What was your life like 25 years ago? Where did you work? What were you dreams? Did you think then that you would be where you are today? As the company that Donna Sharpe and I co-founded turns 25, it’s time to reflect on where Elasto Proxy has been – and where we’re going. Our family-owned business began in a basement. Now we’re a growing, global company. The journey has tested our mettle at times, but Elasto Proxy’s future is brighter than ever.
Hopefully, some of the lessons we’ve learned can help you in your own company and career.
Find Opportunities in Growing Pains
Do you remember what the economic landscape looked like a quarter-century ago? Memories of the Great Recession of 2008 are still fresh, but the Crash of 1987 was also far-reaching. As large companies began to rebuild their business models, the economic downturn of 1989 caused even more pain. Back then, some might say that 1989 was a bad year to start a business. In hindsight, these dislocations were like “growing pains”.
When I left my job with a large manufacturer of industrial rubber products, Elasto Proxy began as a small business in my basement. Back then, the market for rubber parts such O-rings, fluid seals, and profiles was small. Elasto Proxy anticipated increased demand during the 1990s, however, and the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) gave us a boost. At my first tradeshow, a defense industry event in Ottawa, we met our first customer.
Working with defense contractors provided Elasto Proxy with a strong start, but our small company also began solving sealing challenges in other industries. Changes in supply chain management worked to our advantage. Instead of keeping large quantities of inventory in stock, manufacturers wanted just-in-time deliveries of rubber parts. By providing specialized and ready-to-install sealing solutions, Elasto Proxy also aided efficiency in industries such as automotive and mobile specialty vehicles.
Learn, Listen, and Work Together
Did we mistakes during the past 25 years? Of course. The important thing is to learn from them. During our startup phase, for example, we delayed our entry into trade organizations and associations. Today, Elasto Proxy is a long-time member and proud contributor to groups like the Canadian Professional Sales Association (CPSA), the Groupement des chefs d’entreprise du Québec, and Canadian Association of Defense and Security Industries (CADSI).
In addition to working with these and other organizations, I’ve also served as president of the International Sealing Distribution Association (ISD). Much has been written about social networking, of course, and Elasto Proxy is committed to on-line engagement (as this blog entry proves). But technology has not changed the importance of personal relationships. What technology has changed is how buyers find suppliers, and the speed at which buyers can access information.
Gone are the days when a plant’s purchasing agents would hear in-person pitches from a long line of salespeople. Today, buyers want to work with partners who listen to all of their requirements before recommending solutions. On-time, low-volume shipments of high-quality parts are essential. Rapid prototyping and fast turnaround times are expected. Partners and technologies can and do help, but companies must make the choice to innovate – or fade away.
How Can We Help You?
In 1989, a fax machine in the office seemed like a luxury. In our shop, water jet cutting was available but hardly mainstream. Today, communications travel around the world at the speed of email and it’s the 3D printing of prototypes that captures our imagination. Companies like UPS and FedEx have helped us to strengthen logistics, and retail giants like WalMart offer lessons in material handling.
How can Elasto Proxy help you? For 25 years, we’ve been solving sealing challenges and strengthening supply chains. Join the conversation today. Look for a post with a link to this blog entry on LinkedIn, Facebook, Google+, and Twitter. Elasto Proxy has pages on all of these social media websites, so all that’s missing is you.
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