Testing Todd: Turning Into the Wind

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The last three years have been a challenge. If it wasn’t the “Rona,” aka COVID-19, it was the circus of shenanigans back in Washington, neither of which have been pleasant. So, it’s not hard to figure out why we are all in this current situation. Maybe we’re not quite yet in a recession but rather a stagnation.

Many businesses took the “duck and cover” approach, slowly downsizing their operations many times over to weather the storm. The winds of change have come, but many are still like the character Wilson, looking over “Tool Time” Tim’s fence to see what he will do. That is keeping us stalled out. It’s time to go back to our sheds and sharpen the saw.

Now, what do I mean by this? Things may never again be the same as they were in 2019. How we did things, our market share, and our strategies are likely no longer valid. Safe to say, we must rebuild. First, we must examine our core disciplines. Are those previous targets still valid? Is the niche we thought we had still there? Likely, but not as we remember. Don’t hold on to something that no longer works. Are your teams smaller? Is that a problem? Not necessarily. These are your most important employees; they have weathered the hardship along with you. It’s time to rethink the business.

Maybe it’s time to redefine your niche. Strong skills come to a team that stands behind strong leadership and forward thinking. Sometimes this requires stepping back and restarting from a historical checkpoint, back when production and output were strong. Maybe that older approach isn’t the way you were doing things when the 2020 storms hit, but that was still a time of success and solid growth. Well, today’s consumers, like military and aerospace, are still out there. If the market went soft for you, there is a reason. Maybe it’s just too expensive for you to compete in that market and your margins can’t handle it.

Here is the hard decision part: Should you stay with the losing venture, or let it go so you can redefine your core niche and go 110% at it? None of us can do all things all the time. If you’re trying to do what Tim does on the table saw with a handheld skill saw, you won’t succeed.

Our problem right now is still the “wait and see” attitude: “Let’s watch and see what happens.” Well? We’ve been doing that for three years now. Supply chains are recovering, gas prices are falling, and customer demand is not going to diminish.

Consumers are frustrated as products are failing to maintain inventory levels while demand remains high. However, the PCB industry has softened, with overall square footage down in many sectors, including consumer electronics. We need to get back to building. We have strong teams out there and manufacturers large and small that just need to sharpen the saw, rethink their core niche, and redeploy to do whatever they decide is best for them in this re-emerging market. Create that iron core discipline and execute it. But remember: Don’t bite off more than you can provide. Create that quality product, deliver it on time, and provide your customers with the kind of service that will make them a lifetime partner.

Once your core disciplines are solid and your tools are sharp again, turn that carrier into the wind and face the battle head on. Stop waiting to see what Tim is going to do on the other side of the fence—you’ve got your own map to guide you to the next horizon.

This column originally appeared in the January 2023 issue of PCB007 Magazine.


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