Most business leaders know that, in order to compete, they need to reduce costs, operate more efficiently and provide greater customer value. Many are deploying Lean Manufacturing, Six Sigma and other continuous improvement methodologies to do this.
On the other side of the balance sheet, leaders are encouraged to develop new products and services, be more innovative, and find new markets and customers. All of that sounds great, but how many mid-sized companies have the expertise or time to develop new growth ideas or at least decide which ones to pursue?
To help area companies address this challenge, IMEC is partnering with Doug Hall, founder of the Eureka! Ranch, an innovation consultancy based in Ohio. Hall has spent 25 years creating and developing new ideas and products for such companies as American Express, Nike, Procter & Gamble and Walt Disney.
We talked to Hall about why the competitive marketplace demands that manufacturers create new value streams, differentiate their products and grow top-line sales.
IMEC: Why is your message important for area manufacturers to hear?
Doug Hall: There’s a perception that explosive growth is only within reach of America’s largest companies. With IMEC, we show smaller businesses, particularly manufacturers, how they can leverage processes and methodologies that, up until now, have only been accessible by large corporations. We’ll help small to mid-sized manufacturing companies discover new choices for growth. It’s tough in the business world for any business, and you need to be able to grow sales as well as control costs. We show them the new research that we have and techniques for growing top-line sales.
IMEC: What are some of the themes of your approach?
Hall: We focus on three areas called the three pillars of growth. The first is marketing effectiveness. Second is getting into new markets and finding new customers. Third is that you have to develop new and improved products and business models. If all you had to do was work harder, we’d all be rich. The fact is that we have to work smarter.
IMEC: But some Peoria-area manufacturers are feeling intense price pressure. There’s not much you can do when competing on price, right?
Hall: Yes, if that’s your only commodity. Our mission is to help them get out of the commodity business. If they’re making what everyone else does, they’ll have problems with price against everybody—whether they are in the next state over or the next country. That’s not what made this country great. What made this country great is thinking smarter—the spirit of ingenuity.
IMEC: Tell us about the approach you use with smaller companies.
Hall: We use a methodology we’ve developed called Eureka! Winning Ways. Working with organizations like IMEC, we facilitate a one-day “Idea Engineering” session in which employees are led through a disciplined process for identifying ideas on how to grow the company. These ideas can be as simple as changing the parameters of a product design to more complex decisions such as entering new markets. The ideas are then benchmarked against 50 success factors and scientifically tested to evaluate how obvious and self-evident they are to potential customers. IMEC’s growth coaches then provide action plan coaching to help companies implement their idea(s).
IMEC: Manufacturers in particular are often skeptical about “programs,” especially those focused on marketing. How is this different?
Hall: A lot of times manufacturers don’t tell their story very well. It’s hard to buy from a lot of these people because they are not overt about their benefits—and there are dramatic differences. If you just listen to the voice of the customer, you just become a job shop. I worked with a company in Oklahoma that asked their customers what they wanted, and their customers told them. The problem was that their competitors did the same thing. The next thing you know, the company bid them against their competitor. Ideas that anticipate the future are 10 times more predictive of success. You have to have the courage to break new ground. Listening to your customers isn’t good enough in today’s world. We need to anticipate the future. IBI