Felipe Villarreal
CEO
Alian Plastics

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Achieving ‘Success’ With the ‘4S’s’ Formula

By Felipe Villarreal | Tue, 06/14/2022 - 15:00

Given the challenges companies worldwide are facing today, where the only certainty we have is that nothing is certain, the “S” formula is more important than ever to remain profitable.

As Jack Welch aptly put it, "The three 3S’s of winning in business are Speed, Simplicity, and Self-confidence."

In my last three articles, I wrote about how I see these three S’s in today’s business environment. I will add another “S” now: Sacrifices, which must be made in today’s reality to take your company to the next level. If you add this fourth “S,” you then get a fifth “S:”

Speed + Simplicity + Self-Confidence + Sacrifices = Success

This is the formula of the four “S’s” that give us as a result the fifth “S” that all look for in business. 

As you read these lines, I think you would agree with me that most of us began this year on a positive note, thinking that the 3S’s would be ready and easy to apply in our entrepreneurial and day-to-day business environment. We thought that after going through the tough COVID-19 pandemic and disrupted supply chains in 2021, all seemed to be looking better for 2022. But it has not turned out as we expected. We are still living in such a complex environment, from a health and business perspective. To this, we can also now add an unfortunate war between two nations. 

Given the many variables that are disturbing our business focus, we must step back and remember that how you respond to our current problems will determine your business's success or failure.

Each type of business faces its own unique challenges and knowing that other companies are going through the same thing can make it easier to deal with. To face the business requirements in today’s environment means going the extra mile and making sacrifices. In our case, the resins from all over the world that are necessary for the manufacturing of plastic injection are hard to get and also expensive to transport from other continents. And that is if you are lucky enough to find the ships for transport because the ports are congested to the point of being stopped and it is hard to get these ships out to the ocean.

I bet that those who work in supply chain and logistics would agree 100 percent on what  the feeling is now. Here is a first example of sacrifice. These people do make a sacrifice. How? For one, they are tracking shipments at maybe 1 a.m., 2 a.m., 3 a.m. or maybe 24 hours a day. They do sacrifice personal time, family time and sleep. Without these sacrifices, companies wouldn’t get the raw material needed to produce the components that make up a car, an air conditioner, or a toy (that will make a child happy), just to mention a few.

The fun doesn’t end here. Once we get the raw material, the production guys face their own challenges, such as having enough labor to operate, which is another sacrifice: employees having to work overtime to cover absenteeism or turnover.  Then, the industrial engineering and lean manufacturing team are working to simplify processes and make everything easier.

Then, there is a problem with a machine and the maintenance guys need to put in an extra effort to solve it, also sacrificing their days and nights.

Then, a quality problem arises and a quality team fast tracks an investigation into the root cause to keep production running and ship inventory to customers.

Then, the product is ready but there is no container ship available to ship and here come the shipping guys, finding transportation 24/7.

Then an incident occurs and here comes HR and EHS to take care of our employees.

Then, there are the invoices on hold and the finances needed to solve the issue of receiving payments from our customers, so we can pay our suppliers and our employees.

Then, customers need to move production from somewhere else to Mexico and the sales team needs to fast track the delivery RFQs so they are on time, day or night.

As a result, nearshoring is stronger than ever. I am seeing its impact on different countries, including Spain, Israel, Turkey, China, the US and Germany. We need to take advantage of these new business opportunities and if necessary, sacrifice our personal time and deliver as fast as possible.

Then there is the head of the organization receiving input from all areas and ensuring speed, simplicity and self-confidence to help the team make decisions at any time of the week and on weekends.

Does any of this sound familiar? Anyone?

The message I am sending here is that we need to work with a high level of urgency, putting Speed in our communications and deliverables to our customers, finding Simplicity in our processes, having a high level of Self-confidence, giving the extra mile and making Sacrifices. The result will be Success for our customers, our suppliers, and our organizations, marking a differentiation in the market.

In our case at Alian Plastics, when developing a new project for the plastic injection industry, tooling design, development and its manufacture take months, either for medium or large tonnage machines. Development of a new project is so critical and precise that for the entire duration, all parties need to act with engineering intelligence and speed and there is always the need for a person with enormous capacity to think in terms of simplicity and with self-confidence, knowing that sacrifices will be needed to get things done on time and at the best quality and cost.

With our current political and macroeconomic landscape, including the business and health environments, it is not easy to combine all these “S’s” but with a focus on teamwork, walking toward the same common goal, and having proper communication can solve any problem.

I can tell you those who combine the four “S’s” to obtain the fifth demonstrate attractive characteristics: they are able to inspire and build trust and confidence in others. These types of people in business have a great imagination.

I began my professional career at General Electric, which is a great company that allowed me to work in different environments and cultures in Mexico, the US and Puerto Rico. It introduced me to a quote that I use with my team on a daily basis: “Imagination at Work.”

As Albert Einstein aptly put it, “Imagination is more important than knowledge.”

People who have a high sense of imagination at work are very likely to work with these four “S’s” in every possible moment. We spend so much time working and making an effort to make things happen and to do that well, that I truly believe being able to have fun and deliver the best of yourself through these four “S’s” will give you a huge sense of satisfaction.

I invite you to emphasize the “S” formula with a definite determination. As Tony Robbins said: “The path to success is to take massive, determined action.”

Photo by:   Felipe Villarreal