Hanson: S.C.-obsessed entrepreneur maps manufacturing comeback

July 25, 2013 



The Wall Street Journal released a compelling series of video interviews earlier this month with Lynn Tilton, the tough-as-nails founder and CEO of Patriarch Partners, who also owns American LaFrance in Charleston.

A Yale and Columbia graduate, Ms. Tilton is fiercely loyal to the United States in terms of job creation, female entrepreneurs, technology and hiring U.S. veterans. Her company now owns 75 companies in 14 different industry sectors and is the largest female-owned business in the United States.

At one point, moderator Vanessa O’Connell asked Ms. Tilton: “So where exactly would you open a facility right now in the United States?” Her immediate response: “South Carolina.”

Ms. Tilton is obsessed with three-dimensional printing technology, robotics and the transformation of old, historic and empty textile mills into new technology plants. Designed to outsmart, outwork and out-produce China and others like them, all that’s missing from these facilities is the next generation of American workers committed to re-learning manufacturing and technology at the highest levels.

One of her turnaround strategies is cultivating tough women as business leaders, especially in manufacturing. Another strategy is partnering with Germany instead of China, due to Germans’ engineering brilliance, their honesty in doing business and their respect for intellectual property and international laws.

Ms. Tilton recently addressed the management and employees of a failing company she now owns, boldly informing everyone that “you are no longer an automotive company … you are now a technology company –– in the automotive business.” Her mantra can easily apply to aerospace, hospitality, agriculture or any other business or educational sector in need of improvement.

Ms. Tilton’s interview offered a four-part framework for successful technology and manufacturing: First, the right people in the right positions. Second, the best plan for short-term, mid-range and long-term vertical lift. Third, the right processes such as pricing, administration and the “math of business” that drives your people and your plan forward.

Fourth and most importantly, everyone in the company must have a sense of urgency: Using speed, pace, acceleration and attitude as a team is how America will beat China.

I would encourage every S.C. employee, executive, educator, business owner, plant manager and economic development leader to watch each of Lynn Tilton’s Wall Street Journal interviews very carefully as a group.

Baron Christopher Hanson


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