Blogs

The Benefits of Taking Ownership

My sister once lamented to me that her son took poor care of the car she and her husband bought for him, but once he bought his own car, he washed it all the time. When confronted with the fact, he acknowledged it saying, “Well, that was your car, this one is mine.” I think it is a simple fact of ownership, and a simple principal of managing people. The more someone has invested in a mission, the more they will own the results.

Supporting Youth and the Future of our Industry

Summer marks the conclusion of another school year for young people. Like those young folks, I entered this summer with excitement and energy, although for different reasons. While students are excited to spend a summer building experiences and memories of youth, I am excited about what I have seen this last school year, both in young folks we have interacted with and in our team at Austin.

Thoughts & Takeaways from the SelectUSA Investment Summit: How proposed changes to U.S. economic policy could impact business decisions to invest in the U.S.

By Brandon Talbert, Austin Consulting

Recently, Austin attended the fourth annual SelectUSA Investment Summit in Washington, DC, where we met with prospective clients interested in expanding business operations in the U.S. This was Austin’s third year attending the Summit, which is the highest profile event organized by SelectUSA, a federal program with a mission of promoting foreign direct investment in the United States. 

The SelectUSA initiative was created under the Obama administration and is housed within the International Trade Administration at the U.S. Department of Commerce. The Summit facilitates networking opportunities between companies interested in investing in the U.S. and state and local economic development organizations, service providers and various Federal Government support agencies.

Maintaining a 140-Year-Old Start-Up Culture

Austin founders at tableWhen I speak with our internal teams, clients, professional organizations, groups of students, and young professionals, I almost always in one fashion or another talk about the “140-year-old start-up” culture we strive for at Austin. A culture I am always working to strengthen and maintain within our team. In these talks, one of the questions I am often asked is, “What does it mean to be working to keep Austin in a ‘140-year-old startup’ mindset, and why do it?

I admit, it does sound a little strange at first. How can a company, born of the Industrial Revolution and at the center of so many early 20th Century industrial plant design, construction and operational advancements, be a “start-up” today, more than 100 years later?

Leadership for Mission and Team Success

I recently attended my first meeting of the Corporate Advisory Board of the Masters of Engineering Management (MEM) program at Case Western Reserve University. The MEM program takes engineering students from around the world and furthers their skills and knowledgebase, enabling them to be better equipped to accelerate the value of their engineering background into the business environment.

Celebrating 100 Years of the Austin "Pretzel" Logo

I once had a marketing consultant I respected greatly tell me “the brand specifics really don’t matter that much; you can make your name and logo whatever you want and then build a story and a reputation behind it.” He followed this by providing several examples of solid brands with little thought behind their original logo, or who’s operations today bare little relation to their original purpose or branding.

Creating an Environment for Success

One of my New Year’s Resolutions was to get back into the habit of reading books. For some reason, I got distracted from this important habit and reduced my consumption of printed materials to magazines, newsfeeds and the like. Personally, it was a unique sports year for me. As a Chicago native living in Cleveland for almost twenty years, I was treated to the Cavs World Championship and the Cubs versus Indians World Series. My Bleacher Report app saw a lot of action this year!

I missed reading books though. The depth and context you can only get into when reading a book is more thought-provoking than a 5000-word magazine article. Considering this, a book I recently finished and strongly recommend is General Stanley McChrystal’s, Team of Teams. The baseline for the book is McChrystal’s success at turning the military’s top-down chain of command protocol upside-down.

Building Better Habits: Creating New Year’s Resolutions with Focus

We are all creatures of habit. Intentionally or not, we tend to get into habits. Sometimes they are good, sometimes not. And, we look at certain milestones to assess what bad habits we need to get rid of, and what good ones to start. For example, the birth of a child convinces one to stop smoking. A relocation prompts one to get out and explore the area instead of being sedentary in a comfortable environment.  And, of course, fitness centers get crowded in January as the end of the Holiday season signals a time to exercise and lose weight.

No one purposefully gets into a bad habit with the intention of getting into a bad habit. It just happens. And breaking those habits requires energy. Whether the physical energy of exercise, or the mental and psychological energy of the discipline it takes to eat right, devote time to pray, or read.

Making Service Your Trademark

“Whatever you do, do it well. Do it so well that when people see it, they will want to come back to see you do it again, and they will want to bring others to show them how well you do what you do.”  --  Walt Disney

I saw this quote in a stairwell while at a meeting with Disney in Orlando and was struck by its clarity, its simplicity and the passion it implies. I have thought a lot about this quote since my visit to Disney. On the surface, it is clear how it applies to Disney’s theme parks and anyone who has visited or studied Disney can understand and appreciate the message it implies to any “cast member.” 

But how does this apply to a manufacturer, a contractor or an engineer?

Leading the Way with Agility

I belong to a peer group of executives hosted by Vistage. At a recent meeting, the speaker was Mike Richardson, a very accomplished executive who is now consulting companies on being more agile. To him, corporate agility is all about planning for future growth, while always keeping an eye out for potential disasters that lurk around the corner. Two take-aways from the talk resonated with me.

First, ... "The task of imagination is to do the work of crisis without the crisis." (Roberto Unger). Think about the implications of this as we near the end of a calendar, and maybe fiscal, year. For all the plans and perspectives we go through in thinking about the future, do we consider the downside and the potential for a crisis? Fundamental to this consideration is an open and searching dialog amongst a management team. 

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