I recently discovered a new trend in manufacturing.  Manufacturing is hiring ex-retail management to fill leadership positions.  A trend?  Well maybe not, but an odd coincidence at the least.

For those who follow my blog or know me personally, you are aware that I spent 31 years in retail management prior to accepting the position as Production VP at Ebsco Spring (On a side note, do any of you actually click on these links that one surprised you, didn’t it)  For those of you do not read my blogs or know me, now you know that I spent 31 years in retail management prior to accepting the Production VP position at Ebsco Spring (Did you check the link that time?)  Wait….  Where did you go?  You were supposed to hit the back button on the linked page, return back here to finishing reading the blog.  COME BACK!

The other day a former associate of mine, also an ex-retail manager from the same company (We worked for Walgreens) contacted me.  She had left her retail position and was now working for a machining company.  Two ex-retail managers, from the same company, now working in manufacturing, coincidence????  She told me she had joined the firm just as a “job” working in accounting and one thing led to another and she ended up working in production planning and scheduling.

Now knowing my friend, this did not happen as an accident.  Good retail managers have one thing in common, They like to take Charge.  I am sure my friend was diligently working on the task she was assigned and a mini “crisis” arose.  Experience kicked in and she probably inserted herself in the situation, barking out directions and owning the issue from start to end.  That’s what she does. That’s what leaders do.   Now a complete lack of manufacturing knowledge is a detriment but as I have said, management is the same anywhere and individual management skills, smartly applied will work in any field.  During a crisis, the normal reaction is to look for the life boats for everyone except the true leaders.  The true leader will step in and take charge.  They will make decisions rapidly and confidently take charge, directing everyone’s actions.  Unlike non-crisis management, they do not wait for every little detail and discuss alternatives with others.  They lead.  She did not tell me directly that this is what transpired but with my literary license I’m going to propose that to be the situation.

I was quite flattered that she had called on me for advice in her new role, and a little scared for her considering I have only been in manufacturing for 2 years and she is asking for my advice.  Actually I was able to offer her a great deal with our situations and backgrounds being so similar.  Our meeting forced me to reflect on my two years and identify what I felt was the most important things I had learned.

Todd’s Top Ten Things From The First Two Years

I’m excited!  I’ve never had my own top ten list.  I feel like David Letterman

  1.  Read Read and Read.  You do not need to be an expert in the field you manage but you had better know the basics; TQM, Lean, and yes Toyota.
  2. Build a TEAM.  Work to build cross department cooperation. Make sure everyone knows how much you care.
  3.  Remember you don’t know anything and push everything down. Work hard but push responsibility down.   If you have a good team, they do know everything, want the responsibility and you learn to count on them.
  4.  Build Trust.  Always be a person of your word and have the Team’s best interest at heart.  If you establish trust and caring, the Team will see to it you succeed.
  5.  Ask WHY WHY WHY  It’s the only way you will learn
  6.  Be a conductor.  You see the process from a mile high, conduct the departments and processes to work together
  7. Know where you want to go.  Make sure you understand the company and bosses goals and vision.  Know where they want the company to go
  8. Make a plan for getting there.  Everything should be tied to the goals and then MEASURE everything.  People want to know how they are doing.  You must know how you are doing.
  9. Remember your Boss does know what’s going on.  It’s okay to ask the boss.
  10. Don’t forget the #1 rule is not only for the team, it applies to you too  HAVE FUN.

So that’s my top ten. Not as funny as Letterman’s but it is mine.  We covered some of these in detail examples and touched on others.  I absolutely do not claim to be an expert (on anything for that matter) but I have learned a thing or two over the past two years.  I have actually learned enough that I told Paul (One of our senior managers that really does know everything) that I thought I was at the point that I knew just enough to be dangerous.  I think that’s true, so I am trying to keep that in mind and double-check before I speak.  Paul has looked over a couple of things for me lately and I am sure many more to come.

So is ex-retail management entering manufacturing a new trend?  I don’t think so.  Actually with what I have learned, I honestly believe retail could use a great deal from manufacturing. Don’t think I’m going back to tell them though.  I wish the best to my friend. I hope she has as much fun as I have.


About Ebsco Spring Company

Ebsco Spring Company manufactures precision springs. Ebsco Spring was established in 1941 in Tulsa Oklahoma. Ebsco Spring manufactures custom springs for a wide variety of industries including fluid power, oil and gas, aerospace, defense, medical and others.

2 responses »

  1. Tamara leland says:

    Very interesting blog. I too have a retail background, recently transplanted within the manufacturing environment. I enjoyed your insight and top 10.


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