The State of Manufacturing® Secret Sauce
Focus groups help decode the results of the statewide survey of manufacturers
By Lynn Shelton
Enterprise Minnesota's Vice President of Marketing
(Lynn Shelton, vice president of marketing, Enterprise Minnesota)
In 2009, Enterprise Minnesota retained one of America’s top public opinion pollsters to ask executives from Minnesota’s small and medium-sized manufacturing companies about the performance of their businesses over the past year and to speculate about their prospects in the coming year.
The result was the State of Manufacturing®, an annual survey conducted for 11 consecutive years by Rob Autry, founder of Meeting Street Research, whose firm has conducted more than 2,000 surveys over 25 years. The project was conceived in part to reveal to manufacturers how others in their industry viewed their circumstances. But just as important, the project was designed to show community leaders the kinds of things manufacturers contribute to their communities, as well as the obstacles they face. And, especially important, the State of Manufacturing shows policymakers and regulators how their actions can directly impact the important job-creating and job-retaining industry.
But the secret sauce behind this unique-in-the-nation regional survey is likely the comprehensive statewide schedule of focus groups that Enterprise Minnesota organizes to supplement the data.
Surveys provide objective data: “X number of manufacturers intend to raise employee compensation, etc.,” which is essential. But the focus groups provide the subjective background. Why will they pay more? What enables them to do so? What factors keep them from being more generous? A political consultant friend once told me that the subjective material is by far the most actionable part of survey research. The survey describes the problems, he said, the focus group tells you what to do about them.
We gain a lot of insights from the focus groups. Over the past 10 years, we have convened 144 such focus groups in locations from Thief River Falls to Winona. Here is the 2019 State of Manufacturing - Focus Group Schedule.
“(The focus groups) provide a pretty good forum for local businesses to get together and share their views,” says Randy Reinke, president/CEO of Custom Products of Litchfield, who has hosted several State of Manufacturing focus groups. “I just wish more of my manufacturing peers would take the time to come and share their opinions. Everything (among them) is usually so transactional, as it should be, but we never really sit back and essentially put our feet up and share notes.”
We love The State of Manufacturing and we’re more than pleased that so many manufacturing executives find value in it, too. A couple of the focus groups, which begin next week, are already over-registered with participants. If you would like to participate, please let us know!
Patrick Powers, president of the accounting firm Olsen Thielen and a platinum sponsor of the State of Manufacturing, says: “Idea sharing is what drew us to be a part of it. You hear some really novel ideas about how people in this resilient industry are rising to meet their challenges.” What’s more, he says, participants don’t temper their comments because they might be talking in front of competitors. “They think, what can I learn about how others have addressed their issues. And maybe I have some ideas as well to help others.”
Set the Right Strategy in Motion
Wednesday, March 27, 2019
8:30 a.m. - 11:00 a.m.
Lakes Region EMS
40245 Fletcher Ave
North Branch, MN 55056
What to Expect
Every manufacturing enterprise, no matter what size, needs the right strategy to be competitive and to grow.
Steve Haarstad, one of Enterprise Minnesota’s consulting experts, will moderate a panel of top manufacturing executives who will share personal experiences of how their companies benefited from revisiting their strategy and revenue growth plans.
You will learn:
- How a thoughtful, process-driven approach increases the likelihood of success and improves outcomes.
- The value of including your employees in the process of creating development opportunities and generating ideas.
- A strategic approach creates clarity and accelerates your ability to achieve goals.
- Tips on how to effectively execute your strategy.
Click here to register