Out of Office: Time Away From the Cubicle
It has been 4 months since I started making my trips to rural Washington thanks to the Target Rural Enterprise Grant. It is through this grant that I am able to offer so many services to small, rural Washington state companies either at greatly reduced costs or completely for free.
During those four months, I have visited more than 50 companies within a wide variety of industries, in 10 different counties, on both sides of the Cascades. And though the companies represent different dreams, different products, and different people, I am finding there are some common threads when it comes to the management of small, rural business. This is a summary of my discussions with these small companies, and my learning about their situations and challenges… so far.
First, let’s talk about what makes these companies amazing and successful.
PEOPLE. The people within the organizations, from the owners and C-level to the employees, without fail, the people of these companies have shown their kindness to a stranger with an accent that knocked on their doors. I felt very welcomed anytime I crossed under the lintel and into their homes, their offices – which for these small, rural businesses is often one and the same.
PRODUCTS. I am amazed about the awesome manufactured goods I am finding in my visits. One of the reasons that I love this blog is that it gives me the opportunity to showcase some of these incredible products that often don’t, for a variety of reasons, get the same share of voice. Buy local, buy products from our beautiful state. Support our communities’ economies.
COMMUNITY. Above all else, this is the word that defines most of the businesses that I visit. Community approach and community sense. They are really involved in creating a community, developing a sense of family within the company, a place where employees find support and assistance in addition to a paycheck. These companies also want to create and to grow the local economy. The products they are offering are not just a means to an end, they are a gift. You can feel the sense of family and community when you talk with them.
Now, lets talk about areas of opportunities for these companies. Most of them have been in business for a long time (15 years or more), and they have a hard time breaking the ceiling that will allow them grow exponentially. I found four main factors, among others, that can help to understand their challenges to get to that stage.
1. Even though a company has an amazing product, the management team could do better with some help in the marketing area. They have a hard time reaching the right client for the company’s product or difficulty defining the right client. Usually, the management team is excellent in one-on-one selling, they know their product and a client will appreciate it. However, this limits the selling opportunities. Impact Washington can help the company with training in basic marketing skills. We can also help to create a Marketing Plan, which is a basic document of a business. If the company needs and wants, we can create a full marketing project reviewing and helping in marketing as a whole.
2. If a company doesn’t know who the right client is, then it is difficult to write and establish the value proposition. Again, when it is a one-on-one interaction, the management team and employees of the company can articulate a discourse of a Value Proposition. Translating that interaction to a written statement that can be used in marketing material and a support for marketing efforts can be a tricky task. Impact Washington has the expertise to assist with this duty and succeed. With this invaluable statement, we can integrate a comprehensive communication plan to spread the word about the company, its values, and its products.
3. Almost every time I asked the top management of a company about the strategic view or plans for the company, they had difficulties verbalizing them in a succinct and structured manner – even if they knew exactly what direction they wanted to take their company in. This must be improved. C-Level owners should write down their long time goals, and form plans to achieve these goals. A Strategic Plan Definition exercise is a complex and critical responsibility. If it is not done correctly, it turns into a nice book with great ideas that lays dormant on the shelf, gathering dust, It never transforms from ideas into reality. Impact Washington Account Executives and Resource Partners will help to overcome all obstacles and successfully create, define, and implement a Strategic Plan according with the needs of the company. And this Strategic Plan is one that won’t gather dust! It will work for a company for years to come and be worth the time spent putting it together – because it will become a reality!
4. The “Silver Tsunami” is threatening countless business and organizations all around the country. And rural Washington is not an exception. On the contrary, the problem is more acute, since young people are emigrating from rural communities to cities. Finding a skilled workforce is becoming a major concern to all companies I visited in the past four months.
Here is where our joint effort between the Workforce Training and Education Coordinating Board with Mike Brennan as Grant Manager, HighLine College, and Impact Washington to discover the training and educational needs comes into play. Our survey is designed to find these skills and gain knowledge in how we can apply resources to help to overcome this situation. For an immediate remedy, we can deliver training in specifics areas as Lean Manufacturing, ISO 9001 and other Quality Management Systems, Food Safety, Leadership Development, among others.
These challenges make my job even more important and enjoyable. It is no small task that I have been assigned, but it is one that is well-worth the effort. Helping small companies with no cost, basic consulting services it is a highly rewarding work. Anytime I hear “thank you” from these companies, it boosts my motivation to continue doing my job in rural Washington.
And if I needed any further motivation, I just go back to the awesome things about these small companies. The people, the products, the communities. They may be small companies, but these are not small things.
Miguel is an international bilingual senior manager, with experience in implementation and maintenance of Quality Management Systems and process improvement, project management, customer and vendor relations, in nationwide companies, different environments and industries. He loves new challenges and is eager to learn about new processes. He can analyze any process and apply his skills and knowledge to transform it into a standardized, efficient, and lean process. Miguel has lived in Spain, Mexico, and Colorado, just to name a few places. He is fluent in both English and Spanish. Out of Office is a collection of his weekly musings, travels, and experiences in Washington State.
He welcomes comments, questions, and requests for free business valuations. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.