Our goal with this three part post has been to inspire the next generation of manufacturing leaders to think beyond themselves as they build their business. The mission and vision of MakingChips isn’t to grow Carr Machine & Tool, sell more cutting tools from Zenger’s, and expand the global reach of the Goellner Inc. companies, (Advanced Machine & Engineering and Hennig). This business isn’t about the founders, owners, or even the team. It works because it’s not about us, it’s about manufacturing leaders.
Be Realistic about Strengths and Weaknesses and Choose Complimentary Leaders
The book Traction talks about the relationship between two types of leaders: visionaries and integrators. The relationship between these two is the key to maintaining a growth-oriented culture that makes good on the promise your company makes to your customers. If you’re the type of person who can organize a team and lead them to systematically execute a business plan, you’re probably an integrator. Find yourself a visionary and your business will continue to find opportunity and be positioned for growth.
If you’re the type of person who naturally designs strategies, makes key connections, builds major relationships, and solves complex problems from a 30,000 ft view, you’re more of a visionary. Find an integrator to help you hold everything together and you’ll run a well-oiled machine that continues to accelerate.
When MakingChips first began as a podcast, Jason was the visionary inspiring ideas and creating opportunity. Jim, as the integrator, provided the necessary structure and organization to filter those ideas and through what was practical and what wasn’t. The balance allowed them to produce a high quality product consistently. I was sold on the mission and I knew the vision required them to scale the team beyond two part-time podcasters, so I approached them with a vision of my own.
In the second chapter of the story (MakingChips 2.0) MakingChips has evolved into a hybrid media/marketing company. Now, I’ve assumed more of the visionary role, but I’d be lost in the clouds without a talented integrator like Kaleb Mertz. Kaleb is the “air traffic controller” that lands the good ideas and steers the less promising ideas away.
Visionary leaders are always seeking the next breakthrough idea, and some of those ideas can make a massive impact. On the other hand, visionaries tend to have organizational ADD. They can easily get shiny object syndrome and chase a distracting idea down a rabbit hole. Meanwhile, the important stuff that needed to get done to execute on that other big idea slips through the cracks.
If you’re going to succeed as a manufacturing entrepreneur, you’ll need to be self-aware and humble enough to surround yourself with leaders that are strong where you are weak. For a great book from the EOS collection that explores the visionary integrator leadership dynamic, check out RocketFuel.
The Right People in the Right Seats
It all begins with solid leadership, but if you want your business to scale beyond one or two employees, it can’t end there. You need to place the right people in the right seats. Here’s where the clean slate of entrepreneurship can be a big advantage, but only if you hire slow and fire fast.
A well established company can make the mistake of structuring organizational accountability around the people they have, not the people they need. It’s common to think about the people first, and then design the seats (functions and roles) around the existing staff. The result is organizational frustration, compromise, and complacency. Loyal employees asked to sit in the wrong seat are positioned to fail, and an organization trying to overcompensate for dysfunction lacks key roles are suffers from the accountability structure. Other employees end up using their own capacity to fill voids and, in the end, everyone is overworked.
As an entrepreneur, you have the opportunity to reverse engineer your success by thinking about the ideal functions and roles required to ensure accountability across the organization that will allow you to achieve your vision. Define the seats first, and then actively and diligently seek the people that get it, want it, and have the capacity to perform. Then put the right people in the right seats.
Your Core Values Can Be Your Value Proposition
Like your mission and vision, core values are mere dreams if you don’t take them seriously and put them into action. Invest the time it takes to find people who fit your core values. Then reinforce the values as much as you can.
Reference the core values when you coach your team, rewarding teammates when they exhibit those values and having tough conversations with them when they don’t. At MC, we go so far as to use them in our employee reviews. On the surface, your core values should be succinct and easy to remember, but they can be expanded to add clarity for your team members. Here’s a screenshot example of one of MakingChips’ core values from our employee review sheet so the team knows more specifically how they’re being evaluated by each value we’ve defined.
When you have a big dream, you have to be realistic about your own limitations and also those of the people who are going to help you get there. Jamming a square peg into a round hole will quickly turn the dream into a nightmare. On the other hand, a team full of people living your core values is a secret weapon for your brand that can elevate you beyond your competition.
There’s never been more opportunity for the entrepreneur in manufacturing. Keep dreaming, keep doing, be realistic, and always remember -- If you’re not making chips, you’re not making money!
Speaking of opportunity…
MakingChips is expanding and looking for passionate craftspeople willing to join the mission to equip and inspire the Metalworking Nation. If you are a content creator, digital marketer, or graphic designer in the Chicagoland area and have a passion for manufacturing and an entrepreneurial spirit, we’d love to hear from you. Visit: makingchips.com/careers to apply.