One of the most interesting things about working at AlphaSights is the opportunity to speak with senior people from many industries all over the world, who work with AlphaSights as Expert Advisors. But that doesn’t mean it’s always catching up with fine wine connoisseurs or luxury hotel managers. Seemingly dull-sounding industries like automobile components, semiconductors, and insurance are just as popular with our clients - in fact, sometimes more so. You’d be forgiven for thinking such projects are a drag, but here’s a little anecdote that might convince you otherwise.

The Little Car Part...

A few months ago, I was working on a project regarding a specific automobile component. I had to connect our clients with people at all levels of the supply chain, and had to speak with them first to verify their suitability. However, I myself only had a limited understanding of what this component was actually used for, and was nervous about having to discuss it with experts.

But I needn’t have worried - things improved dramatically when I started actually talking to people. Did I know that rising demand by customers for cars to go faster has changed the way this component can be made, asked one senior executive. No, I said, I didn’t. He became more and more animated as he explained how this would affect pricing, his business, and the industry as a whole. His enthusiasm was infectious and I found myself wanting to learn more.

Another executive felt that consumer demand was a less important factor in the industry. He was concerned that despite technological advances in manufacturing, there was no way this component’s performance could be improved. And the next person I spoke to had an entirely opposite view. There was such a divergence of opinions, yet they all truly cared about this industry and how it will evolve.

...And What It Taught Me

This experience taught me three important things:

1) With a curious, inquisitive and intellectually hungry mindset, every subject on earth is fascinating. Especially when you’re speaking to the very Executives who shape the sector.

2) Basic business principles apply to every industry, no matter how technical it is. There will always be drivers of demand, customers, competitors and substitutes, people issues, technological improvements, and perhaps regulations. These all feed into people’s ability to make the best product they can, the highest profit, and the most successful companies.

3) A recognition of the deep knowledge, detailed planning, and complex processes that went into building everything we have today: from the heating system keeping me warm to the shoes on my feet. Above all, a greater appreciation for the people who have dedicated many decades of their lives to build these companies and industries.