11/26/2007 | 3 MINUTE READ

Change Is Inevitable, So Make The Most Of It

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More than 10 years have passed, and here I am, back where my career began. At the end of 1994, I left Gardner Publications' Modern Machine Shop magazine, where I had spent 7 years getting to know the machine tool industry, to set off on what I had hoped would be bigger and better things. I found it hard to walk away, but the lure of exciting new ventures was too tempting, so I bade farewell to the business relationships I had worked so hard to foster.

In my transition from editor to marketer and back again (now as associate editor of Production Machining), I learned about the inevitability of change. The way to survive the changes, in life and in business, is not necessarily to know what is going to happen, but instead to be able to adapt when it does. I expected the relationships I had built in my early days to fade, but because they were built on friendship, trust and commitment, they were easily rejuvenated when I returned. It is now almost as if I had never left.

It's these types of relationships that I recently had the opportunity to discuss with Kurt Gleich, president of The G&G Manufacturing Company. Kurt's father and a friend of his founded the company in 1946, originally as a machinery rebuilding business. The company faced its first major change in 1948, when the U.S. government released from stockpile an overabundance of war machines, and the used machinery market took a dive. The company adjusted, though, and decided to set up a screw machine shop, putting into production the machines they had rebuilt.

G&G's first big customer was a good friend of the partners. It wasn't unusual at that time for friends to do business on a regular basis and for business relationships to develop into close friendships. However, then, just like today, it was impossible to foresee what was down the road, and these relationships were not always lasting.

Before long, the elder Mr. Gleich ran into issues with his partner. They parted ways, with Mr. Gleich retaining the business independently. Other business relationships that G&G had maintained for years became all too hasty to jump ship in favor of the "next great opportunity." Yet, G&G didn't let such changes bring down the business.

The company continued to make the necessary adjustments to survive. They continued to find new customers, growing the business and not resting on the comfort of the customers they already had.

Today, Kurt, like his father, continues to push the philosophy through his organization that survival means adaptability. He says, "Shops must figure out how to be flexible and expand the base of services available. They must understand what is pushing their customers' customers—the nature of the business. Discover what companies are doing to advance, and then grow with the companies."

While G&G continues to grow with its existing customers, they also pick up new ones. To combat the lack of personal relationships in business today, they find avenues for re-establishing the buyer/seller relationship for mutual benefit. According to Kurt, "Everything is about dollars and cents and squeezing the last dime, so unless a company can demonstrate that they offer a benefit in cost savings, nobody will be willing to do business with them."

In planning for change and its inevitability, businesses must realize that customers will migrate, but the opportunity is always there to win the business back. In order to do this, though, Kurt says, "A business cannot just sit back and say, 'I need to find the next customer to buy into what we've always done.' It must be willing to meet the customers halfway. Invest some in its own business—some in market presence while still developing other technologies to at least try to cultivate newer relationships with new personalities to the business. A company must adapt its personality to that of the new breed of customers it needs to deal with. The other option is to close shop."

It's easy for me to relate my own experiences to the changes that G&G has faced and the strategies they've used to meet the accompanying challenges. As my career progressed, I accepted change, and I made moving forward part of my own planning strategy. Regardless of any inconvenience or discomfort brought by change, I made the necessary adjustments and continued on. Because my relationships were established on good will and dedication, the reward has come full-circle.