When the Great Recession hit, Nelson Jacobson was determined to keep growth on track at JSJ Corp., a family run manufacturing firm in Grand Haven, Michigan. JSJ is the parent company of six durable-goods firms that make everything from furniture to precision parts used in the auto industry. As growth slowed in the U.S., Jacobson, the firm’s CEO, quickly saw that the best opportunities were overseas.
“China didn’t slow down. Mexico and South America didn’t slow down,” says Jacobson, whose company first entered China in 1985 and buys and sells products there.
Today, the nearly 100-year-old family business has grown to 2,800 full-time employees and temps around the world, with most hired within the past decade. About 40 percent are based outside the U.S. in locations such as China, where it has three large operations, and one major outpost in Mexico.
What helped JSJ expand successfully as a cohesive operating entity was the One Page Strategic Plan (OPSP), which Jacobson had discovered after becoming CEO in 2005. Leaders at more than 40,000 companies have used this simple yet powerful free tool to edit their companies’ visions down to single, action-oriented pages.
It helps them get clear on their core values and beliefs, their purpose, their targets and goals and other key elements of strategic planning. “The OPSP gave us a way of tracking and driving business performance,” says Jacobson.
Led by JSJ’s head of organizational development, all six of JSJ’s companies created their own OPSPs, with each having a different focus. These, in turn, influence JSJ’s plan for the entire company. Its teams must update the plans annually.
There is a rhythm to this: Each business typically develops its own one-page plan in time for the company’s Annual Operating Planning session in October. Over the ensuing several months, the six companies’ plans get finalized, so JSJ can utilize them to further shape its own plan. JSJ’s plan, in turn, becomes final at a February board meeting.
Given that the company exclusively hires local talent for its overseas operations, the OPSP is important in bridging language barriers and making the company’s plans more visible throughout the organization, says Jacobson. Walk through the corridors of JSJ’s overseas operations and you will literally see the values posted prominently on the walls, sometimes in English, sometimes in Mandarin or Spanish. “It allows us to have a common goal,” says Jacobson. “We hear all the time how important it is.”
To keep its teams focused on the goals outlined in the OPSP, JSJ has instituted daily “huddles,” or short meetings, to keep everyone aligned. At the huddles, team members are encouraged to share “stuck” points blocking them from executing the company’s strategy.
These conversations have helped the company identify important problems that need to be solved. They eventually led to a company-wide problem solving competition, where senior leaders collected more than 100 ideas to tackle bottlenecks, eliminate waste and clear other obstacles. Over half of these ideas came from employees outside the U.S. “They are being implemented in a systematic way,” says Jacobson. “It’ll end up saving us millions of dollars.”
JSJ’s efforts have taken commitment, but there’s a big, measurable payoff. The company has developed new technologies, launched additional product lines and expanded geographically as a direct result of decisions it made by using the OPSP. Now that its focus is more streamlined, its exporting operations are smoother, too.
“We’ve had continuously improving profit and growth since we started,” says Jacobson. “The OPSP has brought better alignment, accountability and execution.”
Adapted from Scaling Up
by Verne Harnish.