We often get asked: what is the secret to more than 80 years of operating a successful family-owned manufacturing business? After all, according to The Harvard Business Review, around 70% of family-owned businesses fail or are sold before the second generation takes over the business. And just 10% remain active, privately held companies for the third generation to lead. With threats from globalization, and the enduring need to cope with shifts in technology, business models and consumer behavior, some would say it’s never been more difficult for family–owned companies like Elsner. So, with the odds stacked against us, just what is the secret to our success? Here are a few thoughts on what's shaped Elsner over the years:
A Passion for Converting Machines with Purpose:
If the word passion is defined as “a strong feeling of enthusiasm or excitement for something,” I can pretty quickly deduce for you how passion has driven just about every aspect of our business over the years. From a genuine love and respect for what we do, to hiring passionate employees, the vibe of our company continues to foster an environment ripe for innovation and satisfied customers. The passion to tap into customer needs to create converting machines with the purpose of satisfying those needs was front and center when my grandfather began our business. Our mantra, “if the customer has a need, Elsner has a machine” has stood steady since the manufacture of the first rewinder in 1954. Present day, I never get tired of being a part of a process that starts with a simple idea and evolves to watching the design and building of a customized piece of equipment built to solve a problem.
How We Measure Success: Keeping Score on Customer Satisfaction
To expand on the idea of keeping customer needs central to the process, it doesn’t stop with the delivery of the machine. Quite simply, if our customer isn’t happy, we aren’t happy. We have found that keeping our customers front and center leads to all aspects of the project falling into place. Their goals become our goals. Their challenges, our challenges. And in order to be constantly improving, we have an internal “Score Card” where we conduct 360 degree reviews to assess the “wins and losses” associated with every job. We are brutally honest with ourselves and proactively involve the customers in the assessment because we deem their satisfaction as our overall measure of success.
Continuous Improvement, Continuous Value
If our measure of success is customer satisfaction, then our customer’s measure of success is how did Elsner deliver increased efficiencies and productivity? Over the years we have developed a very effective full circle customer service approach where delivery is just the beginning. Our machines rewind, pack and fold products for many varied industries, and let’s face it, we sell our customers a machine based on the premise that it is going to improve their business. If we don’t take the time to ask the right questions and really get to know our customers, we can’t expect to gain their loyalty. Once a machine is custom-fit to exact specifications based on their needs, we help our customers protect their investment by providing 1:1 education and training. As we grow and evolve, our customers grow and evolve with us as we reach out on a continual basis to offer new ways to continue to boost their productivity.
Our Partnerships Matter
Whether we’re partnering with another manufacturer to ensure a seamless delivery of a converting line or partnering internally amongst our employees to provide a seamless customer experience, teamwork and partnership are imperative to the process. No one can do it alone, and everyone’s role is equally important. Valuing and engaging our employees makes them feel invested in the process. With many of our employees having decades of experience, I can honestly say we have the best people standing behind our craftsmanship, owning their roles, and feeling as passionate as I do about delivering the best possible product. There’s no substitute for a team with that level of dedication!
After 80+ years of manufacturing more than 3000 converting machines operating in 60 countries for the paper, film, foil and nonwovens industry, our processes stand the test of time, and our track record speaks for itself. So to sum it up: what do I think is the secret to our success? Quite simply, continuing to make customers the number one priority which allows Elsner to continue the tradition of purpose-built customer satisfaction.
-Bert Elsner, Third Generation President, Elsner Engineering