Navigating The Long Road Ahead
Randy Wolken, President & CEO

Let’s not kid ourselves; when it comes to thriving in a competitive environment, the road ahead for manufacturers is sure to be difficult and full of unexpected turns. However, specific steps can make the journey more comfortable and predictable. Let me share what I’ve learned.

First, you should check in with your teams. We all have a go-to group we go through our work and home lives with. Thank God, or the journey would be a lot less enjoyable. Check-in with them. How are they doing? What could you do to help them? It might be time to bandage a few wounds sustained during COVID. Your team might require some time off. They might need someone to talk with to process what has occurred and what may still be occurring. Whatever is required, try to find a way to assist them. And, let them help you. Gathering up your team for the journey forward is always step one for me. The team must come first.

Second, you will need a plan. As I like to say, “If you don’t have a desired destination, any road will take you there.” I have seen great people wander around in circles because they don’t have a plan. Take the time to develop a plan, even if it is only for the next five minutes or five days. At least you will know what is next. In my experience, you can create a multi-year plan. Don’t expect it to be the same years from now. It needs to change just like the world around you. The best thing about planning is the communication, goal setting, and inspiration that comes from the plan. It’s not the plan itself. The minute you start executing it, everything begins to change. Plan, do, and then adapt the strategy.

Third, find a way to enjoy the journey. As hard as it is, you and your team need to have hope, and some fun. Inspiration and energy are some of the most valuable contributions to any team. When I was in the U.S. Army, we did many long, complex, and repetitive tasks. By most measures, not much fun. However, we found a way to cheer each other up, assist others in the work, and still be silly at times. Some of the best relationships of my life came from those experiences. Why? We found a way to both support each other and have some fun. The journey is way too hard not to enjoy at least some of it. Take the time to sit back, applaud your successes, and laugh with your teammates. It will give you some good memories – and some great friends.

Finally, please don’t take it all too seriously. Sure, it is serious and meaningful. However, no one is perfect. My mistakes are probably the only genuinely unique things I have ever done. I also rarely forget my mistakes, which means I don’t want to repeat them. When you find a true expert, it means they have made more mistakes than you have. Learn from them. Learn from yourself. Be lighter on yourself and others. Life is hard enough as it is.

I am biased, but making great products is downright amazing. What I have missed most during this pandemic is visiting and touring our members’ fantastic facilities. I am always amazed by what I see, the pride of the teams who do it, and the joy I experience while I am there. Why? Making great products and delivering excellent services make the world a better place.

Thank you for making our community and world a better place. I hope to see you in person soon.