What resources do you use to analyze the marketplace and market trends for strategic planning purposes?
– Chad Moros, Vice President Sales, Ohio Industrial Equipment (Columbus, OH)
Duncan Murphy: We follow a close version of the MHEDA Planning Wheel, which can be found on the MHEDA website. Begin with removing your rose-colored glasses and take a close look at what your firm accomplished in the past 12 months and the issues that still remain. List them. From the industry, MHIA provides a rolling industry forecast throughout the year that is very valuable. MHEDA also publishes Critical Impact Factors developed by your board this time every year. Your primary suppliers can do the same. Just ask, if they haven’t already shared their view of the world. Your local bank can provide you with an economic picture of your local marketplace. This brings up one important distinction. Rely on data from your microcosm and not the national data so you are planning for what will be happening in your backyard. The macro stuff is important, as trends will appear with which you must deal, but their immediate importance can be suspect. Ask your customers and your employees. Surveys are everywhere today, and if properly presented, you will get responses that will be invaluable. Casual conversations work too. Customers will recognize you as not just another RFPer if you ask them about their challenges and those of their customers. Finally, all the information in the world is worthless unless you do something with it.
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Scott Hennie: We use several sources, including information provided by MHEDA. We gather infor- mation throughout the year and are constantly analyzing what is happening both locally, regionally and nationwide. Some of the resources include: bank economic forecasts, MHIA economic forecasts, MHEDA-NET discussions, Best Practice Group discussions, MHEDA Critical Impact Factors, Local Chamber of Commerce discussions, interviews with cust-omers and an annual customer loyalty survey. All of these resources provide information that we sort through, analyze, massage and come up with our “best guess” as to what is going to happen in the upcoming term.
Bill Ryan: There are many sources to which you can turn to begin to compile the information you seek to build your strategic goals. One of them is your MHEDA U site where you can pull down the Critical Impact Factors work the Board has done on their drivers for 2012. These factors will get you and your team thinking about how these things will impact your market and your customers. You can also utilize other MHEDA resources, such as the Economic Drivers presentations that guest speakers like Robert Russell delivered to the Southeast Dealers Lunch and Learn. Contact your local Chamber of Commerce and your bank and ask them to share their data and forecasts with you. Go online to government sites for the same information: population trends, housing starts, freight traffic, commodity price forecasts for oil, steel, etc. After you have all of your data, go back and do a little historical research on your own company: Where have you been, how did you do during the downturn, and how have you fared since business started to come back?
Most important, ask yourself and your team what are the values, the mission and the goals of your company? How important is safety? How important is employee morale? How much attention do you pay to customer satisfaction and how can you measure it? How important is market share, and do you measure it well? What are your financial goals, and how do you translate them across the various departments of your company? After you have determined which goals are the most important, you can look to MHEDA again to help provide you with the best practices and benchmarking standards that you can aspire to achieve. I would caution you, however, especially if this is a new process for your company, not to take on too many goals or become too ambitious with the ones you select. And whatever goals you choose, make sure that everyone in the organization understands them and how their jobs impact the success and the attainment of these goals. Finally, communicate, communicate and communicate the progress toward these goals each and every month!
Scott Lee: “Seeking the answer” is the answer. As your investigation for useful data expands, a picture begins to form in regard to the information most important to your company. You’ll start filtering out poor sources of information and placing more value in others. The most important thing to remember is to seek the information both externally (existing customers, associations, your MHEDA-NET team and vendors) and internally (employees and customer data). We gather this data using simple, short surveys focused on specific areas. Generating hard data to support your plan can be difficult and time-consuming. To start, focus on trends in our industry as well as the industries of your customers. This will focus your attention, then you can drill down into specific areas. Always start with MHIA and MHEDA. They are great resources.
PARTICIPATING BOARD MEMBERS
Steve Fawcett: There are multiple sources I use to analyze the market-place to help me make my company forecast each year. There is not one specific source because marketplaces are always fluid in change. I analyze each of my competitors to see if any changes have taken place in their organizations. This information is obtained from our salesmen, sub-contractors, manufacturers’ represe-ntatives, our customers. We discuss our competitors at least two sales meetings per year. The annual Industry Forecast in The MHEDA Journal is a great source within our industry.
I read the newspapers on the state of the area’s economy, new customers moving in or out or expanding, in an attempt to find new opportunities. In addition, we ask customers what products and services we can supply to make us more valuable to them.
MHEDA-NET gives us a window into our material handling industry’s health. Our industry is having a growth year as projected last year in various MHEDA articles. However, if the guys on your conference call are suffering (all my MHEDA-NET members were suffering in 2009), then you most likely can expect to suffer as well. This year, all MHEDA-NET members, with varying degrees of improvement, showed growth. I listen carefully on each MHEDA-NET call to see what is working with other member companies and to see if I can successfully apply their programs at Bode Equipment Company.
I read economic projections from UBS and Merrill Lynch because I have accounts with them. All major brokerage houses publish quarterly reports and sometimes with regional information. A healthy area economy helps with company growth.
The MHEDA Annual Convention always has a quality economist presenting. We all want to know what the future bears, and I always listen carefully. I also listen with the understanding that economists aren’t always accurate or specific to my geographic area. Events like 9/11 can change everything, and no one sees them coming. They are just another indicator window I use to try to peer into the future.
If you have a question for the Spring 2012 issue, please contact Rebecca Hein at MHEDA by phone at 847-680-3500, by fax at 847-362-6989 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Distributors who submit questions and the responding Board members have agreed to have their names published. If you would like to ask the Board a question and have the participating directors respond directly and confidentially to you, please indicate your preference for privacy when you submit your question.