Author’s note: while this post is geared towards the Printed Circuit Board industry, most of the ideas are applicable to other industries.
There has for some time now been an ever growing gap in annual revenue numbers between the large international board shops and the smaller local board shops. While most of the smaller North American shops are in the under $50 million-a-year revenue range, the big guys are now hovering around the billion-dollar a year range. There are a few exceptions for sure, but this is accurate for the most part.
This means that the smaller guys have to use all of the tools at their disposal to make sure they stay in the game, and grow their customer base and annual revenue to stay ahead of those billion-dollar steamrollers.
And the cold hard fact is that the smaller guys are on their own. They have no one to look out for them, no one at all. Over the years, IPC has made it abundantly clear that they have a vast amount of interest in the big guys, but very little interest in the smaller shops. So those of us working for or with the smaller companies have to stand on our own; we have to stand tall with a never-failing, never-faltering will to do whatever it takes to succeed in this market.
So, with that in mind, here are 10 advantages a small board shop has vs. the big guys. These advantages can help you successfully sell against the big international PCB fabricators:
- You are small strong and flexible. You can offer things that the big guys are too big to offer. You can offer your flexibility as one advantage that your customer gains by working with you. You can change dates easily, update revs quickly, and work directly with the customers’ engineering teams, just to name just a few of these advantages.
- You can be much easier to deal with. Being small means having less bureaucracy. You can work with the customer and provide him whatever he wants without having to track down your boss’s boss to see if you can change your policy.
- Related to that, if you are a smaller company, your owner is in the house instead of being out on the golf course with some Wall Street fat cats. Your owner is right there in the building and he can work directly with the customer at any time.
- Your boss and everyone else in management, for that matter, knows how to spell “PCB.” Chances are he grew up in the business and knows what he is talking about. He can talk PCB with your customers. In most cases, but not all, the big guys can’t make that claim.
- If you are a smaller company, your customer can rest assured that he knows exactly where his parts are being built. But in a big company, the customer may make a deal with a division in Sheboygan thinking this is where his product is being built, only to find out his boards are being built in Shanghai. Yes, it happens…it happens all the time.
- If you are a smaller shop, you can offer personal assistance to your customers’ engineers and designers. You can work on their new products together, developing them by working side-by-side. Try that with a huge global company.
- Customers who work with smaller companies don’t have to worry about being too small. A $50,000-a-year customer is a big deal to a $10 million board shop, but is actually so meaningless to a billion-dollar company that they have been known to chastise their salespeople for getting an order from that customer.
- If you are a smaller shop, you tend to treat your customers with the respect that all customers are due when they invest their hard earned dollars in your services. Do you really think that happens with these huge companies? Go back and read number 7.
- And if you are a smaller shop, you care about your craft, the craft of building PCBs. You’re trying to build the very best product that money can buy. You are PCB people in the PCB business.
- The huge companies are in the business of Wall Street, the stock market, and growth. They care, by legal obligation, more about their shareholders than they do about their customers. If that is not a distinct advantage for you as a smaller company, then nothing is!
Yes, there is one more. (Always under promise and over deliver.)
11. For some reason, which I still do not understand, most of your customers hate dealing with PCB companies who are bigger than they are. I think this might be based on the big companies’ arrogance.
So, there is hope for you smaller guys. As you can see there are a lot of reason why customers should prefer to work with you rather than those big guys. So keep at it, and stand proud, because you are still the hope and the future of the PCB industry.
It’s only common sense.