Specialty Fabrics Review March 2020 - 46

B

uilding a business takes more than a good idea and an interested
customer base. It takes planning, investment, a skilled workforce-
and a healthy dose of industry knowledge. Got a plan?
Rick Ludolph, founder and president of boutique specialty fabrics
consulting firm Productive Solutions LLC in Marietta, Ga., has spent
more than 40 years in the industry-and has worked across the supply chain
to develop a comprehensive understanding of which things specialty fabrics
businesses need to consider to grow and prosper. "In 2019, we had a strong
economy overall, certainly in comparison to previous years, and that's given
people opportunities for growth," he says. "But seizing those opportunities isn't
easy. In fact, it's become more difficult. There's nothing anymore that's not highly
competitive, and the segments we work in are full of challenges and disruption."
Challenging as it may be, Ludolph says the time is ripe for growth-
for those willing to take the following steps.

TRADE SHOWS
AS A GROWTH TOOL
Trade shows are one way to drive innovation and stay
connected to the supply chain. "There's nothing like a
trade show from a perspective of pressing the flesh," says
Rick Ludolph, president of consulting firm Productive
Solutions LLC. "How many other places can you go and
see as many people in one day?"
Steven Perry, senior vice president of Darlington
Fabrics, advises walking show floors with clients to
see what interests them. "It's not uncommon for us to
walk a trade show with our customers, looking at new
capabilities," he says. "I would say that our customers
also come educated and prepared. They want to make
sure their supply chain is exploring all options."
Ludolph agrees that making the most of trade shows
requires preparation. "It's no longer a case of just setting
up your tent and people will come to see you," Ludolph
says. "That model doesn't work. The model today is
marketing up front to attract people into your booth.
What you did before the show even starts is probably
the most valuable thing you're going to do.
"You have to be on the visitors' agenda."

1

WRITE A GROWTH PLAN

French journalist Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
once said: "A goal without a plan is just a wish."
Most business owners wish their businesses
would grow; but it's the ones who make a plan and follow
it up with time and money who have a better shot of
making that wish come true.
"The development of a fact-based plan is the first
step in the journey," says Edward J. Silva, vice president
of business development, E Squared Technical Textiles,
Hillside, N.J. "But you need to make sure you're not basing
your decision on false information-it's a death sentence if
you do."
To avoid basing your decisions on false information,
Ludolph advises putting the plan in writing-and then
asking probing questions to narrow goals, determine if
they're feasible and identify what will need to happen
to achieve those goals. "People are so challenged for
time these days that they don't always take the time to
draft a thorough plan. But if you haven't really thought
it through, it's an area where you can run off in a lot of
different directions," he adds.
Silva suggests including people in the planning process
who will challenge the process, the data and the thinking.
"If your strategy meetings are short and quiet, then you
have the wrong people in the room," he says.

46 REVIEW MARCH 2020

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Specialty Fabrics Review March 2020

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