THE BLOG
11/23/2013 10:56 am ET Updated Jan 23, 2014

Being Flexible: What Your Business Can Learn from Plastics

I love working with plastics. Where else could you take a raw product that doesn't resemble much of anything and in a short time have something of value. To help me learn about new ways to grow my company, I recently attended the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses Program in Salt Lake City. Since completing the 22-week program, with 34 other entrepreneurs, I have begun implementing the strategies learned in class for taking my company to an entirely different level.

My company manufactures BirdguarD . You probably haven't heard of them before. But, like most things plastics, BirdguarDs are everywhere. Our product serves a simple, vital function--also like most plastics. Occasionally birds--or other animals--will land on a section of power lines that will shock the animal and take out the power. We manufacture customized plastic pieces, which cover over these sections.

The key component of plastics, as we all know, is how malleable it is, ready to be conformed to pretty much anything you could imagine. We capitalize on this property to define nearly every business decision we make.

You can step back, I think, and learn something about the defining characteristic of plastic, that is, learning to be flexible in your business. For example, I entered the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses Program thinking our company offices were too small. Through the education I received, I realized size wasn't the issue, efficiency was. Because of some key changes we've implemented, we have prepared ourselves to expand internationally.

When we compete for domestic and international bids it isn't unusual for us to go against much larger global companies that have more resources than we do. Yet this month, our company beat out the competition by winning a contract in Mexico, where we'll be providing--and here's the key--custom designed bird guards to fit on nearly every power line in the country. Our much larger rivals weren't willing to design to the specific needs of the contract. As a more nimble operation, we won out because we were.

It reminds me of the topical quote from Charles Darwin: It's not the strongest of the species that survives, or the most intelligent. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.

Flexibility helps you to maintain a competitive advantage. We feel we can compete for any job at home and oversees because of our willingness and ability to adapt to a customer's needs.

Flexibility can help to expand your business operations. Our engineers work directly with utility customers to design custom made products. These are not the products we ordinarily produce. But expanding these capabilities makes good sense for our company.

Flexibility impacts your professional career. I started out in the hospitality industry. When a family member approached me to come help with the family business, I agreed, and was introduced to the world of manufacturing.

Flexibility is essential to good strategy. What good is strategy if it isn't flexible enough to modify as needed, according to changing circumstances?

I'm fortunate to have been part of the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses Program and would recommended it to small business owners, who are looking to grow their company, but understand they need more education and training to be successful.

When you're reviewing options for expanding your own business to international markets, remember to be flexible in your approach. Remind yourself of one of the great all time lines from the movies. A young professional, starting out in life, is told: "I've got one word for you, just one word: Plastics."

This post is authored by Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses graduate Natalie Kaddas, in recognition of Global Entrepreneur week November 18-24th. GEW is an international initiative that introduces entrepreneurship in six continents during a week filled with different activities to motivate people to explore their own entrepreneurial ideas. For more information on Global Entrepreneur Week click here. Goldman Sachs is a partner of the What Is Working: Small Businesses section.