On Tuesday, Polaris CEO Michael Spietzen spoke with manufacturers and business leaders at the 2023 Manufacturers Summit hosted by the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce in northeast Minneapolis. The conference served as a networking and learning opportunity for the manufacturing community, with two of his learning sessions on automation and the new workforce landscape. This year's summit concluded with Spietzen's keynote address as Polaris continues to make a name for itself in the global powersports market.
What started as a local company specializing in snowmobiles has become an industry leader with a diverse range of products and an international consumer base. Spietzen said Polaris is number one in the powersports market, with nearly 30 brands in its portfolio. In 2022, the Medina-based business recorded company-wide sales of $8.6 billion, a 15% year-on-year growth. Mr. Spietzen's presentation at the summit gave attendees an insight into the company's strategy and the keys to success in growing the business. Here are Spietzen's four pieces of advice for business leaders and manufacturers looking to make their companies successful.
The role of innovation in driving growth
The CEO began his presentation by discussing Polaris' growth over the past 70 years. His company has grown into a world leader in powersports manufacturing with one common theme: innovation. But Spietzen was quick to explain that innovation doesn't necessarily have to create new products to generate growth.
“Innovation can happen in many different ways,” he said. “It doesn't mean we always have to introduce the next new vehicle. Sometimes it's about innovation outside of the vehicle.”
Spietzen said that while Polaris was the founder of the snowmobile and deck boat categories within the powersports industry, it has also played a leading role in improving the powersports categories that already exist.
4 keys to success
Mr. Spietzen discussed four essential business elements for successful company growth: employees, customers, community, and suppliers/dealers. Investing in your employees by offering generous benefits and bonuses, and partnering with local high schools and colleges to provide career development opportunities, is critical to the foundation of your business.
“It may be expensive, but it's worth it,” Spietzen said. But he also discussed the growing role of automation in the future of manufacturing. “We automated as much as possible,” he said.
Customer needs are also a factor in a company's success. According to Spietzen, companies succeed by connecting with customers in meaningful ways and evolving their products to suit their consumer base.
A company's strategy must also consider the communities it sells to. As Polaris globalized its consumer base, the products it sold had to adapt accordingly. He said the locations Polaris chooses for its facilities are strategically selected based on which products are most popular in that community.
“If you look at Minnesota, everyone is boating and fishing. It's not a bad market for us to sell boats,” Spietzen explained.
Speetzen's final category comes down to the company's suppliers. Fostering meaningful relationships with suppliers plays a huge role in the quality of the final product, Spietzen said. He advised leaders not to push suppliers too hard when achieving the lowest price, explaining that such decisions ultimately sacrifice the quality and reliability of the final product.
Deliver facilities to consumers
As Polaris expanded beyond Minnesota, its manufacturing facilities expanded with it. Polaris is focused on bringing final product production closer to the point of impact. But rather than sacrificing its manufacturing presence in Minnesota, Polaris simply expanded to overseas locations such as Poland, India and Mexico, where its products are in high demand.
“We added manufacturing, we didn't take it away,” Spietzen said.
Double benefits of sustainability
Spietzen's presentation concluded with his views on the role of environmental sustainability in manufacturing.
“Why wouldn't we want to use less water in our factories? Why wouldn't we want to use more recyclable content?” he said. “These are all good things to do, and frankly, they save the company money. It's a double win.”
Using greener alternative fuels and prioritizing environmental sustainability in business models is not only good for the planet, it can ultimately lead to more efficient and long-term success for businesses. Masu.