In manufacturing, small steps can be some of the most important actions to take. Our continuous improvement consultants regularly tout the value of daily incremental steps of improvement. Small actions might not seem to add much value right away, but over time, they can compound to yield significant results for a company.
The same is true of growth and strategic planning, as contributing writer Amanda Dyslin discovered during her interviews with Hutchinson, Minn.-based Popp Brothers Lumber for the upcoming issue of Enterprise Minnesota® magazine.
In the fall of 2018, Popp Brothers experienced an ownership transition when the six-employee company was purchased by Wes Bonine, who came from a corporate background, and who was feeling good after the first year. “Generations of the Popp family had run the company well for decades, finding a niche in the lumber industry making pallets and crates for customers within a 100-mile radius of the facility,” Amanda writes. Wes was looking forward to plans for expansion.
But as with many business owners, when the pandemic swept through the country Wes and his team were caught off guard and cash flow became a big concern. Initially, the company enjoyed an upsurge in business as companies built up their pallet inventories, but then everything tapered off as the nationwide shutdowns went into effect.
“Now it was time to put on my sales hat and find customers,” Wes said during an interview. “I went on the road and found two new customers during that time frame, and then thankfully everything started to pick back up again in the summer.”
As they navigated supply chain issues for common materials like nails and lumber, the company found themselves on firm ground and again Wes turned his eye to the future and the possibility of expansion.
“For advice,” Amanda writes, “late last year [Wes] recruited Steve Haarstad, an Enterprise Minnesota business growth consultant, to help develop a plan to strategically create efficiencies and expand. Under Haarstad’s guidance, Wes started defining the company’s purpose and core values and setting short- and long-term goals.”
“With these foundational items in place,” Wes said, “we can then develop evaluation criteria to help us make informed decisions that are aligned with our strategic direction, whether it’s new machines, adding resources or even moving to a new location.”
Wes also noted that his recent work with Steve has included creating short term, one-year goals that will help the company navigate a smart path through continued supply chain challenges and which tools and metrics to focus on for making important decisions moving forward.
“I’m finding a lot of value in going through that process, especially the core values,” Wes said. “It helps me identify the positive traits of our employees, distill them into a list of core values, and bring to life for our stakeholders what Popp Brothers Lumber is all about.”
You can read this story in the upcoming Fall 2022 edition of the magazine, due out August 29th.
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