Cutting Tool Engineering
August 2013 / Volume 65 / Issue 8

What goes around, comes around

By Keith Jennings

Representing your company through community involvement accomplishes two goals. Hopefully, you’re doing something positive and, in return, raising the reputation of you and your company. You may also gain access to another network of valuable contacts and potential leads.

When defining community involvement for your company, it’s important to understand how employees or the company itself should effectively participate. Being involved sounds great, but, if people are so inclined, they could find an event or function to attend nearly every day. In other words, volunteer time is limited, especially for owners and managers of small machine shops, and you can’t say yes to everything—if anything. However, if you can and are willing to give of your time, benefits to your business can accrue.

There are numerous ways to get involved, many of which are industry-related. A few years ago, I participated in a job fair at an inner-city school, discussing manufacturing careers and machining with interested students. I encouraged them to pursue their dreams while emphasizing the incredible art that is machining and manufacturing. It required just a small table with a banner, some information and a willingness to talk and give the kids some time to discuss the “real world” they’d soon enter.

I’ve also assisted the local community college by participating as an industry representative on curriculum-development panels. To their credit, community colleges have recognized the need for manufacturing training and want to ensure their programs are relevant to industry, with the machining field being a critical part. In addition, participation allowed me opportunities to meet potential customers, eventually getting business from another participant.

That occurred about 5 years ago and was the last time I worked with our local college until this past July, when a friend informed me about another panel the college was assembling for a machining program. He asked me to contribute. The problem was the 4-hour commitment in the middle of the week, and my free time hasn’t been too abundant lately. My initial thought was, “It’s someone else’s turn—I’m too busy.”

Then, I noticed the many names and e-mail addresses of other invited panelists and discovered it was largely a “who’s who” of potential customers and interesting colleagues. Upon further consideration, I realized it was a good time to get involved again, helping the college with a worthy project while developing relationships with key people.

The panel isn’t a marketing event, but the saying “it’s not what you know, but who you know” certainly applies. If you volunteer, your company gets noticed for its positive involvement and you may share a table or conversation with a key person who can arrange that meeting you couldn’t previously get. Or, maybe you meet a newly needed supplier or a college professor who could direct good candidates your way after successful completion of a training program, all at no cost to your company.

When you think about it, if they’re asking for your input, you might as well give it. Your involvement will be respected and appreciated, and a few hours of effort can open doors.

There are many other great examples to help your industry, community and, ultimately, your company. Options include sponsoring a team, participating in fundraisers, allowing employees to volunteer for a worthy cause or even donating some parts or engineering time, as we did for a high school robotics team.

Although you can’t say yes to every request and it’s not always possible to be involved, the knowledge, expertise and desire for goodness shared among you and your team is very valuable. Harness it, use it and help make a name for your company. CTE

About the Author: Keith Jennings is president of Crow Corp., Tomball, Texas, a family-owned company focusing on machining, metal fabrication and metal stamping. Contact him at kjennings@jwr.com.
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