5 Tips to Grow Revenue for Made-to-Order ShopsJust like so many other industries with faceted, multi-approach business models, the manufacturing industry has many types of players in the game. From a plant with 60 machining centers to a 7-person, custom-build job shop, each business-type faces their own challenges and require creative solutions to issues of growth, management and customer demand to name just a few. Having colleagues and friends in the business who have custom, made-to-order shops, I wanted to share 5 things that I’ve seen these owners do to not only keep revenue coming in, but grow it measurably in just a few years’ time.

1. The customer is first.

Now, by this, I don’t mean they are always right. I mean, let’s be real here. They are coming to you to solve a problem they can’t so it’s fair to say you need to exercise your knowledge and educate them on solutions. But, each customer is different and comes to you with a unique set of needs. Your elevator pitch of what your company excels at is probably not the right approach. Listen to them. Truly try to understand their business needs and problems. Put their business above your own for just one conversation and you’ll discover this provides a unique insight into your customer’s (and their customer’s) real pain points.

2. Move on if it’s not a good fit.

On the other side of #1, if you’ve had that honest conversation and discovered you’re not the right shop to solve their issue, don’t take the job anyway. We’ve all had those moments where we can admit to ourselves it was more work than it’s worth. And since, in business, what it’s worth equates to revenue, don’t be afraid to reassign your resources and talents and find a customer that’s worth it. Everyone will be happier, more productive with the potential for more work (and more revenue) in the future with the right client.

3. Don’t forget about the 80/20 rule.

You’re familiar with this, right? 80% of your revenue comes from 20% of your customers. So why not kick it up a notch on your service, support, and customer care to those VIPs? Taking a bit more time with them and offering some extra value creates lasting partnerships that usually sustain business for many years. Of course, you don’t want to ignore the other accounts as they still help pay the bills and with the right projects and care could potentially become part of that 20%.

4. Develop your talent.

When your focus is on revenue growth, it can be easy to overlook the people that make your shop run, that keep your books straight and keep parts and customers coming in. Your engineers, machinists, sales and management staff need to continually grow their knowledge base. And you must encourage and provide opportunities and time to do that. Allowing for continued growth and development provides a stage on which your team actively contributes to the company’s advancement. Recognize when you have good people and create an environment that allows them to develop with the company. Qualified, loyal, and happy employees equate to low turnover which equates to more revenue for your business. But remember that it’s all a two-way street.

5. Know your business well and your competitor’s business better.

You should obviously know your business’ strengths and weaknesses better than anyone but don’t forget about keeping up with what your competitors are doing. When certain markets or the economy in general become volatile, you need to be ready to take advantage of opportunities before your competition. Understand that when some markets have a slowdown, new markets might just be emerging. Doing a bit of research to know what might be on the horizon can place your shop in just the right spot to snatch that next job. And keep the mindset that new customers are not a hindrance but something your whole team should embrace with gusto! While they may pose new challenges, your leadership should understand positive professionalism starts at the top.


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