Global Entrepreneurship (Renaissance?) Week

Tesla  Cool Tesla Manufacturing picture from Jurvetson

Maybe it’s time for some good news – a more positive take on the world…!

This past week NBC’s Rock Center did a story on manufacturing in America.    With this week being Global Entrepreneurship week it seemed appropriate to share some statistics that will reinforce the eternal optimism of the true entrepreneurs and strengthen the resolve of any budding entrepreneur that is feeling a bit challenged in our current economic climate.

The featured company in the story is a family owned business from right here in the heartland celebrating 65 years in business.  Vermeer Corp is based in Pella, IA.   They manufacture a diverse line of construction and agricultural products and have a global distribution network.  It also happens to be the company I spent most of my professional career associated with.

Vermeer’s CEO, Mary Andringa says we are in a manufacturing “renaissance”.   She sees the current USA manufacturing climate as a time of “great opportunity”.    To support her optimism, one statistic she pointed out was that in 2010 the U.S. had an output of $4.8 trillion in manufactured goods. That is up $700M from $4.1 trillion in 2000, despite living through two recessions during that period.

Another surprising fact – although there are jobs being lost to other countries, the US is still #1 in manufacturing by a respectable margin.

21% of all the good manufactured in the world are made in the United States.   China in second with 15% and Japan comes in third with 12%.

So even though it may seem like everything you buy has a label on it saying it was made outside of the USA,  we are still number one and leaders like Andringa have every intention in seeing we stay in that position.

This year Andringa is also serving as the Chair for the National Association of Manufacturers.  Which puts her in a great position to share her vision and message to a national audience.  To give you some perspective on her approach, I’d like to highlight three areas of focus that have been key to Vermeer’s entrepreneurial success and continued long term growth.  These are great examples for any business owner.

1)      Solve Problems: Vermeer was founded by Gary Vermeer.  His most repeated quote was “Find a need and fill that need with a product built to last. And simply build the best”     A farmer by trade, he had an innovative mind that was constantly creating and building new ideas into labor saving machines; machines that were often times transformational, groundbreaking or even disruptive to an industry.   Many of the Vermeer products introduced over the last 65 years were firsts in the industry and they continue to find and fill needs today.

2)      Core Values:  It is hard to pick up a business book without finding some reference to the power of actively using a list of core values that define your company.   Principles that influence every decision the company makes.   Vermeer’s core values are the “4 P’s”:

  1. People: Hire, train, and invest in the best.
  2. Principles: Guide with Biblical principles.
  3. Products:  R&D, innovate, high quality.
  4. Profit: Be profitable & invest profits back into business.

3)      Lean Culture:  Regardless if you produce something tangible or not, doing it more efficiently and constantly striving to reduce waste in the process is critical in keeping your product or service competitive in an free market.   Through lean implementation, Vermeer was able to reduce the build time of an industrial brush chipper from 52 days to just 2 ½ days; talk about reducing waste and improving efficiency!

This week as we celebrate entrepreneurs, I encourage you to spend some time reviewing your business and think about how well you apply these three components to your business.  As you visit with other successful entrepreneurs or businesses, ask if these three drivers are impacting their business?

Problem Solving:

  • What problem does/will your product or service solve?
  • Is everyone in your business clear on the problems your business solves?

Core Values:

  • Have you established core values that you live and lead by every day?
  • Do you hire people with those same values?  Are you firing people who don’t share them?

The Lean Journey:

  • When is the last time you went through every segment of your business and looked for ways to cut waste and do it more efficiently?
  • What about bringing in a neutral party to help assess this?  You may be surprised what a fresh set of eyes might see.

We would love to hear your thoughts on this and how you think it applies to success of entrepreneurs as we celebrate Global Entrepreneurship this week.   You can be part of the Renaissance too!

Chris Steinlage      Kansas City Business Coach

2 thoughts on “Global Entrepreneurship (Renaissance?) Week”

  1. Donna Gordon says:

    Chris, Thank you for busting through what is a common myth: we don’t make ‘stuff’ in this country any more! Today’s manufacturing firms have weathered the storm of increased competition from overseas, increased regulatory burden, and a challenging capital market to continue to survive and thrive. The key value is people, just like Gary Vermeer said. The key to maintaining our competitiveness in manufacturing is an increased commitment to education by the schools, community and workers themselves. Manufacturing jobs today are much more skill intensive than the old line jobs of old, and provide an excellent career path that today’s generation of students are largely unaware of. Yes, we do still make stuff here, and with increasing productivity and quality. If only the education and healthcare industries could realize similar productivity gains….

    1. Donna,
      Thank you for your comment. I can’t speak for mfg as a whole, but I know that one of the things Vermeer has done is form strong partnerships and alliances with high schools, Vo-Tech/trade schools and other post high school education arms to help create a funnel feeding trained individuals to their mfg. plants. You are spot-on about training requirements and the level of education required in today’s modern mfg plants. As you know, many of the skill positions command salaries that far exceed many traditional 4 yr. degree “white collar” positions. I think Vermeer’s strategy was to become proactive in forging these relationships to literally pull the schools along rather than wait for them to catch up. It is an initiative they execute the same way they execute strategies for improvement in other areas of their business. It is not happening by chance.

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