by Bob Zaruta, President/CEO, NWIRC

Through our direct and deep interactions with manufacturing companies over the past several months, we have found a range of activity due to the pandemic. At one end of the spectrum, 18% of them are in a survival stage – struggling but keeping their lights on and at the other end, 22% are in a thrive stage experiencing impressive sales growth. In between are the 60% in a recovery stage at varying levels with more than half of these companies experiencing substantial or noticeable decreases in sales revenues. Regardless of where your company might be across the spectrum, congratulations! You and your dedicated employees are weathering the storm. Your machines are running and you’re fulfilling orders and meeting customer expectations just as diligent as before. You put protocols in place for the safety and well-being of your team. Together, you’ve solved problems, improved processes, and innovated to benefit your operations and that of your customers. The unexpected wave did not break you, but rather rallied the troops and enabled you to showcase the resiliency that is baked into the DNA of you and your team. Keeping in the true fashion of manufacturing, you pulled from the obstacles and setbacks with lessons learned and new perspectives. You are poised and positioned for growth. You know what’s working well and acknowledge areas that need attention and actions that need to be taken. Because of all this, not only will the lights in your plant remain on, they will increase in numbers and illuminate brighter.

Now (not to rush things), bring on 2021! As we look forward to a new year, even though still over a month away, we know it’s not going to be easy. The unexpected will always challenge and test us. There will always be setbacks and sacrifices. We also know there is no time like the present. With all this in mind, I’d like to send along inspiration now for a more prosperous future. Last Sunday, I listened to Father John at Sts. Peter and Paul Byzantine Catholic Church in Erie as he deciphered the gospel reading which he always does so well. He spoke about the most important part of a tree – its roots – the part of the tree we don’t see. He pointed out that roots seek nourishment and dig in deeper to get as much water and minerals as possible. He went on to note that trees that grow in harsh and very windy climates, live and grow because of their roots. He stressed that we don’t need to see the roots, making the spiritual connection for his parishioners. As I sat down to write this article, I reflected on this and thought about the employees of a company as being the roots of a business in order to live, grow, and prosper. Although, in this case we can see the roots but may not always see the opportunity to provide the nourishment for them to grow, to dig in deeper, and to personally and collectively become stronger. This is what enables an organization to flourish – no matter the climate or what the winds or waves of change may bring. As you look to squeeze out what you can from 2020, and enhance your opportunities in 2021, may I suggest putting a plan in place for employee development? In the coming weeks and over the holidays, before the New Year enters, tailor a plan specific for your company and employees’ needs to ultimately strengthen the roots of your business.