At the beginning of the year, a search for ‘uk manufacturing 2017’ would get you reasonably positive results. Headlines like “UK industry booms back to life”, would appear. Now, remarkable statements like “UK economy fires on all cylinders as signs of more balanced growth emerge” (attributed to the Telegraph, 11 February 2017), are emerging.
Do you buy it? Or, given the recent Vauxhall news, are you a Brexit-induced pessimist, firmly of the belief that the end is nigh for British industry? Maybe all this positive coverage is an internet conspiracy. Or an example of fake news. Personally, I do buy it. I’m a champion of the manufacturing industry having worked in it, for it and with it for many years. I’m keeping the faith.
Brexit: the catalyst for advancement?
Wherever your stand on leaving the EU, Brexit is the kind of wake up call we’re always facing. Potential challenges and possibilities lie ahead of us – they always have: ever-advancing technology, the internet, economic down turns. They all mean the same thing: if you don’t keep up, and measure up, you die.
It all boils down to 2 significant questions:
1. Where do I trade (home or abroad)?
2. Which products do I develop?
Constantly asking these questions will cause you to adjust your corporate attitude to risk. And that’s scary.
Do I export or trade in the UK?
Well maybe you try both. Here’s the issue: any manufacturer importing or paying for goods, in currencies that have increased in value against the pound, will now be feeling the effects. And, it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to pass on these cost rises to your customers for fear of losing them (your customers, that is).
If these OEMs are your customers, here’s your potential UK market. Then, as the pound is weaker against certain currencies, your British products are likely to be cheaper. So there’s your export market.
Can you do both? Is your business up to such vigorous ‘A/B testing’? It’s a skill for sure because it puts pressure on processes, market knowledge and your ability to offer true value in return for a loyal customer base. And above all, it puts leadership to the test.
Balancing the Ying and Yang of your markets, in other words. And I believe it’s absolutely the right way to go.
What’s your plan for product development?
Do you have one? You’d be forgiven for not feeling brave but all the best entrepreneurs take calculated risks. Take Sir James Dyson; asked if he was spreading the company’s interests too thinly, he replied that he’s never in any rush to diversify and that they develop products in a very deliberate way. Indeed he claims, that for every £1 they spend on R&D, they turn it into a £5 profit.
OK, maybe the last bit is out of your reach right now but the phrase about developing products “in a very deliberate way” is one to hold onto. Now might feel like the time to batten down the hatches but being brave “in a very deliberate way” is the better approach to take, surely?
As innovationexcellence.com points out, product development is a combination of faith and process:
“The entire new product development process is an ever evolving testing platform where errors will be made, designs will get trashed, and loss could be recorded. Having your entire team working in tight synchronicity will ensure the successful launch of goods or services, even if reinventing your own wheel. Productivity during product development can be achieved if, and only if, goals are clearly defined along the way and each process has contingencies clearly outlined on paper.”
“…reinventing your own wheel”. Couldn’t put it better myself.
Coming next: where to trade and which products to develop
In my next 2 blogs I’ll expand on these 2 topics of where to trade and which products to develop. I’ll be sharing my experiences both as an interim manager and adviser to business owners, and I’ll be stressing the importance of Leadership, Industry Knowledge, Planning and Recruitment:
1. Leadership: get help. Gather your best people round you and don’t be afraid to look outside. These are big decisions you need to take and no one should take on a leadership role without support.
2. Industry knowledge: are you in possession of the right facts? About your competitors, customers, technology? Understand where your gaps in knowledge lie.
3. Planning: document what you intend to do and keep returning to it, be a strategic or business plan. As you progress, adjust and tweak the plan, but be sure to stick to it.
4. Recruitment: if you haven’t got or can’t find your ideal team, grow them yourself. From within the organisation, with local further education or through apprenticeships. You’ll need them soon so start now.
About Author Rakesh Shah RVR Management has over 20 years’ experience of growing sales in large corporate companies as well as SME companies, in UK/Europe USA and Asia. He is technically, MBA and CIM qualified with a background of delivering growth within engineering/manufacturing sectors and offer a range of business tools and support services that deliver results.
Contact Rakesh Shah : 0778 555 8344