We Hear You: Managing the Downswing

We’re producing a series of articles on managing through this economic cycle that are serving as complementary resources to the IPC Executive Webcast Series. Topics for both include fortifying customer relationships, evaluating operational performance metrics, opportunities in solar and strategies for reducing overhead costs.

Here’s some of the top business advice and insights I’ve heard and seen from interviews with your colleagues:

1) On customer relationships …

Brian Lau, Americas general manager for DEK International, put it this way:

“DEK’s customer relationships are key to our enduring success. There are several parts to my philosophy for this:
• Maintain contact with people at various levels within the customer’s organization.
• Understand the business issues influencing each of those people.
• Deal with customer concerns promptly and decisively.
• Provide capability and technical updates at least annually to demonstrate continuous improvement.
• Verify that customers continue to feel you are delivering real value to their organization.”

2) On price …

Joe O’Neil, president of Hunter Technology, said:

“If our customers are able to provide their product at a more competitive price, they’re probably going to move more systems, take on greater market share, and that’s going to result in more work for us. That’s the type of thing that’s driving the growth for us right now. Understanding that price does play a major factor.”

Lau noted:

“In a difficult economy, some firms may lower prices to compete. And while some customers may be attracted to the low price, they often fail to evaluate the total return on their investment. Lowest price is rarely the best value, and it rarely translates into the lowest total cost of ownership over the life of the asset. In addition, in our capital equipment marketplace, it’s not entirely about the product or its purchase cost. It’s much more about what else you get over the operational life of the system: the support, the process expertise, the knowledge transfer, training, future product enhancements.”

3) On cost-cutting …

Pamela Gordon, president of Technology Forecasters, noted:

“Employees are tired of cost cutting.
Get employees excited again about their jobs and involved in finding new creative ways to reduce waste: Reduce waste in materials that are purchased, reduce waste in steps processes, equipment, reduce waste in elements of product design, reduce the travel expenses, reduce the energy consumption in their facilities.

This is a way that they can find additional costs savings that are in the millions of dollars, so they are substantial. At the same time, they feel better about the company that they work for and they get a competitive advantage because that’s what customers want these days.”

What are some ways your company is navigating the current crisis? Any creative cost-cutting strategies you could share with others?

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