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Farquharson/Tedesco on Business Development: Mimic How the Octopus Adapts

June 2013 By Bill Farquharson, T.J. Tedesco

Let's start off with a quick printing history lesson from a couple of ex-print-sales guys. During the past 30-odd years, what's been required for sustained growth in our industry has changed repeatedly.

The progression has gone something like this:

  1. Back in the 1980s, simply offering a quality product and adopting the right technology (e.g., electronic prepress) consistently put dinero in the banco for printers.
  2. By the '90s, quality had become ordinary, but printers with fast turnaround speeds stood apart from the crowd.
  3. In the 2000s, the goalposts moved again: only printers that had complete value propositions—with perhaps a smidgen of digital marketing excellence on the side—were growing.

Printers today need to nail items 1, 2, and 3 to even have a shot at growing in the traditional, organic way. Just one problem: we're no longer a growth industry. In other words, executing in all the areas above to squeeze out market share growth will likely get you… about back to baseline. Whoopee!

Now, an even quicker economics lesson. Since 2006, the number of U.S. printing facilities has declined about 40 percent. And total printing industry output has declined from the mid-$170 billion range to around $140 billion. You don't have to be the Freakonomics guys to figure out this has been a TOUGH situation for us.

Darwin was right: only the strongest printers have survived. And this presents yet another challenge for survivors. Since most of us have it together on items 1, 2, and 3—let's be honest, those that didn't are resting in peace for the most part—these attributes are no longer exceptional in our industry. A well-run printing business will survive, but that's about it.

Surviving isn't enough. Your printing business should strive for significant, sustainable growth. And you can do it! As long as you think and plan differently.

Traditional organic growth strategies will help your company survive as the business version of a housecat—docile and neutered. Something tells us you'd rather be a lion. And lions pounce on today's real growth opportunities, which lie in a different realm: acquisitions, different niche markets, and new capabilities. Although the term is a bit awkward, call this "inorganic" growth.



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