One of my all time favorite sayings used to hang on my wall and sparked me into action on those days I was dragging or feeling like I could put something off for another day. Although not exact, and citing from memory, it went something like this, “Every day in Africa, a gazelle wakes up and knows it must run faster than the fastest lion or it will be eaten. Every day in Africa, a lion wakes up and knows it must run faster than the slowest gazelle or it will starve to death. Either way, whether predator or prey, when the sun comes up, you had better be running.”
In the world of codes and standards, especially for manufacturers, this bit of wisdom can also be easily applied. You see, codes, although only released in their entirety every three years, are developed in a continuous cycle. As soon as an edition is released for adoption and implementation, the development of the next edition begins almost immediately. If a manufacturer is not “at the table”, they can easily be “on the menu.”
A couple of decades ago, I was the owner of a very competitive business. I had a friend that introduced it to me and we stayed close. He was more experienced and one day I asked him how he coped with what appeared to be cut-throat actions of some of our competition. They would poach our best talent, mimic the exact marketing pieces down to an exact logo replica, spread untrue rumors of our demise and more. He said to me “every day I wake up and ask myself, what can my competitor do to hurt me.” He then paused and said “and I do it to him first!”
He said to me “every day I wake up and ask myself, what can my competitor do to hurt me.” He then paused and said “and I do it to him first!”
Pretty profound. I actually never forgot that but I was not one of those that believed in the attack philosophy as much as others. I adapted it to my way of doing business with integrity and true North principles. Today, I still think every day about where I am vulnerable to my competitor’s attack, but I don’t attack the competitor first, I bolster the fortress to thwart his attempt and waste his ammo. This way I can still focus on what I do best moving forward without concern of the sky darkening from his flying arrows. Manufacturers must do the same when it comes to code development.
A manufacturer should evaluate where a competitive threat can hurt them, engage in the code process and solidify the provisions that help. They should prepare for codes and standards attacks and have a plan to mitigate immediately. Don’t wait until the competition breaks through the fortress wall to begin mixing the mortar and cutting reinforcing iron rods.
One good example might be the new provision in the 2015 Uniform Mechanical Code that restricts the length of a flexible duct to a maximum 5 foot length, period. If the manufacturers of flexible duct products were not prepared for this attack with the data that shows that the length of flexible has no bearing on a system designed correctly, they should have been. If a proper heat load calculation is performed, duct sizing calculations are done accordingly, taking into account the corresponding friction rate for flexible duct, and air handling equipment specified to correspond to the calcs, then the length of the flex duct should not be an issue.
Nothing is more powerful or persuasive than competitors in the same industry standing shoulder-to-shoulder fighting together on the same side.
Yes, there are other factors that have a bearing on the outcome of a code proposal including, the type of development process, who has the final vote, the stakeholders, timeframe and so much more. Regardless of the number of factors, all of those should have already been in the strategy and awaiting deployment. Opposition and supporters should have already been identified. Nothing is more powerful or persuasive than competitors in the same industry standing shoulder-to-shoulder fighting together on the same side.
There are many examples of manufacturers being caught flat footed by their competition, and watching as their complete product lines are devoured by the hungry lion because they didn’t wake up running in the code development process.
I hope to expand on more examples in depth in coming articles, but in the meantime, prepare a strategy, fortify the fortress, let the competitors’ arrows fly, and grab a menu at the table!
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