Cutting Tool Engineering
May 2011 / Volume 63 / Issue 5

Push and shove to generate business

By Keith Jennings

If your mom was like mine when I was growing up, she probably told you that pushing and shoving showed bad manners and to always refrain from such behavior. Of course, Mom was right—at least outside the context of running a machine shop.

In a career that requires constant productivity improvement, Mom’s advice no longer applies. A little—or even a lot—of pushing and shoving is important when it comes to managing and directing the operations of a machine shop. Not the physical kind that can cause an altercation, but the kind of pushing and shoving that a manager must use to enhance shop productivity and hopefully increase business.

While many experienced owners and managers would scoff that such a realization shows naiveté, it’s a factual one that’s important to discover—even if you’re late to the party. Riding herd is a must, and my most recent experience in that situation involved a buyer I’ve known from a longtime family relationship. He works for a large engineering firm that’s stuck in the seminar-generated mode of “we’re not adding any new vendors”— even though our shop is more capable than many of their current suppliers.

Recently, when they had a critical rush job, he contacted us, sent a package of drawings and asked if we could complete the project within 5 days, something their other vendors couldn’t promise. He correctly understood there would be a premium paid for such a quick turnaround. This wasn’t an easy project. It was time-consuming and required numerous operations, not to mention the tight deadline. There was no room for error; the parts had to be perfect the first time.

Had I referred this opportunity to the key employees I typically depend on for good decision-making, their response would not have been very enthusiastic—particularly since we’d previously quoted a couple of small jobs for the engineering company that were not accepted. However, I knew it was within our capability and due to my personal relationship with the buyer, I decided to accept the challenge without asking anyone’s advice.

In spite of my team’s initial reluctance, I pushed and shoved the project from quotation to completion. I’m confident some eyes might have rolled and derogatory words could have been spoken, but, in the end, it worked out to our advantage. Not only did we get the job done on time, but we completed it a day earlier than promised, adding a 10 percent premium to the total rush price paid. That made it a $14,000 job for 4 days of work during a month when sales were down. When the customer picked up the parts and we had the check in hand, we all breathed a sigh of relief. The engineering company was happy and the buyer looked like a champ.

Several days later, the buyer confirmed that the parts worked perfectly, their customer was ecstatic, and our shop grabbed the attention of many within his company because the job had seemed impossible the week before. He assured us that we’d broken the “no new suppliers” mantra and more business would be forthcoming.

In the end, a new customer was added, and my previous mantra of “I’m too busy to push and shove” was replaced with “get it done no matter what!” It’s good to be the one who can make that decision, and it’s amazing what employees can accomplish with some prodding, pushing and shoving. CTE

Keith Jennings 1.tif About the Author: Keith Jennings is president of Crow Corp., Tomball, Texas, a family-owned company focusing on machining, laser cutting, metal fabrication and metal stamping. He can be e-mailed at

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