Thinking About What’s Important

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It’s just after 6:00 am on a Friday morning and I have my temporary "camp" set up in a corner booth in my local Panera. It’s my favorite part of the day! Everything always seems clearer and easier to wrap my mind around early in the morning. The vision of what I call my "big picture" appears closer to a reality. However, like many of you, as the daily events kick in, the big picture quickly fades into the background. I try to use this time of the day to think about what’s important, not urgent. One of the most valuable resources you as a MHEDA member has to keep you focused on the "important" is the 2016 Critical Impact Factors. Your MHEDA Board spends a lot of time and effort analyzing many sources and having meaning discussions to generate this list. It contains many of the current factors which will most likely have an impact on your business. I’m reviewing the list this morning and thinking about the year ahead of us. As I do, I’m noticing the Panera is quickly filling up with more and more people. There is clearly a "buzz" throughout the crowd this morning. The tone is upbeat; people are joking around, and interacting with one another. I look around and there’s clearly a feeling of optimism and excitement. If this "sample group" is any indicator of how the rest of the consumers are feeling, I’m extremely optimistic. As you review the Critical Impact factors, you’ll notice many of the items focus on planning and preparing your business for the ever changing business landscape. Three of the main items our company is focusing on are technology, consolidation/mergers, and company culture. Critical Impact Factors 1, 2, 8, and 9 all include some form of technical awareness or implementation. In the good old days (3 years ago), they said technology was doubling every couple of years. This cycle continues to shrink every year. The advancements in both software and hardware have moved technology from something we used to use as a tool to something that’s part of our life. We can no longer live without (just lose your cell phone for a few hours and you’ll find out quickly). If it’s become this important in our daily lives, how can it not be just as important to our business’ success? Our members must embrace technology in their business (data mining, mobile technology, social media, web development, and office automation) to maintain their competitive advantage and bring their products and services to market at the speed and manner in which the customer demands. In my twenty plus years of being in the material handling business, I’ve never seen this level of consolidations through mergers and acquisitions. Impact Factors 5 and 6 address this critical shift in the material handling landscape. If you think this doesn’t impact you because you’re not actively taking part, you’re wrong. These significant shifts are changing the marketplace through the eyes of the manufacturer and our customers. You’ll need to have a solid understanding how these changes impact your business moving forward both at a manufacturer relationship level as well as the customer’s perception and buying patterns. As we focus on our businesses and planning for the coming year, we must also remember those who may not be as fortunate. We have a responsibility as business leaders to make sure our corporate culture embraces "giving back" or "paying it forward". Our industry has so many incredible examples. Whether it was Howard Bernstein creating opportunities for the next material handling generation by establishing a scholarship fund or Steve Johnson with Nashville Wire reaching deep into his community helping a child with cancer achieve his dreams, we should all be making a conscious effort to embrace this into our culture. The 2016 MHEDA convention in Washington DC focuses on this by building the programs around the theme "Passion with Purpose." The younger people entering our workforce and joining our companies will be impacting our cultures. We must be willing to morph our culture in a way that embraces their communication styles, flexible work hours, and social/community involvement they require. Panera is starting to clear out and the business day is about to kick off so I will wrap it up. I’m excited about the opportunities that lie ahead of us in our companies, association, employees, families, and friends. I want to thank you for allowing me to lead the association for 2016. I’m deeply humbled and honored to follow those that have come before me and will do everything to try and make them proud.