Friday, February 20, 2009

I'm saving the flamingos

Out in the rolling hills of Pennsylvania there are many manufacturing plants that are rollicking along as if there were no constant drumbeat of doom and gloom on TV. I visited two of them this week and it was a pleasant surprise. Both companies have added to their capacity and product diversity by buying up equipment from competitors who have given up. Both are looking for more and more creative ways to cut costs while they expand their offerings. Both are thriving.

One of these plants produces all sorts of gardening and lawn-related items; plant containers, hardware for window boxes, and numerous other things. But what really struck me were the flamingos. That's right, those neon pink birds you've seen perched in people's yards are alive and well. Those flamingos just might pull the company right through the recession and help keep profit rolling in.

The owner bought the injection molding equipment from a company that had shuttered its doors. He was confident that this was one item that he would not have to compete with China to produce cheaply in the U.S. You see, those flamingos are full of air, sort of like a hard plastic balloon. That makes them very bulky to ship in those giant containers you see on ships. You can't get enough in the container to make it profitable.

Now the owner is working on a new jig to be able to dip about 10 of those birds in the paint to get those cute little black and yellow beaks looking just right -- again saving money and time -- no more hand painting.

So what's my point? Pretty simple. As a friend of mine says, when everyone else is zigging, it's time for you to zag.

That's what the framers of the U.S. Constitution did in 1787 when they decided to save the Republic. Remember, at that time foreclosures were destroying farms and families, inflation was destroying every one's financial security, foreign countries were poised for invasion, the government was impotent...there were even pirates attacking our shipping off the cost of Africa.

Sound familiar? 222 years ago, our leaders were facing many of the same challenges as today. They 55 men who made up the Constitutional Convention had decided it was time to zag. Many so-called leaders in the 13 states didn't want to lose their political power and change the disastrous status quo. Even Patrick Henry refused to participate -- he said he smelled a rat!

So George Washington, James Madison, and others met, formulated a new Constitution, shepherded it through the ratification process, and then served in the new government. They took a bold new direction, they innovated, they refused to participate in the dyer predictions of the imminent downfall of America.

So, I'm following their lead and that of that innovative factory owner in Pennsylvania. How about you? What are you doing to zag and thrive in this economic climate?

I said to the factory owner, "I guess the flamingos will save you." "No," he said, "I'm saving the flamingos!"

(c)Rebecca Staton-Reinstein

Read more about this innovative plant owner in my new book, Conventional Wisdom: How Today's Leaders Plan, Perform, and Progress Like the Founding Fathers. It's available now in a special pre-publication offer.

No comments: