Maestro PR Blog: Good Companies and Bad Mistakes. (This may mean you.)

A Mil-Aero company is rumored to be ‘on the block’ as I write this. It’s one of those mid-sized companies – about $500 million – that seem to have a sound product portfolio, excellent reliability and quality, a solid customer base, and overall strong corporate culture.  Now, all of that hangs in the balance.  Set aside all the trauma of job loss and economic impact.  Acquisitions threaten every aspect of the corporation, not just the characteristics listed above.

Customers in the Mil-Aero space, like any other tech sector, require stable suppliers: companies that can be counted on to deliver the right product at the right time.  When a company hits the $500 million dollar mark, we expect that they have jumped the hurdles of fiscal solvency, management problems, technical innovation that threaten the life of smaller companies. We expect at the half-billion-dollar range, the company is on a continuing upward revenue trend.

Acquisitions typically kill a brand.  Fab managers usually sniff and shrug their shoulders over branding. They view it as an advertising exercise, a waste of company funds compared to a new piece of shiny manufacturing equipment (even though the cost of branding a company is pocket change compared to equipment prices that could bale some states and small nations out of debt.)

Regardless of whether you are a fab manager, an engineer designing analog circuitry, or running numbers in the finance department, it’s your company’s brand that labels your company as a winner, a reliable source, a good place to work, a product to buy or cross off the vendor list. 

Brands get their reputation from the same people who will only buy Miracle Whip instead of mayonnaise, drive a German car instead of a Japanese or American one, fly a certain airline.  You get the picture.

Regardless of our job titles and responsibilities, we are all consumers when we shop. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a cell phone or a semiconductor or devices that must prove 99.9999% uptime in rugged environments.

As every acquisition rumor arises, I wonder. . .

  1. Does the executive management lack the skills and/or smarts to grow the company?
  2. Has the company failed to identify, understand, or keep pace with trends, demands?
  3. Is the technology obsolete and the ability to innovate gone, lost, or just never existed?
  4. Is the management team just tired? Got what they wanted in terms of salaries and looking for early retirement?
  5. Is being a successful mid-sized company with a dedicated niche following and customer base just not good enough? Ie, Does the management team want more revenue than the company can generate?
  6. Is the marketing effort a failure in its ability to compete, find a niche, build an alluring brand image, outsmart the competition?

Although it’s not stated, in every instance above, failure comes down to the executive management team, the CEO,  the Board of Directors, and the major investors.  Sometimes the failure is too much homogeneity in the thinking of the executive team, the fear of thinking differently, saying that an idea is bad, wrong, or plain stupid. Sometimes emotion outweighs logic. Easy answers are faster to implement than hard ones that will take time.  Sometimes, wringing the company for revenues that translate into personal salaries is enough.

Thankfully, there are companies that want to be financially successful. When considering the qualities of those companies that I admire, I find the best ones are those who want to build an empire. No, not just a billion-dollar empire.  An empire that leads in their competitive sector, market, industry. One that ensures investors and employees get an excellent return on their investments of money (investors) and time (employees). I like companies that are good corporate citizens and realize that they owe their communities and stakeholders more than taxes.  Companies that give to charities, support community efforts and events; take a ‘green’ approach to their business practices. The leaders – and winners – are companies that are positive corporate citizens and thrive, regardless of their size.

Here’s an analogy from consumer marketing.  Central Dairy in Jefferson City, Missouri, has an ice cream shop (610 Madison Street) off the main route, away from the State capitol building, various state agency buildings and countless law firms.  After touring the city, my friends took a detour to go to Central Dairy’s ice cream shop. When we entered, every booth was taken and there was a solid line of customers ordering every flavor of ice cream from vanilla to Muddy River.   From the time we entered until we left, the place stayed crowded and the ice cream rolled out two scoops at a time.

Is the Central Dairy the largest company in Missouri? I don’t know. It doesn’t matter. What I do know is that it is successful.  They sell a quality product that attracts customers to that part of town to buy it.  The www.visitjeffersoncity.com site even lists it as a destination. It gets a 4.5 – 5-star rating on various sites.  

Technology and business-to-business marketers can learn a lot from consumer marketing.  Small businesses may seem unworthy of your notice but when they are successful there’s a reason for it. It’s smart to find out what that reason is, because it’s usually so basic you can emulate it in any industry.

~Barbara Kalkis, Maestro Marketing & Public Relations, March 2014