Saturday, March 01, 2003

Conversations at a Trade Show

I just returned from two days at our industry trade show. I had numerous conversations with vendors, competitors and industry execs. A few themes emerged that apply beyond just our industry.
  • Business is tough. The fragile economy, tough winter weather, the threat of war; all created uncertainty and indecivenss on the part of customers. No surprise in this; until the conversation moved on.
  • Some are victims. These forces seemed beyond comprehension to some. They were faceless, fatal adversaries. The best they could hope for is mere survival.
  • Some were players. Looking at the same facts, others saw opportunities, ways to learn, ways to hone their business for current and future success. In the tough times lay clues to future success.
What was remarkable to me was both the numbers in each group (about equal) and the similarities in language used.

Vicitms consistently used, with minor variations, this sentence: "They just won't let anyone make any money." I couldn't believe how often I heard almost these exact same words. The "they" could refer to many sources; competitors, regulators, customers, other unnammed and mysterious forces. There was a helplessness and a resignation in the voice of the victims. It was not an attractive place to go.

Players also used a remarkably consistent sentence: "The market is telling us something and we think we can respond sooner and smarter." Again, the message was the same. The market is speaking. I can sense what it is. I can try things to respond. I have a way to respond. I can do it faster and better than my competitors. The education I get from the market will make me better. Their voice had a mood of inquisitiveness and anticipation. It was a very attractive place to go.

I'm not suggesting this is "happy talk." Rather, I saw on the part of the players a dry-eyed ability to perceive and reflect on what patterns were emerging and a committment to respond. The language used helped articulate the steps to take. Coupling a knowledge of Lean Systems and an ability identify constraints is a powerful framework to respond to these challenges.

No question where I want to be nor is there a question who I'd want to partner with.

I hope this is helpful.

Feel free to forward to a friend. Email me

No comments: