Foreign Exports Drive Sales or Indicate Attitude?

At today’s Economic Development Council Richard Paullin, Chief Operating Officer – Illinois Global Partnership, told us that only 12% of Illinois Manufacturers export goods. Not surprising given my earlier post on how few manufacturers in the region are working to adopt technology more fully in their business. The stat that caught me, however, was that the firms that were selling internationally on average were growing 20% faster and paid employees 15% better. The good news is that Illinois Global Partnership is working on developing infrastructure to help smaller and mid-size businesses develop overseas markets. The question is, if only 10% of manufacturers have the management savvy enough to actively pursue technological improvement, how many businesses will jump at the opportunity to strategically diversify their business internationally? Where does your company sit? Are you actively pursuing foreign markets? Have you tried and given up due to cost, complexity or financing? Is … Continue reading

What’s Your Company’s Clue Quotient

Advanced, Progressive, Struggling and Disengaged were categories given out to manufacturers at a recent Chicago Economic Development Council meeting. Two things stand out about these categories: First, if you are in any category other than Advanced you are at severe risk of having the world markets pass you by. Second, 75% of manufacturers in the greater Midwest fall into the bottom two categories. I found the definitions of each category to be enlightening and relevant to any organization, not just manufacturers. Advanced – Organizational recognition of change and active pursuit of technology. (Have a clue)     Progressive – Ownership recognition of change but low implementation. (Getting a clue) Struggling – Ownership debating the need for change. (A clue is in the area) Disengaged – Ownership not actively involved or sees no reason to change or implement technology. (Clueless)   There are few reasons why an organization can’t move itself up in these categories, positioning itself for … Continue reading

Warning, Conventional Wisdom Ahead

I overheard a conversation at lunch today between two business folks. Now I don’t know whether they were boss/employee or just colleagues, but the older one uttered a phrase that all but stopped the discussion – “Well, conventional wisdom says…” There are many phrases that masquerade as positive feedback or analysis but are truly meant to stop whatever ideation or innovation is occurring. “Conventional Wisdom” is one of the worst offenders. Used by an authority figure (Manager, CEO, Industry Analyst, Consultant, Mentor, etc.,) its hidden meaning screams “No that isn’t how we are going to do it.” It could also mean, “you don’t know about which (or to whom) you are talking.” Either way, this is an ideation and innovation stopper. “Conventional Wisdom” should not be a static thought, but one that is challenged over time and experience. Businesses change, customers change, investors change – so yesterday’s conventional wisdom could … Continue reading