Expect the best, plan for the worst

Dave Dull is president and CEO of Allis-Roller LLC, a contract manufacturer of precision machined parts and complex welded assemblies. He has been president of four manufacturing companies since 1990, ranging in size from 40 employees and $12 million in annual sales to 400 employees and $80 million in annual sales. Dull says he has always been in a “grow or die” environment.

“While launching various major projects over the years, I believe one simple slogan has served me well: Expect the best, plan for the worst and capitalize on whatever comes.

“Expect the best: Create a dynamic plan for success and communicate it to your team with all the excitement and enthusiasm you can muster. Ask the group every week about how they are doing to meet their individual goals related to the plan and then dream a little about how great it will be when you reach the big company goal.

“Plan for the worst: This is sometimes confusing because it seems in direct conflict with ‘expect the best.’ But like any good coach in sports, if the opposition does not run the offensive or defensive strategy you practiced against, then you either adjust or are defeated. The same is true in business. You must be constantly thinking three to six months ahead and looking for signs that the reality you anticipated is still in place.

“Capitalize on whatever comes: We have all seen this happen in companies, I’m sure. Basically, the dog may not eat the dog food. The customer is showing all the signs that the product is not what they want, but your company is determined to prove to them that it is in their best interests to want the new, innovative product. There is almost always a redeeming value in any effort, but you must be willing to accept that you cannot change the forces of nature or your customers. The ability to consistently capitalize on the considerable time and resources that are expended on large projects is another huge key to success. Many times the knowledge learned can be put to good use to design and build the next big thing.” n

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