Developing and growing a viable manufacturing business hinges on a range of variables, from investment capital to market logistics. However, one element that is sometimes overlooked is networking, and there are assorted agencies and organizations that offer advice and support for your specific manufacturing enterprise.
Typical entrepreneurial resources include industry publications, seminars, and “industry days” hosted by government agencies and private organizations. Participation in these somewhat broad learning experiences can be valuable, but you will most likely get the greatest ROI in knowledge and professionalism by joining and participating in organizations focused on your industry and market. Not only will you gain insight from others who have “been there, done that,” you will meet professionals who can offer support in such areas as legal counsel, accounting, and banking. Through industry organizations, you can build a network geared toward your business.
Some of the institutions/organizations that can help with network-building:
Small Business Administration –- For 60 years, the SBA has not only provided loans and loan guarantees, but also advice and support to entrepreneurs starting and managing businesses. District offices nationwide offer counseling, mentoring, and training.
American Small Manufacturers Coalition — The ASMC typically works with companies employing fewer than 500 workers. It offers programs to help companies solve problems and implement new technologies.
The Association for Manufacturing Excellence — AME sponsors workshops, seminars, plant tours, and industry-leading conferences. The organization promotes networking with like-minded peers.
Association of Women in the Metal Industries — This organization offers programs and activities structured to enhance members’ skills and experience, address challenges confronting the metal industries, increase the number of women in these industries, and promote career growth.
Manufacturing Extension Partnership — This is a nationwide network of not-for-profit centers in nearly 350 locations serving small and medium-sized manufacturers. MEP employs a staff of more than 1,300 technical experts who serve as business advisors, focused on solving manufacturers’ challenges and identifying opportunities for growth.
National Association of Manufacturers — NAM is the nation’s largest industrial trade association. As an advocacy group, its stated mission in to inform legislators, government leaders and the media about issues of importance to American manufacturers.
Additional opportunities for network-building can be found through organizations that relate to your specific industry. Examples of these are:
The Aluminum Association — Based in Arlington, Va., this trade association offers memberships to the producers of primary aluminum, recyclers, and manufacturers of semi-fabricated aluminum products, as well as suppliers to the industry. The association is an important source of information about issues and standards.
Biotechnology Industry Association — BIO represents more than 1,000 biotechnology companies, academic institutions, state biotechnology centers, and related organizations in all states and 33 other nations. BIO is active in the areas of funding emerging companies, protecting intellectual property, and shaping public policy.
Grocery Manufacturers of America — This association of food, beverage, and consumer product enterprises serves 140 member companies. It serves as a source of information for members and advocates for policies important to the industry.
As an entrepreneur in the world of manufacturing you need to get out there and mix it up at industry organization meetings and government events. You can learn about new opportunities and the key processes your business needs to ensure that you are culturally aligned with your primary customers.
The value of your network should be measured by the strategic alliances you form and the support that keeps you on the cutting edge of your industry.
If you feel that you are meeting these measures as you develop your networks, then you are well on your way to success in the manufacturing marketplace.
American Express OPEN Advisor on Procurement
For the past 18 years, Doña Storey has played an active role advocating for small business in procurement and impacting public policy at both state and national levels. As the American Express OPEN Advisor on Procurement, Dona lends her expertise to help small business navigate the procurement maze and find success.