For a Healthy Bottom Line, Manufacturers Should Build Their Top Line First

Manufacturing innovation in the 21st century, specifically in the United States, is stagnating. Too much focus on the bottom line has resulted in serious neglect to the top line. It seems like we’ve forgotten how to grow revenue. When leaders place so much immediate attention on the near term, they lack the vision to make bold bets on the future. Many manufacturers have made a lot of small efforts toward growth, but few manufacturers commit themselves to a bold effort. Here are five ways to make bold bets and improve your top line.

“Create a bold vision for the future that considers customer behavior and business opportunities.”
  1. Create a bold vision for the future that considers customer behavior and business opportunities. This vision involves understanding the market and competitive landscape and seeing the trends. President Kennedy had a bold vision. In 1961, he said we would put a man on the moon, and that man would come home safely by the end of the decade. He had no idea physically or technologically how to do that. He made a bold bet and set a course for building a plan to make it happen.
  2. Develop a set of solutions and offerings that support a revenue pipeline over several years. In the early days of rail cars, we needed a material strong enough to build a bridge across the Mississippi River. Andrew Carnegie made his fortune solving this problem with a new solution—steel.
  3. Build assumptions for revenue projections and needed resources, including putting the right people in place. Your “grow” team should consist of people who are comfortable with questioning ambiguity. These people continually ask, “What will it take?”
  4. Set up milestones and checkpoints to evaluate what bets to make, when to make them, and how big those bets should be. Making bold bets is an ongoing process. Continue to create your next bold bets based on your learnings from the first. Conduct some trials, and fail quickly. Then pick the most inspiring, energizing bets to pursue next. Make those bets something people want to get on board with.
  5. Finally, convince and convert. The first step to converting a bold bet into profit is convincing your team and the market of the pragmatics of your solution. Carnegie walked an elephant over a bridge to demonstrate the safety of steel. (Prior to the invention of steel, many cars and trains had fallen into the river.)

Ultimately we need leaders willing to make bold bets in manufacturing. Two of the strategic limiters to top line growth in manufacturing are management capacity and creativity—not a lack of market opportunities, but a lack of bold bets. Make bold bets—the future of manufacturing depends on it.


Ray Attiyah is the founder of Definity Partners, a hands-on, business-training firm that integrates process redesign and leadership-behavior modeling. He developed the Run-Improve-Grow system to inspire the best leaders to reach for higher-hanging fruit. His newest book is Run Improve Grow: Your Roadmap from Firefighting to Bold Business Growth.