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One moldmaker's perspective on success

How does a company become the largest maker of injection molds in North America? Well, it doesn't happen overnight. In fact, for Husky Injection Molding Systems, Bolton, ON, which holds this title with more than $200 million in sales and 500 employees in the moldmaking area (distinct from hot runner and molding machine manufacture), it has been a journey of valuable lessons.

Originally the company tried to do what many moldmakers do-be all things to all people, explained Mike Urquhart, vp of service and sales for Husky, speaking at the American Mold Builders Assn. annual conference earlier this year. And, like many moldmakers that take on jobs in which they have no expertise, Husky sometimes lost money. That's when it decided to develop a niche: multicavity, PET preform tools.

"We decided to get out of doing what we didn't do well and do only what we do well and can make money on," Urquhart said.

Lessons Learned
Among the many lessons learned by Husky, several stand out as keys to the company's success:
1 Invest in R&D. Husky invests some $5 million annually in research and development to continually improve its molds and manufacturing techniques. "This makes it harder for competitors to outdo you," advised Urquhart. "Customers won't compare your old technology with a competitor's new technology."
2 Offer services the competition doesn't. Know your competition and what services they don't offer, and then move to fill that niche.
3 Take risks. Many mold shop owners say, "When I get big enough I'll . . ." Don't wait, Urquhart told the group. "Go ahead and do it and you'll soon get big enough."
4 Go global. "If you want to play internationally, you have to respond to what the international market wants," said Urquhart. Support local languages with people who speak them. Bills of material for shipping molds or components to a foreign country must be exact. What you say is in the box must be in the box or your box will sit in customs for weeks while a bureaucracy sorts it out.
5 Develop an expertise in financing. In addition to helping in dealing with U.S. customers, a strong financial knowledge benefits moldmakers globally. It's almost impossible to recover a mold in a foreign country once it's been taken offshore to a manufacturing plant, Urquhart noted.
6 Commit to on-time delivery. "Be honest with the customer about when you can deliver things like spare parts," said Urquhart. "If you need five days to get parts out, tell the customer it will be five days. Then deliver in five days."

Selling Right
Selling is essential to business growth and profitability, and the focus has to be on selling to those customers that are the right fit for the capabilities and expertise of the moldmaker. Urquhart noted that direct sales people usually work out better than sales representatives because they understand molds and the scope of the manufacturing process better than reps. They also tend to be more service oriented than reps, who are more sales oriented, he added.

Michael Smith, gm for Husky's western region, provided some entertaining insights on selling through the use of illusions. In addition to his position at Husky, Smith is a professional magician, performing regularly at Hollywood's Magic Castle. He also has compiled a collection of his favorite sayings in a book called 101 Principles of Effective Selling to provide inspiration and motivation for sales people.

Smith reminded the group that the first key to good selling is to understand the customer's mission statement, values, and competencies, and then work to complement those by supplying what the customer needs. Good selling is a result of enthusiasm, having a positive attitude, listening to what the customer wants, and then providing what the customer really needs which might actually be different from what it asks for, he explained.

He also recommended that moldmakers deal with people who have authority. And when you lose business, do an analysis of why that business was lost. Was it price? Delivery? Relationship? Something else? Track lost business and note any trends developing so that you can take steps to improve in those areas.

Always offset pricing objections with value, Smith added. "Never concede on price without getting something of value in return."

Contact information
Husky Injection Molding Systems Ltd.
Bolton, ON
Mike Urquhart
Phone: (905) 951-5000
Fax: (905) 951-5384
Web: www.husky.ca


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