The Economic Glass is Half Full
Now is the Time to Invest in Technology
by Steve Cork
Recent news of the sharply lower 1.6 percent economic growth in the third quarter—the lowest since the first quarter of 2003—has many people “spinning” that business is bound to be just as bad as the numbers purport.
Conversely, U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson says he still feels good about the economy. The glass is really “half full,” he insists. “Even when we look at the housing sector, we’re finding that there’s been a decrease in employment and building new houses that’s roughly been offset by the employment gains in building factories and office buildings,” commented Paulson. But the housing sector is our backyard. So we hunker down and prepare to weather the storm.
The time is ripe to invest in our businesses, especially in the areas of equipment and technology. Savvy executives will use this current lull as an opportunity to make their company processes more efficient, laying the groundwork for both achieving consistent profitability during lean times, and developing company readiness for when the housing market surges again. And I don’t doubt it will surge again. Employment gains outside the building sector suggest that even more people will be looking for new homes next year. The direct improvements you make during this current downturn will enable you to emerge as a healthier, stronger company.
As you look to improve your company’s efficiencies and market potential, new software is perhaps the best place to start. Deploying software takes time to do properly and is best done while you have the time to invest. In addition, business processes are usually overhauled and improved as new software is being introduced. This is because software is binary, which means many rudimentary questions are asked—and long standing traditions challenged—as you begin mapping your distinct processes to the software. Remember, the goal and purpose of most good technology is to automate company “best practices.” To effectively do so, these practices must first be identified and mutually understood. Six Sigma thinking advocates ask the question “why” five times in order to get to the root issue of a problem. The right technology team will apply this principle, challenging your processes many times before and during deployment. This ultimately leads your business experts down the path of re-thinking and improving efficiencies, as well as understanding and implementing new best practices.
In the case of quoting and ordering, a.k.a. guided selling technology, many selling best practices should be built into the solution itself. The best among these solutions will be the one who has worked with most leaders in the door and window industry. It is important to research the top ten door and window companies and find out what software they use. Leaders choose leaders. Consider that if a software company is supporting your industry’s leaders, it has incorporated these leading company best practices into their product. And you become the benefactor. Additionally, if a software company has been successful working with leaders, they have also integrated effectively with numerous back-end systems, including most top-tier ERP systems. This means that when you’re ready to concentrate on definitive solutions for your business, you’ll have the finest integration team to partner with—the one with the right expertise to ask the right questions, helping improve your operational efficiencies and fine tune your best practices.
During this brief economic slowdown I hope you view the glass as half full, and use the challenges ahead as an opportunity to make your business the best that it can be. You’ll end up much stronger and more profitable because of it.
Steve Cork is vice president of building products at Edgenet Inc. He can be reached at
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