Ordinary management is crucial. The ability to step into a situation, understand the complex web of intertwining relationships, and manage the people and resources to accomplish a goal are critical skills for all executives. According to Mike Chitty in his article, “Ordinary and Extraordinary Leadership”, management is the efficiency-based, improvement-oriented focus on the present situation. Ordinary simply means the implementation of well-known principles to a situation that is relatively black and white. He makes sure to note that ordinary is difficult, and should in no way be undervalued, with even the best managers needing years of practice to master it. Leadership, while not mutually exclusive of management, is the visionary focus on the future. Extraordinary applies to the implication that the solution to a situation is not clear, that there is disagreement and absolutely no guarantee that the steps taken to solve a problem will succeed. The greatest executives within a company must be both managers and leaders. According to Mike Chitty, the set of skills common to all extraordinary leaders includes: Creativity and political/emotional intelligence, confidence, and the ability to work through disagreement. An extraordinary leader will apply an iterative process of hypothesizing, testing, measuring, learning, and trying again.
Think about this scenario: You are a contract manufacturing company that has been in operation for 20+ years offering your customers the great quality and customer service, at a low price. You have a long list of customers that seem more than content with the services and capabilities that you provide. You were able to survive the Great Recession of 2008-2009 with minimal losses to your customer base; however, over the past 2-3 years, sales have been declining, and some of your trusted markets (like oil and gas) haven’t been as lucrative as before. You know you need to do something new to produce the results you want, but where do you start? Start with marketing and innovation. According to the late Peter Drucker, “The purpose of business is to create a customer, the business enterprise has two and only two basic functions: marketing and innovation. Marketing and innovation produce results; all the rest are costs. Marketing is the distinguishing, unique function of the business.” Think about it from another perspective, no one in the market knows how good your product or service is until after the sale, so before they buy, they only know how good your marketing is.
Most manufacturers in Northeast Ohio are optimistic about what the future holds for them in the next year, studies show. MAGNET recently partnered with Kent State University, Wells Fargo, and Bank of America to conduct a regional survey that addresses the priorities and concerns of local manufacturers of all sizes. Nearly 300 companies responded, spanning various industries and geographic locations. Of those manufacturers, 74 percent comprised C-level executives and general managers, with 89 percent of all respondents representing small and mid-size companies (businesses up to 250 employees). These responses indicated the following: Manufacturers remain confident about their sector. 57 percent indicated they anticipate some economic expansion, and over 50 percent expect their companies to grow over the next 12 months. Small and mid-size manufacturers with 26 to 250 employees were most optimistic, roughly expecting 80 percent growth. Conversely, 41 percent said they expect a flat economy, while another 3 percent are bracing themselves for a recession. Small manufacturers expect revenue growth, while larger companies predict additional capital expenditures. 42 percent of small manufacturers surveyed expect more than 10 percent revenue growth (compared to just 14 percent of larger companies); however, 57 percent of mid-size and 48 percent of large manufacturers
MAGNET has recently completed work on a grant award by the Arconic (formerly Alcoa) Foundation. The grant, designed around activities for middle and high school students, centered on increasing awareness of viable career paths in advanced manufacturing through plant tours, presentations, and other work-based learning activities. Over 350 children from the Cleveland Metropolitan School District, Olmstead Falls City Schools, Polaris Career Center, and Strongsville City Schools participated, with educators and students being introduced to professionals from local companies currently serving in technical or engineering-oriented positions. Initial feedback indicates that tours and presentations made a positive impact on views of manufacturing as well as career decisions. Of the students surveyed, over 83 percent would consider a career in manufacturing, 91 percent would recommend the activity to other students, and 80 percent said the activity furthered their understanding of how science, technology, engineering, and math (collectively known as STEM fields) are used in a manufacturing environment. Comments from students including the following: • “I enjoyed the information about careers and the future that manufacturing provides.” • “I learned that manufacturing opportunities are available whether you go to college or a career-tech school.” • “I liked learning about technology works from different people.”