Strength in flexibility
Chris, general manager for a local mechanical contracting company, told Session 4 of Turbo’s Leadership Development Lab (LDL):
“One summer afternoon in 1999, John Matthew, a longtime customer, called me looking for help. At the time I was working as a department manager at Northwest Copper Works in Portland, Oregon. He was trying to source a large order of custom fabricated Inconel 625 pipe for their geothermal power plant. This project was going to require a very large quantity of this fairly rare and expensive alloy plate. He had already tried calling all of his normal suppliers, as well as the mills that manufacture the plate, and no one could get him the materials he needed in the timeframe required. I told him to give me a day or two and I would see what I could do.
“After talking to John, I started calling all of my normal suppliers, as well as the mills, and discovered that John may have been right. No one seemed to be able to help me. In fact, even suppliers that I had close relationships with, like Ron Coughlin at ESCO, told me that there was not enough material in stock in the US, and that mills were booked with work for the next couple of months.
“I thought long and hard about this, as I had no intention of letting this job slip past me. The total value of the project was over a half million dollars – and I wanted the order! Then it came to me. I called Ron Coughlin back and asked him a question that should have been obvious to anyone who was trying to get this project. I asked him if he had any standard ‘stock’ orders with the mill that produced Inconel 625. He said that he, in fact, had a large order of stainless plate that was scheduled to be run very soon. I asked if he could replace
that order with the alloy 625 that we needed. Ron thought that this was a great idea and told me he would make some calls and get back to me.
“When Ron called me back later that day, he had some great news. The mill was going to replace Ron’s standard stock order with my custom order and it would meet our tight delivery requirements. Ron got an order for $300k of Alloy 625 and I got an order for $500k of fabricated piping. The project was delivered on time and under budget – a win for all!
“The lesson I learned from this experience is to never take no for an answer, regardless of how many times I hear it. The action I call you to take is to actively pursue turning ‘no’s’ into ‘YES’s.’ The benefit you will gain is personal and professional success.”
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