Major automation companies are growing this year, but are budgeting cautiously because of global business uncertainty. They have cash in the coffers, but it’s reserved for possibilities of a downturn, and acquisitions if the opportunity arises. This is why the majors don’t generate organic growth: they acquire complementary businesses or ailing competitors, to consolidate.
Smaller automation companies are typically cash- and resource-limited, and they grow primarily through tweaking current products, improving existing sales channels and geographical expansion. But this has limited success because much depends on effective sales representative selection, plus costly support for global business—travel, training, services and logistics. The successful companies are those that generate growth with new products and markets.
Here are 10 brainstorming ideas to help your company generate growth:
1. Culture change: Adapt your business culture to generate new ideas, tackle new markets with higher growth and obtain better profit margins. Promote the best and brightest within your company. Recruit new people with different backgrounds and ideas to spice up the knowledge mix.
2. Design differently: Have you noticed that all industrial products look alike—bulky, ugly and heavy? Don’t dumb-down your products to suit the lowest common denominator. Go way-out, high-tech. Give your customers advanced features that will “wow” them, and set you apart from your competitors.
3. Encourage innovation: Allow novel or different ideas to bubble up inside your company. Focus on a specific product/technology niches. Encourage your staff to join advanced, innovative groups and organizations that can stimulate thinking with new, innovative approaches.
4. Partnerships: Some of the smartest people are not in your company, they are somewhere else in the world. Operate with crowd-sourced designs, released under share-friendly licensing. Build virtual teams.
5. Advanced manufacturing: Reverse offshore outsourcing. Set objectives to produce cheaper and better at your own facilities. Examine advanced manufacturing opportunities for growth potential. Plan production strategies to outperform any competitors.
6. Pricing paradigms: Plan for high-tech products with high margins. Consider new and different cost and pricing structures. Pursue high volume through disruptive products and pricing.
7. Inbound marketing: Leverage online technology to find and get found by potential customers. Use Internet tools and methodologies to optimize company Web presence and extend reach in the search for customers. Maximize use of social networks to develop and utilize customer feedback and opinions.
8. Advertising and promotion: Stop advertising to the same-old customers in the same-old way. Generate new promotions to attract new customers. Refine your advertising with more frequent, broad-exposure, Web-orientated, performance-based (pay-per-click) pricing.
9. Sales channels: Find sales channels that know your target audience and can drive your exceptional solution-specific products. Don’t go to the same-old, same-old conferences and shows. Develop customer-partners to earn referrals.
10. Commitment: This kind of change can only start at the top. The champion must be the CEO, demanding fresh thinking with measurable results. Senior managers must be committed, with incentives to adopt innovative behaviors, and disincentives for lack of results. A practical approach is to split off a part of the company, or acquire an innovative start-up, to pursue the new paradigm.
America has the talent and the agility to continue its automation industry leadership. We have a significant level of domestic entrepreneurship and talent. The objective is to nurture new approaches, ideas and innovation as jumping-off points for new, growth-orientated automation businesses.
>> Jim Pinto is a technology futurist, international speaker and automation industry commentator. You can email him at [email protected] or review his prognostications and predictions on his website: www.jimpinto.com.
ON THE WEB: Collaborative Leadership
Jim Pinto describes how company managers need to embrace “collaborative leadership” and the four stages teams go through when forming a team.