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Dialogue: Terry Smith -- Keeping Cool and Remaining Flexible

Posted By Jeff Moad, May 30, 2012 at 9:17 AM, in Category: Global Value Networks

terry_Smith_pic.jpgMidsize military supplier Lion Vallen Industries competes with the big boys by rejecting the status quo and making the right investments.

Q. What excites you about your leadership role at Lion Vallen?

A: What we do: The LVI mission is to ensure the mission-critical readiness of America’s warfighters and first responders. Howwe do it:  Our core beliefs here at LION and LVI include ensuring our reputation for integrity in the marketplace, building trust with our customers, and expecting nothing short of operational excellence from ourselves. Whom I have the privilege of leading: I am blessed to be associated with people who are strongly committed to the company mission, highly disciplined in the execution of their responsibilities, and very engaging on a personal level. As a result, we do good things, we do them well, and we have fun in the doing every single day.

Q: What’s your most important corporate initiative at the moment?

A: LVI is in the process of adjusting and updating its entire IT platform to meet the exacting information security standards of our military clients—data center, network infrastructure, hardware, software applications. We’re nearing the completion of an effort that began in January 2010. When the project is complete, we will be one of the very few firms to have secured their commercial networks to these military standards.

Q:  What challenges still keep you awake at night?

A: LVI is neither large by commercial size standards nor small by government contracting standards. We are always striving to be as technically and technologically competent as any large firm might be; that requires a nearly constant stream of very selective investments. At the same time, we want to be able to demonstrate the same level of nimbleness and flexibility that small firms typically bring to the commercial marketplace; that means our people have to be willing learners who have no special regard for the status quo. Change for us is a constant, and the resulting alignment and realignment of our financial and human resources requires attention and mental energy. Our retired Marine Corps personnel refer to the needed posture as being “Semper Gumby”—always flexible!

Q: What key lessons have you learned over the past year?

A: The lesson I learned long ago and am reminded of many times each year is, as a baseball coach of mine once put it, “The cool head wins the close game.” In business, every game is a close game. There should be no hubris and there should be no depression—nothing is either as good or as bad as it seems at first glance. Approach every situation with a level head and a steady hand, especially if you are in a leadership position.

Q: What, in your opinion, will be the greatest opportunity for manufacturers over the next five years?

A: Building on the value of trust in their customer relationships. Very few, if any, companies manufacturing in the U.S. can establish themselves as the lowest-cost producer. Only a select few companies can build a better mousetrap and differentiate themselves on that basis. However, every company should have the opportunity to build customer trust and loyalty through service excellence, quality, reliability, and dependability.

Written by Jeff Moad

Jeff Moad is Research Director and Executive Editor with the Manufacturing Leadership Community. He also directs the Manufacturing Leadership Awards Program. Follow our LinkedIn Groups: Manufacturing Leadership Council and Manufacturing Leadership Summit

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