1 April 2002
Life in the slow lane
By Gregory Hale
You know those times when you are stuck behind a car in the passing lane? The car is going about 10 miles under the speed limit. You can’t see the driver over the steering wheel. His right turn signal has been on for about 2 miles. Once again, a driver in the fast lane is playing it safe, but totally unaware of everything else going on around him.
A great measure of your company’s success will be how productively it spent the recession of 2001. Is your company going slow, playing it safe and unaware of its surroundings? Or is it clipping along, savvy about competitors, new developments, and the like?
Take a look at Dow Corning. It spent a good chunk of time during the recession in Chapter 11, but its bad times didn’t hold it back. It is attempting to do something that has not worked very well with other companies in the past year or so: starting a Web portal, called Xiameter, that will sell the company’s product at low price with on-time delivery. Company officials have pledged that customers will get the lowest price Dow Corning can offer.
The initiative is hardly pathbreaking. But at least Dow Corning’s not drifting along—it’s taking action.
How about your company?
There are people out there in the industry spending way too much time talking about the good old days and wondering where they went. How many times have you heard, "It didn’t used to be this way"? They’re right—it has never been this way.
Instead of trying something new, those people shrug their shoulders and keep talking to the same customers. Dow Corning is taking a more positive approach. It attempted to understand the nuances of the bad economy, saw how the company fits in, and then hit the ground running.
A pretty nimble move for a bankrupt chemical maker.
What companies need now more that ever is strong leadership, from the executive suite all the way over to the plant floor. As we are finding from companies going down the tubes, you don’t need someone who says all the right things but rather a leader who has a vision and will bring your company out ahead. With the unemployment rate falling to 5.5% in February from 5.6% in January and businesses adding 66,000 jobs to the payroll, all the signs are there for a turnaround.
These are just signs. You and your company have to keep going full bore. Now comes the hard part in this industrial endurance race. We know the end is near; we just aren’t there yet.
If you aren’t ready to make another big push, no problem. Just jump in your car, flip on your turn signal, and keep driving.
Do you see a turnaround in the offing? Talk to me: email@example.com or (919) 990-9275.IT