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Manufacturing Perfection

Good morning innovators, change-makers, and entrepreneurs. 


This newsletter and podcast features stories about the people – past, present and future – who change the world.  They make decisions and take actions enlivened by what I call The Entrepreneur’s Ethic.  The Entrepreneur’s Ethic infuses people, organizations and places where the future is created, and the world is made a better place.

One of the Entrepreneurs featured in my upcoming book, The Entrepreneur’s Ethic, is Wilbur Wright. Wright’s work, along with his brother, Orville, exemplifies Ethic 3: Fail Successfully. This is the experiment-orientation of entrepreneurship.

This week’s podcast is an interview with Mike Ihle, founder and President of Ihle Fabrications, a farmer-built company that has become a leading provider in manufacturing agriculture wear parts for combine harvesters and other farm equipment. Started in 2002 on the family farm, Ihle has since grown into a Certified Case IH Remanufacturing partner, as well as making parts for John Deere, Claas, Drago and more.


It was a great conversation with Mike, covering the journey from farm shop experiment to scaling a manufacturing business. What’s the ultimate aim in building parts for complex equipment? Mike described it simply as ‘perfection.’ 


I enjoyed the conversation with Mike and know you will too.


Good Reads



Three Things I Think (I Think)


Mike Ihle spoke about the importance of trial and error in working toward manufacturing products with a high level of perfection. ‘Perfect’ may be a standard to reach toward even if never achieved, but I think Mike is a great example of an entrepreneur who exhibits builder habits in working toward it.


1. I think each of us needs to work on our builder habits. In a creativity exercise I use in an entrepreneurship course I teach I ask students what they’ve built with their own hands. The answers to that question are a consistent source of startup business ideas. I’m not gifted mechanically, but still I try to have projects where I’m building something rather than buying it from someone else or hiring it done. The flagstone walkway and garden features on our acreage could surely have been built with more perfection by a landscaping company, but I chose to build them myself. 

2. I think young people need more builder experiences. There are too few shop classes and work experiences requiring problem solving with things. Last summer I had a chance to visit a charter high school in Australia founded by two women who had sons who were not built for ‘sit and comply’ high schools. So, they started a high school for the entrepreneurial minded. They embedded the high school in a startup co-working space. Mornings were (sort of) spent on high school course work. The students spent their afternoons and evenings working on their own businesses or as interns for the startups located there. One student came up to me and explained how he’d earned thirty thousand dollars the prior week. Build!

3. I think it’s incredibly difficult to scale a startup business, but it helps to have great quality products and services. It’s difficult to reach anything approximating perfection early in a business — but reach toward it and get to high quality. As. Soon. As. Possible. Obsessing on quality often means you don’t have to obsess over other things.


Farm to My Table


I recently toured a coffee farm in Brazil for the first time thanks to our host, Alberto Amorin. As always, there is more that goes into producing something I consume every day than I can possibly imagine in advance. But it is good to understand it in more detail. And to appreciate my morning coffee even more. This morning, I used a French Press to make coffee from the beans Alberto sent with me.

From one hemisphere to the other. Farm to my table!


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