Back in the summer of 1996, we started our business from a Saturday morning idea to make a better cable tray that workers could bend by hand to make installations cheaper and easier. Today, Snake Tray is a company that serves major corporations and government agencies worldwide through industry-leading cable management, power distribution, and enclosure solutions.
As we celebrate Snake Tray’s 25th business anniversary, we reflect on the values that led us to achieve this significant milestone, and have identified 10 key principles that continue to drive growth for our company today. We hope that sharing the knowledge gained from our journey will help you build a corporate culture that turns your big idea into a business that goes the distance.
- Innovation. To grow, you need to innovate. As a business, your responsibility is to create products that deliver value for your customers. Customers’ needs are ever-evolving, so your solutions should be too. Therefore, don’t rest on the success of one product. If we stuck with our initial hand-bendable underfloor cable tray, we would still be in a 500 sq. ft. rented space with five employees. Our mission has always been to design customized solutions to solve our customers’ toughest challenges. This has resulted in over 30 patents and dozens of new products, while increasing our manufacturing and warehousing facilities throughout the US to meet demand.
- Speed. You don’t need to be big, but you need to be fast. Snake Tray may be small relative to other companies in the cable conveyance industry, but we move quicker than the rest, which makes us very competitive. We innovate fast. We manufacture fast. We serve our customers fast. Speed is a critical advantage against industry giants that are too big to be agile, prioritize an urgent project, or design and build a customized solution on a tight deadline.
- Ingenuity. Limited resources can be your best friend. As a small business, we’re always faced with limited resources, but that forces us to be creative in how we manufacture and market our products, serve our customers, and solve unique problems. It makes us think outside the box (see #1 re: 30 patents).
- Maintain a customer-first focus. The customer is King (or Queen). Don’t just pay lip service to customer service; you really have to embed a customer-first philosophy into every facet of your business culture and operations. Put the President’s cell phone number on the website so customers can get in touch directly 24/7. Or, drive on a Sunday to deliver a product to a customer. Always go the extra mile. It will pay off.
- Kindness (with everyone but especially your team). Be good to your employees and you will be rewarded with loyalty. As an entrepreneur or top executive, you may think you are the end-all, but the crew that backs you up is the real key to your success. Treat them like family; share the success. For example, each year we have been in business we have shared our profits with our team. When anyone in our company has had a problem, we’ve helped. We’ve loaned trucks to assist with moves, driven colleagues to the doctor, and acted as a shoulder to cry on. Not only is this the right thing to do as a human-being, but it’s just good for business. When you act in your team’s best interest, you’ll attract and retain the best talent.
- Confidence. Don’t listen to the nay-sayers. You know the people; the ones who always have a negative comment and tell you it can’t be done. Tune them out. In the early days of Snake Tray, Roger, President and Chief Product Engineer, met an executive from a prestigious oil company who told him patents were extremely hard to get and he would never get one. Roger didn’t listen and over 30 patents later, we are really happy Roger didn’t get discouraged by that guy! So believe in yourself, your ideas, your dreams, and your company. Don’t let anyone rain on your parade.
- Marketing. Don’t cheap out on marketing. Companies often see marketing as a cost-center, but it’s a critical engine for revenue growth. Build your brand and promote your products. You may have the greatest mouse trap ever invented, but no one will buy it if they don’t know it exists. Don’t cut corners; invest in marketing!
- Efficiency. Henry Ford said, “Profit can be found on the factory floor.” Don’t rely on raising prices to increase profits. Scrutinize how your products or services are made. Create more efficient workflows. Eliminate waste. Innovate. Save time. Find new suppliers. Improve your margins by cutting costs internally before raising prices.
- Education. Actively seek out opportunities to learn something new and incorporate the best advantages into your business model. Read. Attend seminars and trade shows. Listen to podcasts. Talk to customers, other business owners, consultants, neighbors, and friends. It’s remarkable what you can discover when you open yourself up to new ideas, places, and things.
- Passion. It’s amazing how much energy, creativity, and strength you have when you do something you love. Business is hard. It requires grit and enthusiasm that can be difficult to muster day in and day out if you’re not following your passion. Life is too short to do something you don’t love. Be excited to jump out of bed in the morning and get to work.
Roger Jette is the president and founder of Snake Tray, a manufacturer of cable management and power distribution systems based on Long Island, New York. He is an ardent supporter of building a company culture based on principles that prioritize product innovation and customer satisfaction above all other objectives.