Adjust to fit

January 1st, 2017 / By: / Editorial, News

During the MMPA’s annual gala in November, Specialty Fabrics Review magazine won six awards from the Minnesota Magazine & Publishing Association: Bronze Awards in Feature Design (“Textiles in space,” Feb. 2016), Regular Column (“Perspective”) and Overall Design; a Silver Award for Overall Excellence; and Gold for Best Feature Article (“Making the rounds,” Oct. 2015)—and for the best Single-Topic Issue, Special Section or Special Supplement, the Review’s 100th anniversary issue (Nov. 2015).

It’s a clunky category name, admittedly, but it’s that last award that is the most gratifying for me, since I spent months nose-down in the Review’s archives researching our history and comparing it to current industry trends. Even after 16 years here at IFAI, it was an education in itself, and it’s a perspective I bring each year to Expo as I look at what’s coming in our industry.

And to those insubstantial Millennials that ask what possible relevance 50-year-old information might have today, I respond: “If you don’t know where you’ve been, how do you know you’re going in the right direction?” (Then I pelt them with stale Twinkies.)

It’s that solid base of information, combined with job skills and the flexibility to adapt quickly, that gives fabricators an edge in uncertain economic times. We recently had a presidential election, of sorts, and uncertainty is certainly guaranteed. In the report on IFAI Expo 2016 in the December issue, I talked about how participants immerse themselves in four days of concentrated education, networking, new products, new markets, new relationships and new opportunities, and come away with a new business plan.

That business plan, however, must reflect reality, past and present, and must include contingency plans. At times it can seem as though the business world is composed of two kinds of people: those that do not have business plans, and those that will not deviate from their business plans even when there are compelling reasons, ranging from unexpected opportunity to impending disaster, to do so. I recently read about Steve Blank’s Lean LaunchPad®, a program that emphasizes experiential learning and immediate feedback as a way to engage students with real world entrepreneurship and teaches them to create their own business models. That seems to sum it up: only you can create your business plan.

You use your history, your employees, your current capabilities, your knowledge of your customers and your continuing professional education to lay out a course for the future—or perhaps several courses. Inarecentreadershipsurvey, Review readers were asked which of 24 types of products they manufacture, and, after the number one response (“covers”), the second-largest number of respondents checked “other.” That flexibility builds in economic resilience. Our business plan for the Review in 2017 is designed to help with that.

Oh, and that Silver for Overall Excellence? We was robbed.

Leave a Reply