Would you be able to run a successful business if you only delivered 25 products a year? You would if you are the owner of Fabbri rifles, where you can see each rifle for almost 200,000 pounds each.
(First, I don’t recommend looking at gun magazines before taking an international flight – you get some very strange looks and are almost guaranteed to have your luggage inspected. Lesson learnt.)
That aside, I was taken by the interview with Ivo Fabbri, renowned Italian gun maker. Although I spent almost 14 years in the Air Force, my exposure to rifles and weaponry and rifles was limited. I had done plenty of drill and qualified each year on a weapon, but the type of weapons that Ivo produces are something else. What I had been exposed to and what Ivo produces is like comparing a Hyundai with a Lamborgini; they both go from A to B but one but only one is designed and built for perfection. In short, the weapons that Ivo produces are as much art and engineering perfection as they are weapons.
Ivo and his son make sport shotguns in their family business with each weapon costing approx. $200,000 each. Production is set at about 25 guns per year. (As you can see, the comparison between Ivo’s weapons and a high-end sports car is apt when you consider price and production). What makes Ivo’s business philosophy different is his desire to achieve perfection, and with that comes a requirement for control that is rare in many businesses.
Ivo and his son son Tulio have demanding standards. They build everything in house. “We believe that the only way to achieve quality is to make it all”, notes Tullio proudly. “We can test and modify and perfect. If you use a lot of outsourcing you have to buy what they give you. It takes too long to modify things. The key is speed; the only way to do it is to do it yourself. If you do not make the parts, how can you know what the problems are? If you do it yourself you will learn. You keep learning every day from your experience…..especially if you want to do something that does not exist elsewhere”.
The Fabbri business model is counter-intuitive to what most larger businesses would require for success (higher production, leaner manufacturing etc). The idea that all processes must stay in-house is also a concept that stills feels uncomfortable for a small business owner who has sub-contracted several non-essential tasks. Although the business model applied at Fabbri is not for every business, I am impressed by the pride and desire to perfect that this family business demonstrates. In my opinion their success comes down to three key things: skill, will and strength of purpose.
1. Skill. You cannot achieve the level of product perfection that Ivo and his son have without knowing what they do inside out. From the smallest screw to the choice of wood grain for the stock, the Fabbri family know and understand every single detail of their product. The product they produce is known throughout the world for its quality and reliability.
2. Commitment. You can’t be the best without wanting to be the best. It is clear that the Fabbri family is passionate about the product that they produce; it consumes their lives.
3. Strength of Purpose. To be the best not only takes commitment, but also a strength of purpose to deal with setbacks and failures. The testing, modifying and perfecting that Ivo mentions takes constant effort and an ability to recognize that failure is but a part of achieving perfection. The ability to continue to strive and produce even better results takes a resolve that is not often found.
Does your business try and achieve this level of business perfection? Is it achievable? What impact would having this type of skill, will and sense of purpose have on both you and the business you work within?