Thinking big

Last updated on May 13th, 2019 at 02:28 pm

From the beginning, it was an interesting project. Company Small had hired me to assist in their efforts to become a supplier for Company Big. Small had been asked to bid on the supply of some machine parts because they were already doing business with one of Big’s subsidiaries and had established an outstanding record.
To be price-competitive on the overall package, Small found an overseas source to manufacture some of the parts quoted. However, the principals at Small knew that the chance to be selected by Big for this project was slim.
Getting the order from Big would mean more than doubling their annual turnover, almost overnight. And Big was not in the habit of rolling the dice with "little guys."
Days passed quickly as I worked with Small in the preparation of their quote and their presentation for Big’s Commercial and Technical Review. Small would have one hour to make a positive impression and convince Big that Small should be given serious consideration.
Detailed information and sample parts from the overseas company had to be flown in, and a wide array of information had to be pulled together in a format required by Big.
This meant dealing with the challenges of time zones, and cultural and language barriers. However, by the evening before the presentation was due, Small had prepared a respectable presentation. Bright and early the next morning, all of us representing Small’s interests were off to Big’s headquarters. It was on our arrival there that things really started to get interesting.
As we entered Big’s receiving room, it became clear that the commercial and technical review meetings to take place that day were numerous. The room was filled with people milling and going through multiple security screenings.
It was also clear that people from many countries were participating in the meetings. Asia, the Far East, Eastern Europe and the Americas all had principals of companies making presentations that day. Clearly, Big had made some important strategic decisions concerning buying parts.
Our meeting was in a large conference room with a few of Big’s major buyers present and several others present via a conference telephone line. After a brief presentation of our proposal, the chief buyer began to speak. She captured our attention when she addressed the challenges she and the other buyers had been given by Big’s top management. The initiative: Significantly reduce manufacturing costs by establishing sourcing relationships throughout the world to produce 50% of Big’s parts. Assure that Big has strong roots in a variety of countries, including the United States. Do this by the end of 2005.
From that moment on, the meeting took a surprising turn. The buyers were interested in knowing about Small’s overseas manufacturing alliances and the criteria Small used to select qualified suppliers. They seemed to be genuinely interested in knowing what Small knew about doing business overseas. They recognized that the future of Big was to be determined by the breath and depth of a new partner alliance group being established through the process that Small was involved. Big was determined to identify established and well-managed firms in a variety of countries to help them grow to meet their future needs.
Small is now waiting to hear from Big about a return visit and further analysis of their capabilities. Big has already called them on more than one occasion to clarify details of their proposal. While it is unclear if Small will be selected for the project, it is clear that Small is being given serious consideration and will be given serious consideration for future projects.
The world is changing at a pace never before experienced. Astute business owners throughout the world are preparing their companies to be competitive in a marketplace involving alliances throughout the world. Company Small’s reputation for quality work, competitive pricing and on-time delivery, together with its willingness to take a chance and "think big" is that which might make all the difference, not only for the dreams of Small’s owners, but for those of its workforce as well.
Richard Hellan is president of Hellan Associates, an executive coaching firm headquartered in Milwaukee. Hellan also is a managing partner of Strategic Alliance India, a sourcing and alliance development company in Milwaukee.
He can be reached at (414) 540-0160.
May 28, 2004 Small Business Times, Milwaukee, WI

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