Category: Marketing Strategy

How I Built the Most Profitable Industrial Container Management Company in America (Part 1 of 3)

“Why do you cut the ends off the roast before putting it in the oven?” Rebecca asked her mother. “I don’t know,” replied her mom. “That’s just how we’ve always done it.”

That answer wasn’t good enough for Rebecca, so she went to her grandmother and asked the same question. Her discovery: Grandma’s pan was too small to fit the whole roast—which was not an issue with the pans at Rebecca’s house.

How often do we carry on with business practices that are less than optimal just because that’s “how it’s always been done”? We’re all guilty of this at some level.

A Larger Proverbial PanIndustrial Site

About 20 years ago, I had the opportunity to take over a failing business. It was in a tightly held, private industry sector dominated by a handful of large corporations and decades-old, family-owned enterprises. I was not welcomed in as a newcomer, to say the least. And I was young—a punk kid of just 30 years old who garnered zero respect in the container management community. Yet I was convinced I could dominate my marketplace. I just needed to look at this industry differently than others had over the prior 60 years or so the industry, in its current form, had existed.

Key #1: Vision

“That’s How We’ve Always Done It” could have been the theme song for this industry. There was talk of innovation at the national conventions, but all discussions seemed to lead back to a place of complacency and comfort. I knew there were better ways. Using my lack of knowledge of the industry as a point of strength, I pictured how I believed things could be done better.

My vision consisted of 3 key elements:

1. Dominate my service region by providing a superior product, on time, and always as promised. (This was not the norm in this industry.) When I saw this vision, it consisted of my company being the preferred provider in the region. Ultimately, it resulted in running two national competitors out of business in the region. Not bad.

2. Get my entire team to own their roles. You can’t build a business powerhouse without a fully dedicated team. And I’m not just talking about the management team. I’m talking about every team member. I envisioned a business in which everyone clearly understood and owned his or her role. This was a far cry from where the company was. (More on this in Part 2 of this series.)

3. Do away with “business as usual” by innovating in our management practices, production processes, product lines, and allied services we could add to our offerings. Nothing was passively accepted as “the way we do it” as we moved forward. Everything was questioned. Consistent tweaks were made, and results measured. In the end, we trimmed fat, increased output significantly, nearly eliminated defects, and brought a new practice and service to the industry that would prove to disrupt the status quo in a way I could not have imagined—even with my aggressive vision. (In Part 3 of this series, I’ll share how my innovations made my company seven times more profitable than the industry average, and the mob threat that accompanied my success. Stay tuned!)

In Lewis Carroll’s “Alice in Wonderland,” the following exchange between Alice and the Cheshire Cat speaks volumes as to the power of vision:

Alice: “Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”
Cheshire Cat: “That depends a good deal on where you want to get to.”
Alice: “I don’t much care where –”
Cheshire Cat: “Then it doesn’t matter which way you go.”

Vision matters. Without it, our efforts cannot be maximized in reaching our desired outcome.

In my next installment of this series, I’ll share how I got my team on the same page, and skyrocketed productivity, output, sales, and on-time delivery of near-zero-defect products.


Note: My use of the term “most profitable” in the title of this piece refers to the profits I achieved in this company as a percentage of revenues. I can make this claim because the industry association to which we belonged published industry average numbers for various benchmarks (and every company in the industry in the United States belonged to the association). The highest claims of profit margins of which I was aware were considerably lower than ours—our profits being some seven times the industry average.  I doubt my company was the most profitable in terms of dollars, however, as some of our competitors produced more product than we did, although at much lower profit margins.

3 Benefits to Pausing for a Marketing Review and Strategic Planning Session

How did this year turn out for you and your business? Did your marketing accomplish what you wanted it to?

December and January are the perfect time Team Meeting_320to pause, review, and plan for the upcoming year. Here are three benefits to taking time to engage in a marketing review and strategic planning event…

  1. Improve Existing Marketing Activities

We can always improve on our results, even if they are favorable. In fact, we have to, or our efforts lose their edge and effectiveness.Refocus, Refine, andRedirect are constant watchwords that keep us fresh and viable in today’s noisy marketplace.

  1. Discontinue Ineffective Marketing Activities

Altogether too often, I see less-than-optimal (or completely ineffective) marketing activities remain on companies’ action lists. Why? In some cases, it’s fear that discontinuing that activity may prove detrimental because there was some unknown benefit lurking under the surface (I see this a lot with the “black box” of digital marketing). In other situations, it’s a lack of awareness of what is working and could replace these failing marketing efforts.

There are certainly other reasons as well. Bottom line: If it isn’t working,reallocate the time and money being poorly invested into something that will (or, at least, may) outperform the dead marketing activity. Which brings us to our third benefit…

  1. Identify and Implement New Marketing Opportunities

Marketing vehicles are changing at an ever-increasing rate. While theprinciples, and even over-arching strategies, may remain the same, the way we carry those out tactically may change regularly.

Unfortunately, far too many would-be marketing gurus choose to focus on these tactical vehicles and tools as if they are the essence of marketing. They are not. And chasing the latest fad in marketing tools can prove costly, and maybe even deadly, to your company.

Properly engaged, however, most wisely employed marketing tools, vehicles, and activities have their place in a successful marketing picture. So, how do we know what to do, when to do it, and how the results should look? That’s where our marketing team comes in.

If you have an established team, you have people who understand the principles that reside at the foundation of marketing. Others are specialists in areas of marketing that impact your business. And you have a leader with vision and an intimate knowledge of marketing directing those efforts.

Share the three benefits above with your team so their review and planning activities yield these results. Their awareness of these three desirable benefits will help them see how to improve, what to cut out, and where new opportunities exist as they apply their various areas of marketing expertise in the review and planning process for your company.

If you don’t have a marketing team, I can show you how to fix that. And it doesn’t have to cost a lot, either. Watch for my upcoming installment of “Marketing Demystified” on building and leading an effective marketing team to find out how. (Not getting my training notifications? Join my community at

Stay tuned… I have much more to share that will help you and your team find the greatest possible marketing success in the New Year!

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