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The Next Generation of Printers --Waldman

March 2004
Every now and then, somewhere in Florida, a group of former printing plant owners lunch together. I have it on reliable sources that most are relieved to be out of the business—an industry they once knew and loved and was so good to them. But, oh my, scary future changes will for sure shake print's very foundation, leading to tough times, declining profits and perhaps more failures than growth.

This is not a unique viewpoint. As a former owner myself, I have talked to many other former industry executives and, all too often, I hear thinking similar to the Florida lunch discussion. No question, they are right about one thing—the changes to our industry will be traumatic. But that begs the question: Would you encourage your sons and daughters to embark on a career in the printing industry?

This is a fundamental question because it not only tests our confidence in our industry's future, but looks at the strength of perpetuation since so many print shops have traditionally been a family affair. Now add to the equation the pressman—whose father was also a press operator—who is now contemplating whether or not to continue the family tradition. So you can see that it is more than just a management dilemma; rather, it concerns all of us.

Obviously, our kids are going to do what they want, but they still look to us for guidance. What do we say to our children? For that matter, what do we say to any young person who is looking to us for honest, sound advice?

First, I think we should take another look at the Florida lunch group. Sitting in the warm sunshine and reaping the benefits of a lifetime of hard work, most anyone would be inclined not to want to change their situation. Moreover, the dynamic changes confronting our industry really are scary and threatening. However, I feel confident that if any one of these relaxed sun soakers had to run a printing operation again, they would rise to the task.

Still, "cashing out" is a serious consideration, particularly in light of what may be considerable reinvestment to compete in the future. In many instances, it could be more lucrative and far less risky for you and your children to have the equity from selling your business.

If you have selected the path of perpetuating your enterprise, however, be certain that it is right for your children or any young person looking to you for guidance. Do they want to follow your footsteps? Are they aware of the many difficulties and challenges? Have you seriously evaluated whether they have the necessary skills to be successful? Being honest is the key to whether it is good advice to go into printing.
 

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