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Build Your Startup Assembly Line

This is a guest post by Eric Fulkert.

Ford Motor Company was a startup. The dawn of the internal combustion engine launched the founding of car companies. Ford, Mercedes Benz, Chrysler, General Motors, and many others were startups in workshops and garages. Henry Ford started out tinkering, prototyping, and shipping his first cars, just like startups do today.

The notion of a wizbang super nerd team that can build websites, market themselves, and make great coffee is crazy.

The first cars started out as custom builds. Cars would be setup and built in a specific place. Someone who was skilled in all parts of the car would build the unit. Each car produced required a skilled worker or a specialized team. Your output of cars was limited to your pool of skilled workers. When Henry Ford started Ford Motor Company, he entered a market of custom car builders.

Henry Ford was not the inventor of the assembly line. Ransom Olds invented the assembly line, and used it to build the first mass-produced automobile, the Oldsmobile Curved Dash. Henry Ford’s team had the vision to look at other industries for knowledge. They visited  a meat packing plant, and saw how meat went from station to station. Moving the meat to the workers saved time and allowing each worker to specialize in one cut reduced complexity and training.

Startups need to avoid small teams of specialists to build production products.

The practice of moving the work from one worker to another until it became a complete unit, then arranging the flow of these units at the right time and the right place to a moving final assembly line from which came a finished product. That is what Henry Ford became famous for.

Henry Ford used this concept to build the Model T, and bring cars to the masses. He knew the secret to growing a startup. Any startup that wants to grow needs to understand how to use Henry Ford’s principle. Our assembly line is different. Great startups understand what their assembly line is, and how to manage it.

“The practice of moving the work from one worker to another until it became a complete unit.” The idea that a small business can have someone to do all the different tasks is impossible. The Internet allows us access to people from around the globe. A smart startup knows how to move an idea between different people to get a final product.

The secret to Henry Ford’s success was adjusting and improving the line as needed.

The notion of a wizbang super nerd team that can build websites, market themselves, and make great coffee is crazy. Contractor access allows a startup to use global labor markets as needed to build a “unit.” Are you building one car at a time, or are you getting people to help you build many cars? If business is slow, a team can build one car at a time. If your startup becomes successful, this will not scale.

All startups need to find their Model T product. All startups need to build their Model T on an assembly line. Startups need to avoid small teams of specialists to build production products. Using contractors gives your startup the ability to build a complete unit. The first stage is identifying the tasks that need done, and the time line.

So what is the finished product? For a startup, it’s shipping a production ready revenue product. Can a small startup get to a production product on a tight budget without super nerds? You can if you learn to work with contractors.

Contractors allow you send out the different parts of a startup assembly line. Startups need prototypes, websites, code, support, and design. By identifying these tasks and finding a specific resource for each, you can find your finished product to ship. The secret to Henry Ford’s success was adjusting and improving the line as needed. Your startup can improve the workers, tasks, and time lines as demand and need changed. Contractors allow you to get access to resources without hiring.

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Eric Fulkert

Eric built his experience working in the tech sector for 20 years. He is CEO of Campus Suite, a content management and communications platform for schools and colleges across the US. Eric is also COO of Soundstr, a Brandery graduate backed by Gracenote, and COO of Craftforce, a skilled trades marketplace. He helps Cincinnati startups as a advisor for Cintrifuse. Eric brings his experiences and methods from running multiple companies to the startup ecosystem. His key skills include team management, platform design and development, process design, and inbound marketing. Connect with Eric on LinkedIn

 

Feature image credit Roger W. Image has been cropped.

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