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Manufacturing & Distribution

We combine the strength of business and financial expertise with a hands-on, “shop floor” approach to solving complex business issues.


January 30, 2019


What comes to mind when you think of companies like Apple, Patagonia, and Ferrari? Success. Vision. Passion. Purpose. Most likely, it’s a combination of all these answers. These companies have a reputation for not only being highly successful, they are also known for their strategic forward-looking vision, passion for what they do, and clear purpose. These companies transcend manufacturing; they have nurtured cultures that focus both on business and the additional impact they can have on the world. How do they accomplish this, and what does this have to do with manufacturing?


The current outlook for manufacturing companies is extremely bright. Manufacturing productivity is up 1.4 percent year-over-year in the third quarter of 2018. There is a 92.5 percent positive outlook for medium-sized companies, employment is expected to increase 2.5 percent, and sales growth is expected to increase 5 percent. However, even with this positive outlook, there are still multiple challenges facing the industry. According to a recent survey conducted by the National Manufacturing Association, 73.2 percent of companies state that attracting and reaching a quality workforce is their primary business challenge. What is the impact of this challenge? Due to the inability to attract and retain workers:

  • 28.4 percent of manufacturers haveturned down new business
  • 33.2 percent held off plans to expand orcreate new jobs
  • 44.4 percent cite the inability to attractand retain a talented workforce as thebiggest threat facing their business

With all this in mind, what is the key to attracting and retaining the best talent? The answer isn’t what you might think. In today’s competitive labor market, employees want more than just a good paycheck. They want to know that what they do on a daily basis matters; to havea purpose and a reason for WHY their job matters. This is not something that happens overnight, and it requires a company to reexamine and revise ‘what makes them tick’; their WHY.

There are three initial steps to put a company on the path to attract and retain the best talent:

  1. Define your WHY.
  2. Drive your WHY.
  3. Leverage your WHY.


The first step to attracting and retaining talent is to define your WHY using the Golden Circle developed by Simon Sinek. This approach explains that “people do not buy what you do; they buy why you do it” (see Figure 1). Defining and articulating WHY you exist and the purpose of your organization provides a clear motivation for your company that creates an emotional link between the company, the employees and the customers. It is the very groundwork for sparking employee engagement, which is essential for attracting and retaining the best employees.

Golden circle

Figure 1: The Golden Circle by Simon Sinek

The WHY is your reason for being in business. It’s your passion and purpose; the fire inside that drives you and your team every day. The WHY is the foundation for your culture, which gives your people an emotional connection to your company, your team, your products/services, and your customers. Without this emotional connection, you are likely to have issues attracting and retaining talent. Both your employees and customers need to understand why you do what you do.

When you think of Ferrari, you don’t just see a car. You see unimpeded passion for driving, for beauty, for connection of man to machine…and, oh, they also produce cars. The same concept applies to Apple. Apple has a passion for simplifying technology; to enable seamless connections between people and technology that helps connect people while simplifying and improving their lives. Oh, and they make phones and watches, too. The point is, these companies can use their passion and purpose to drive their business. However, regardless of the products and or services they provide, they always stay focused on their WHY. Once you have your WHY, how do you ensure it is driven throughout your entire organization?


You have heard the saying, “out of sight; out of mind”. This is especially true for your WHY. To ensure this does not happen in your organization, you need to drive your WHY by incorporating it into your vision, mission, strategy, and core values. Most companies either do not have these areas defined or it’s so far removed from daily operations that no one can tell you what it is (not even leadership). Each component needs to be well stated, communicated and understood by employees at all levels of the organization. The following is how all of these elements fit together as the foundation for your culture:

  • The WHY is your vision for your entireorganization.
  • Your mission defines and clearlyinterprets your vision so it can beclearly and succinctly communicatedto employees at all levels.
  • Your strategy is how you approachachieving your mission.
  • Your core values state the beliefs andbehaviors needed to support yourmission, your vision, and ultimately,your WHY.

It is essential to incorporate these into your daily operations to maintain your culture and the emotional connection for your people. You can use visual boards, posters, signs, statement cards, screensavers, etc. to make sure your WHY stays at the forefront for your employees. Developing these elements of your organization are crucial for clearly communicating who you are and retaining and attracting key talent.


If you want to attract and retain the best employees, you need to also leverage your WHY. Sixty eight percent of people leave their organization because they are lacking an emotional connection. Why is that? According to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, people have an inherent need to emotionally connect in order to live, work and deliver at their highest potential.

If you meet this basic need by leveraging your WHY and fostering the emotional connection, your people will wake up in the morning excited to pursue their goals and be a part of your team. They will be passionate about what you do and why you do it, and this culture of passion will resonate internally and externally. This provides a solid foundation to retain your current team, attract new talent, and have a reputation in the marketplace that also attracts more customers. You will have people who are passionate about what they do, and that passion will not only resonate within your company, it will also resonate with your customers and industry.


By defining, driving and leveraging your WHY, you enhance and sustain employee engagement. This allows you to mitigate the challenge of attracting and retaining talent in manufacturing. By creating a culture with the necessary emotional connection, your people will know their purpose and be passionate about both their work and their company. This level of employee satisfaction can overcome the temptations for employees to move to another company. You will have people who are passionate about what they do, engaged in their jobs, and enthusiastic to serve your customers and solidify your reputation as a company people want to work for. With this foundation in place, you enable broader thinking, a company that is more adaptable to the ever-changing business environment, passion that is evident from the top down and the bottom up, and efficiency. Find your WHY, and you will retain and attract top talent.

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