Years ago my father-in-law retired with the sale of a flexible packaging company that he and two partners had built. They manufactured and printed the plastic bags for frozen vegetables, and diapers, etc. Or so I thought until I talked to him the other day.
We were talking about creating a business that has a value beyond the individuals running it. Something you can sell at the end of the day–something with a payoff. That’s when he told me what his flexible packaging business really was:
“We became a printing company that specialized in small orders.”
While other packaging companies may have concentrated on filling larger and larger orders, his company developed a process to change over the printing press five times faster than the competition providing them the flexibility to do smaller runs for customers and turn a real profit. Downtime for his competition’s press could exceed 12 hours while switching from one template to another, which made filling small orders cost prohibitive and something they were simply not interested in. My father-in-law, however, saw the opportunity in being able to fill those orders, and shifted his company’s focus. This switch from just another plastics company to a printing company not only gave the company a competitive advantage by opening a whole new market, but also gave it value as an entity far beyond its partners. And this value is what allowed them to sell the company and retire.
This thinking is certainly not industry specific, although he knew the industry inside and out. Looking for that competitive advantage in any industry, and thinking outside the box to shift your company’s focus to capitalize on that advantage will never go out of style, and will always provide intrinsic value for you and your organization.