Monday, August 10, 2009

Learning from others' mistakes and successes

I just got back from a two-day trip with my two partners to visit a colleague in the glass business 1,500 miles away. Some would say that now is not the time to spend money on flights and hotels, and that they can't spend time away from their businesses when times are tough. I say that it has never been more important than it is now! None of us can just keep doing what we have always done and hope to thrive, or even survive. Now is the time to tap your network for all kinds of ideas: new products, new applications for old products, management techniques, efficiency improvements and more.

Some business owners fear they will send the wrong message to their employees if they travel while tightening the belt on most everything else. These fears are easily assuaged, however, when you return with ideas that you can immediately implement to save money and improve the business. Share what you find with your managers and employees and make sure they see that the positive changes are a direct result of what you learned from your contacts. Every time that we have done this--and we typically do it two or three times a year, including attending GlassBuild America: The Glass, Window & Door Expo--we bring back pages of good ideas that justify and pay for the trip.

For these trips to be successful, you need two things: someone who is willing to share openly with you and a willingness to reciprocate. The latter is most important, and if both parties believe that, the exchange will be the most fruitful. While some things are taboo--pricing for example, if you are competitors--don't put up any walls and don't hesitate to share ideas and experiences that will help your friend! It amazes me when people in this industry think they have discovered something that no one else has, and that they can best benefit by closing off their operation like a secret military base. If your focus is on openness and listening, you will always leave having gained more than you shared, and having profited more than you spent.

Time away from the daily routine and pressures also clears and frees your mind to see your company and people in a fresh light. You will return refreshed and energized. Start with GlassBuild America Sept. 30-Oct. 2. Meet up with friends there, and make some new ones. Attend the seminars and take notes. Before you leave, make plans to exchange visits with another company, or to visit a valued supplier. Doing so will grow your business faster, improve our industry and even contribute to overall economic recovery!

--By Chris Mammen, president, M3 Glass Technologies, Irving, Texas


Marc said...

Chris, I could not agree more. I see trends to communicate more and more online through webinars, emails, etc. and that's a pretty dangerous trap to fall into, in my opinion. Good old face-to-face interaction and networking is still a strong and effective approach that we should never forget in the conduct of our business.

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