Sept. 15 2011 01:09 PM

I spoke with a few manufacturers who had moved some or all of their production to China some years ago, because they could make their products cheaper there and they could be more competitive.

However, it wasn’t too many years later before they realized that although the product was less expensive to manufacture, they gave up quality. Another manufacturer told me that when you figured all the costs, including freight, etc., compared with the productivity here in the U.S., they could manufacture their products here for about the same price but of much better quality.

A couple of issues ago, one of our columnists, Judith Guido, wrote about the 500-pound gorilla we all have in our offices. She was referring to our labor costs.

I’m paraphrasing when she said that if we were to hire a new person today (especially in this economy), we would probably get someone with a better skill set than some of the people who have been working for us for many years. In other words, in that booming economy, we were paying a lot of money for the production we were getting. But those halcyon days of 2005, ’06, and ’07 are long gone.

No longer can you just hang out your shingle and wait for business to come to you. To survive in business today, you have to be creative but you also have to be competitive, and to be more competitive your staff and crews have to be more productive.

Remember when Toyota imported all of its cars from Japan?

These days, the Toyota plant in the southeast makes many of the cars that are sold here, and at competitive prices.

It’s no secret that since the layoffs that began in 2009, productivity jumped in the U.S. by 6.1 percent. Companies needed it to stay in business. The employees knew that if they didn’t pick up the slack, the person who used to sit alongside them would love to be hired back, so productivity picked up.

Lawns still need to be mowed, shrubs still need to be trimmed, landscape lighting still needs to be installed, and irrigation systems need to be built; however, if we don’t have highly productive people, we’ll lose the job to someone who does.

We can do it. Be sharp; stay sharp.