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Subject on Success: Stanmech’s Paul Subject Shares his Ideas for Success

I sit on the working group of the Golden Horseshoe Manufacturing Network with Paul Subject of Stanmech. What immediately impressed me about him was his solid, common sense approach (and you and I both know common sense isn’t all that common). Paul has successfully owned and managed several businesses and is currently a partner in STANMECH. His company has a niche business helping manufacturing companies solve their productivity and quality problems around improving their processes. They do this by using high velocity air and the precise application of heat.

Paul provided me with his insights below.

1. What is the number one thing you are doing right now to foster hope in your organization?

Communication. If anything we are over-communicating with the staff on an everyday basis and cheering our successes.

2. Where are you still investing?

We are still investing in people. We are bringing back a co-op student we had last year that will move into a full time position in January 2010. We are always looking to add professional, technical sales people.

3. Where are you cutting back?

We’ve cut back on controllable direct expenses that we don’t believe will impact our sales. As an example for our printing packages we have put together larger volumes of the same amount for less cost. We’ve also delayed discretionary spending on travel where we can. We’ve asked each one of our staff members to look at their individual areas to see what cost savings they can come up with. You’d be surprised at what they come up with.

4. What three things do you think are most important during tough economic times?

  • Stick to your plan.

  • Look for new market opportunities

  • Expand while others are contracting

We started to see the downturn last July and by October we had our plan in place as to how we were going to attack the market and as a result, our sales haven’t suffered.

5. What would be your number one advice to business leaders?

Be positive, be proactive and conserve your cash. Cash is king right now. That being said, the only way we are going to pull out of this recession is by spending money effectively. If you sit back, a competitor is going to find a way to take your customers from you. Fear is the biggest problem.

6. According to the Conference Board of Canada less than 25% of companies have a strategy and plan in this slow economy. A) First of all do you have a strategy and plan?

Yes. We do

Why do you think so few companies do?

Everyone is so busy trying to keep their head above water that they are not keeping their eyes on their strategy, places to grow, and keeping their costs under control. It doesn’t surprise me that 75% don’t have a plan. My partner and I are planning our next round of new hires over the next 5 years. It’s a great time to be hiring. There are a lot of great people out there that are concerned that their current organization might not make it through this.

7. How do you feel government could help improve the current economic state?

I don’t believe in reducing taxes. Government needs to up investments in technology through organizations like OCE, IRAP, and Yves Landry Foundation. We need to grow not contract. The key is to stimulate technological development within the province and country. The jobs that we lose in the auto industry will be offset by new jobs in technology. This all happens at the small and medium business level. This requires a long-term strategic plan on how to build those markets, not just a 4-year plan until the next election. What has carried this province in the past – primarily steel and manufacturing will not take us into the future. We need to get into food, pharmaceutical, technology and energy. This means we need to foster development and entrepreneurialism in order to replace those aging, obsolete businesses. I see huge opportunities in the energy sector – wind, solar, nuclear.

8. Where do you feel the economy will be a year from now?

Just coming off the bottom.

9. What do you think Canadian businesses need to do to thrive in a commoditized global market?

I think we need to deliver products to the market quicker, better, faster, cheaper. There needs to be a renewed focus on exploiting technological change with our resource base and a replacement of aging businesses from the old economy with new economy high tech businesses developed and fostered at the applied research level going on currently in our universities. If we do that, we will be able to replace the 3,000 and 4,000 people companies with a lot of 50 people companies that can pivot and change quickly to match market changes. This will put us in a very good global position that takes a long-term view. There needs to be leadership at all government levels to make this happen.

Thanks Paul for providing us with “not so common-common sense” ideas to grow our businesses.

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