Peter BigelowThe dwindling number of large, all-in-one companies belies the abundance of blooming small ones.

Read more: Has PCB Become a Big Niche Industry?

Peter BigelowYour most valuable asset may be the ability to access critical information in real-time.

“What’s your company’s most valuable asset?”

It’s a question asked by customers and investors for years, perhaps decades. Yet, regardless of who is asking, or why, it always sounds like a trick question. I wonder, however, whether it is the question, or the ever-changing answer, that really is the trick!

The typical response is “our employees” or “our facility” or maybe “our customers.” All credible and understandable responses. But value, like technology, is a fickle metric.

At a recent industry event, I was looking for equipment and materials that might be valuable additions to my company’s capabilities and assets. Various mini technical presentations were on the show floor. Each lasted only a few minutes and covered everything from esoteric theory to what seemed to me at least micro-minutia on a very specific topic. Caught in foot traffic at the intersection of several booths, I paused just long enough to catch one session that was, indeed, more than thought-provoking. That presentation was on a topic I had previously little interest in, let alone understanding of: data.

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Peter BigelowIs there more to good fortune than just fate?

We often hear the names of up-and-coming companies, each with interesting (or hyped) capabilities or fresh market approaches. Ironically, those moments can prompt us to contemplate companies long gone and the factors that helped others survive. What enables success in our highly competitive, ever-changing, global industry? Is it vision, opportunity or luck?

Early in my career, I was with large, publicly traded “Fortune” listed corporations. For those just starting out, those are heady places to be. Corporate headquarters were full of bright people whose jobs were to find ways for all the many diverse plants, operations, divisions and “strategic business units” to be successful contributors to the corporate good. Top on their list was making sure all people in all facilities knew and understood that pithy document known as the corporate “vision statement.” Those succinct declarations attempt to do two things: first, to channel staff efforts toward company success, and second, to convince staff that senior management in “the ivory tower” was focused on the future.

Read more: Vision, Opportunity or Luck: What Precedes Success?

Peter BigelowAnd the path forward is all around us.

At industry events and when visiting with like-aged colleagues, I often hear reminders of “the good old days.” Such comments typically arise while discussing the difficulty finding, recruiting and retaining bright young talent. On one level I agree, especially when long-gone fun times and great friends come to mind. On a more focused, pragmatic level, however, I am thinking, “Things are exactly like they were in those days, and maybe it’s time that changed.”

Many of those old friends were, in their day, just as immature, impatient, all-knowing and audacious as the generation coming of age now. What’s changed is our perspective.

Read more: The PCB Industry Needs to Reinvent Itself

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