Like many companies, we strive to stay closely connected with our customers. But no matter how many seminars, user groups and conferences we host and attend, nothing beats going on site and just talking to your customer. And this doesn’t mean going out to sell them something or meeting with them in the context of your products or services. No, this is just about talking to them. Because no matter what you think you know from your reports, KPIs and analytics, nothing beats getting out in the field, for that good ol’ face-to-face with your customer… on their turf. There you get real Perspective. You get to see and hear both sides: what’s working/not working. And while in our current macro-economic environment it’s easy to assume that almost all businesses are down (and in many cases downsizing), the reality is that isn’t the case.
Last week, when I met with our customer Ace Clearwater (who builds complex formed and welded assemblies for the aerospace and power generation industries), King Lum, who is Director of Progress (this is already an indication of why ACE is rapidly growing in a down market: they have someone specifically focused and titled around innovation and progress: forward progress), told me about their challenge to find skilled workers to meet their growth. He explained that while certainly some sectors of their business have been impacted due to program cuts (for example of certain military contracts) by the new administration, these had more than been replaced by commercial A&D contracts coming back onshore (particularly from China), as well as the significantly increased demand in the energy and power generation sectors.
What was fascinating was that despite record unemployment (in California) and continued concerns about the national labor market as reported today in The ADP National Employment Report, ACE cannot find enough skilled employees. In fact, ACE’s success in the market and their challenge to find skilled workers to keep up with their growth was the highlight of a CNBC report last month. King told me that they were very strong in recruiting, training and developing engineers from both local and national universities. It was finding experienced employees that can do the kind of high quality and precision work that has differentiated ACE from its competitors that has been the challenge. He did agree that with so much manufacturing moving overseas in the past several years that much of the experience and hands-on knowledge had been lost, but it seems that with the restructuring going on at GM/Chrysler and with economic impact on 401Ks, savings and pensions changing retirement plans, that there should be a lot of experience coming available. After all, who wouldn’t want to work for an innovative company that is growing based on its quality and on-time delivery, is committed to continuous improvement, and is focused on government, A&D and the energy/power sector?
Oh, did I mention, you get to live in So Cal?
Posted by John Hiraoka, Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer, Epicor