On 15 Years: FSW’s Approach to Flexibility in Market & Culture
This year, First Source Worldwide is celebrating 15 years of business. In its infancy, I joined the owner and his family to build and grow the company. In those days, we traveled the country armed with computers and boxes of information in the back seat. With little structure and procedures to adhere to, we had unlimited flexibility. We spent our days on the road building the business and its relationships. We met many wonderful clients who gave us the chance to prove ourselves. We had the opportunity to explain our vision and how this could become a mutual benefit. Without an office or staff, we focused on striking business deals and shipping products. In short, it was an exciting and fun period of our professional lives.
We knew from the start that to build FSW into what it is today, we couldn’t just rest on our laurels. Understanding we needed control to maximize growth, we had to put in place standardizations and expectations. But, we had seen through the years what happens to companies who tie to business models and wind up strangling themselves due to constraint and redundancy. We set out to avoid this as much as possible.
Maintaining Flexibility as Part of Our Culture
As part of our corporate culture, FSW strives to always maintain some of the flexibility that spurred our growth. Without the one-size-fits-all mentality, we can support customers when other companies become rigid. We remind ourselves where we came from, that flexibility must go hand-in-hand with logistics, availability, and technology. It’s through staying flexible that we continue to see long term success with our client relationships.
It’s not to say we don’t have to fight to maintain this mindset. Staying adaptable can also open doors to other unforeseen issues. But what we’ve found is by ingraining this into our culture, our people can adapt to find solutions in stressful situations. We’ve made it easy for our teams to change course to solve important issues first, without affecting the process as a whole. Having flexibility in our procedures and people brings us a combination that inspires our staff and keeps us proactive.
We recognize passionate people are at the core of our operations. Without them, our adaptability wouldn’t be possible. As we’ve grown, one area we’ve placed emphasis on is hiring strong, forward-thinking professionals with the ability to react to change in a positive way. We’re also fortunate to have a talented core team of staff who’ve been with us since the beginning, such as myself. Since we’ve started with people open to change, it’s made our flexible structure easy to support and an integral piece of our team culture. Rigidness doesn’t fit in well with our team. Our staff knows they have the opportunity to speak up and discover solutions to better the whole group.
Flexible Growth for Responsiveness
We focus on logistical growth as we’ve expanded across Northern and Central America. We select facility locations for their geographic advantage. We ensure we are in an area that adds efficiency to our logistics and allows us to deliver the products and services most needed to the area. We also choose locations with room for growth; allowing us to grow with our clients. We’ve connected the locations together by implementing a universal ERP system. This better tracks inventory levels and improves our customer relationship management.
Passing along the concept of flexibility as we grow has allowed us to enter new markets and see success. We’ve expanded our laboratory capabilities with new industry-specific equipment so we can work smarter with our customers. We’ve adopted new procedures that help us move closer to ISO certification and align with EHS compliance. Yet, as we make these changes, we put heavy thought into how we conduct ourselves and construct our systems to allow for the flexibility our customers need and appreciate.
The Next 15 Years
We look to grow through ISO and other certifications to distinguish ourselves as industry leaders, forward thinkers, and support what matters to the industries we serve. The chemical industry runs on innovation – constant cycles of new products, changing environmental regulations, evolution in application equipment, and developing technologies.
We’re preparing now for the next 15 years and the challenges and opportunities we’ll face as the younger generations grow into our market. As millennials join our forces, we’re seeing the need to adapt and be more technically driven than ever before. Fast response times are an expectation, not a luxury. We’re fortunate that we’ve always held the flexible mindset so we can better transition with these new norms. Balance within our operations is crucial to maintaining the success that built these first 15 years.
Of course with new technologies and a new generation blossoming, we also need to capture our technical expertise of our senior staff. They are our library of real-world knowledge. Our senior leadership team members are evolving to be mentors and decision makers for market strategy. We’ve created a mentoring structure to pair our young talent with our top senior technicians. This helps us to guarantee success in transitioning the technical level of expertise. Just like a family, we’re fostering a culture of growth and learning to pass down the skillsets that set us apart and ensure our commitment to excellence.
We’re creating a space for discussion behind the chemistry. We’ve grown up with a culture of flexibility that allows us to step back and educate our customers and staff for best use of our products. From logistics to product performance, there are few companies that can provide the technical knowledge behind their work in such a vast range of industries.
This is the pride of our work. As we grow and adapt in the future, we come prepared with a lifetime of experience. We’re already centered on flexibility to consistently be there for our customers. We welcome challenges – they give us the opportunity to test our adaptability to strive for excellence and dedicate ourselves to our valued customers, like you!