in response to all the “how are you taking it?” texts I’ve received, the answer is: Just fine, thank you. And I am having fun observing the reactions of the various teams that were spurned by the young man who merely decided to change employers.

Cavs majority owner Dan Gilbert, a successful entrepreneur with numerous businesses to his credit, quickly wrote a public and personal attack of his former employee, complete with threats and promises. Regardless of how well-deserved the tirade, it hardly seems in the long term best interest of the organization. And it misses the point that Chris Bosh’s rejection of Cleveland is what cost the Cavs the services of Mr. James.

The Cavs GM commented that the team did not have a “Plan B” as they had put all organizational resources on retaining the services of Mr. James. No contingency plan? Really? He also added that within one minute of hearing LeBron’s decision to leave the Cavs, he and the new coach began to move forward creating a competitive future without the superstar player. I’m guessing the 1st sentence was pablum for the fans, while the 2nd was the operating truth.

The New Jersey Nets mega-rich owner, Russian Mikhail Prokhorov, responded that his team of course had a Plan B, as would any businessman.

The New York Knicks appear stuck in “suspended disbelief” as they cannot imagine that someone would reject “the world’s greatest city.” Denial is a natural stage of grief, but can be very costly and unbecoming when allowed to last too long.

Chicago points more to their inability to sign Windy City native Dwayne Wade, one of LeBron’s new Miami teammates, because they know that was the decision that knocked them out of the LeBron sweepstakes.
Do you have a plan should your most skilled and integral employee leave your organization tomorrow? Can you recognize the signs that he may be considering other options? Do you know him well enough to know what is important to his daily decision to continue working for your company? Better to be Mr. Prokhorov or the Cavs GM than the Knicks.


The Starting Pistol
Mark Twain:
“The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, and then starting on the first one.”

The Tape
Rebecca Morgan:
“Operational excellence may seem overwhelming or impossible, but surely we are all capable of getting better. Let’s get started.”


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