EXPERT’S OPINION: Fill the Bench and Balance the Pyramid
The C.A. Lawton Co. periodically publishes input from professionals both within the foundry industry and outside the casting world. These Expert Opinions may be casting related, Continuous Improvement (CI / LEAN), Operational Excellence (Op-Ex), or just working through the challenges of today’s business environment. The goal is to present you with differing viewpoints of how our guests are adapting, adopting, and improving. Today’s expert is Bob Rupp. We welcome your input on any of these topics. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org for details. Thank you for reading!
Interview with: Bob Rupp
Bob Rupp is the Owner at Leadership Resources of Wisconsin, LLC, and was on The C.A. Lawton Co.’s board for ten years. In fact, he has been on 25 different boards of directors. Because of his diverse experience, Bob has discovered patterns of success and problems that cross all industries. His unique perspective makes him a valuable resource and a natural consultant.
Bob semi-retired in January 2019 and loves to spend time with his family on the ski slopes or the waters in Northern Wisconsin. Bob consults on succession planning, leadership coaching, strategic sales, and marketing. Bob says businesses “usually face the same seven or eight issues. If you work on those basics, you’ll be ok.” Bob named people, process, branding, and financial management as some of the common challenges he has seen. We asked him for his secrets to weather a dynamic marketplace. Here are some of his insights.
How can business leaders find success today?
Bob couldn’t stress enough how important it is to build successful networks. “Put yourself out there to interact with a wide variety of people. Insert yourself into a really vibrant network and learn from each of them.” When you spread yourself out, you see bigger pictures and patterns. You can adopt solutions from one area that applies unexpectedly to another.
How do you predict the future when everything is changing day-to-day?
When asked about the future, Bob is very flexible and laid back. He says, “I like to audible as I go. I try not to have rigid plans. I react to the situation as it appears but not take it at face value. We still need objectives and goals. Those are baselines but look at unfolding conditions, testing your assumptions, and then decide the best way to go from there.”
Bob’s experience has shown him that you only need to make small adjustments as long as you have solid foundations. He recommends that all manufacturers start with the basics of planning.
Foundations in Planning
- Know your brand. Protect your brand. Make sure it plays to your strengths. It must be distinctive, compelling, and relevant.
- Surround yourself with really great people who will elevate you and your organization.
- Have a solid financial base on which to operate, including a strong balance sheet. Nurture relationships with your financial resource providers, shareholders, and your supply chain.
- Continually reinvest in your business, community, and employees. Be socially responsible and build great partnerships.
Do you think this is a wise time to invest?
Bob, in his response, referenced Maslow’s hierarchy. “The needs at the base must be met first.” In business, this looks like the following.
The first tier is the mechanics of business to be competitive. Generate enough money and business to stay competitive. Provide an environment that fosters collaboration and innovation. Make sure you are continually listening to your customers and know what is relevant to them.
The second tier is to invest in people. Bob supports continuing education and a solid succession plan. “Look at how people can move up in the organization…help them to achieve their potential.”
The third is to find new people. Bob believes the best companies are always looking for talent. He calls it “filling the bench.” Bob keeps his talent at the ready. “Don’t hire when you have need. Hire when you spot talent and find a place for them.”
The fourth and final tier is to invest in the community. “Your community is reliant on you for a variety of things in terms of employment, financial support, and resources.” They should be able to count on prosperous organizations to give back in time, money, and education.
Bob says, if you can “devote 25% to each tier, you will be successful regardless of the rest of the world around you.”
Why focus on succession plans?
“People procrastinate; they think they’ll be doing what they’re doing forever. Successful organizations and people are on a journey. They know when what they are currently doing will not be as relevant.” Bob believes people should plan for the future, not just make changes out of fear or financial crisis. And they are comfortable knowing that they will never be 100% right. His suggestions align with his “filling the bench” philosophy. Bob says, “You must have new blood and know you won’t always be the right person for the job.”
What advice would you give to young professionals today?
Continuous improvement goes with constant awareness. “Get involved in building your network now. There are many professional peer associations, including mid-level marketing and manufacturing professionals groups. There are CEO and senior-level peer groups as well. Check with the chamber to see what is happening and join the right group for you. Plug into your alumni. There tends to be a stronger bond and instant connection with people from the same school. Check out not-for-profit organizations. Become a volunteer. Those networks are populated with well-connected people who want to serve.”