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Michael Casey

Pressing Ahead

By Michael Casey

About Michael

Michael Casey is the founder of Survey Advantage and strategic partner with several printer associations and franchises. By leveraging information from a printer’s estimation and production software, Mike’s business has helped hundreds of printers automate their customer feedback and lead generation process. He may be reached via e-mail or (401) 560-0311 ext. 103. Read printer case studies on the Survey Advantage Website.

5 Ways Printers Can Keep that Fire in the Belly

There are few cash cows left in the printing industry so some owners need to revamp their thinking.
  • Get more psyched about their business.
  • Get self-motivated again.
  • Embrace new opportunities such as QR codes, social media, or marketing services passionately.

Maturing owners may need to give themselves a pep talk to prepare mentally for one last business push that will take them through the next 10 or 20 years. I know it stinks that many maturing owners are having to push their retirements out a few years this late in their careers. Grandchildren are entering the picture. Buddies with pensions going golfing without them. It’s a tough pill to swallow.

These industry veterans have already pushed hard in their 20s or 30s to get to this point, and now they are staring at the necessity to burn the midnight oil again. Maybe they don’t have the energy they once had. I can relate, as I turn 50 this year.  AARP wants me and the offers are filling up my mailbox!

Last week, I spoke with a print owner who inspired this article. He said he felt like going home and “pulling the covers over my head.” He has children and a wife working in the business and is watching their hard-earned savings wither away. Their sales have slipped 40 percent over the past four years. He made a mistake buying a new four-color offset press instead of a digital one and the payments killed him; he lost the new press earlier in the year. Now he’s stuck with a small, ill-equipped digital press and feels behind the eight ball.

Maybe you know someone in a pickle who is hoping things turnaround, or just doesn’t know where to turn or what to do. There is hope.

The following are a few things to consider when trying to figure out a way to keep the fire in the belly, or regain it if you lost it. Every printer has assets that were created and developed over the years. There is plenty to be cheerful about.

Here are five things that may help bolster you mentally as you look ahead to 2012.
1) You have a bunch of customers who still need stuff.

Other businesses would love to have the business relationships you have cultivated. You have spent decades getting to know your customers on a first-name basis and earned their trust. New businesses need to earn that trust and show what they can do, but you’ve already done that. Pick your next most-lucrative business opportunity and gear up to dominate.

Your customers will give you a shot beyond print. The important thing is focus. Don’t do a little sign making, dabble in Website services, add a bit of marketing services. Analyze your customer base and decide which one service would make a dent in your print revenue losses. Then, go for it. Really go for it.

I recently had the pleasure to spend time with Mitch Evans, an industry leader who has been at it for a while. No, Mitch, I’m not saying you are old, just experienced. I hate it when my wife says that to me.

Mitch is sharp and grew his sign revenue to $500,000 per year by focusing on it as the major part of his diversification strategy. That is a nice business unit. It all happened because he had the discipline and focus to go beyond just printing wide-format posters, signs, etc. and really embrace the entire business model.

2) You have the business maturity and experience to know how to use technology effectively.

Push yourself beyond your comfort zone. You know a ton about business. Once you learn a new technology, you will see how to apply it to drive revenue. Don’t be embarrassed to ask your 20- something employees for help. Pay for help if needed, but get up to speed now.

Don’t waste time, procrastinate. It may take longer, but you must get fired up and commit to learning today’s technology. Hopefully, by teaming up with a talented technical person you will climb the steep learning curve and your guide will gain from your savvy business application ideas. It can be a win-win.

It is amazing how few printers do e-mail marketing, but those who have embraced it see great results to complement their direct mailing efforts. Another star printer who continues to beat the odds is Scott Cappel of Sorrento Mesa Printing. Five years ago, he retooled his business by embracing technology at a rapid pace to drive waste out of the business and focus on the right deals to grow his business. He is one of the most “at peace” printer owners I’ve ever met.

3) You have industry peers who will help you figure it out and share what is working.

There are so many industry support networks out there to navigate these turbulent waters. Just look at the list of peer groups you can tap into. Sharing your pain and opportunity ideas with other printer owners in a confidential manner helps everyone in the group move ahead. Put your ego on the sidelines and reach out.

Allegra Peer groups, AlphaGraphics Board Groups, CPRINT Peer Groups, NAPL Peer Groups, Franchise Services Board Groups, Mitch Evans Peer Groups, IPW Peer Groups. The list goes on and on. It is up to you to reach out and find a group that works for you. Others have the same concerns or opportunities you have, and five owners looking at the issue together is better than one. These other owners will tell you what you need to do and also follow up with you to make sure you are held accountable in a supportive way!

4) There are printers out there looking to acquire other printers.

There is a reason why the acquisition specialists at Allegra Network and NAPL’s acquisition expert, John Hyde, are so busy. Printers who are diversifying, have great financials and a fire in their bellies are looking to buy. The management of a printer in Michigan I spoke with earlier in the year was so fired up because they made three smart acquisitions over the previous two years and were growing nicely. You can read the complete case study for yourself.

5) It is easier when you have no other choice than to engage in the business.

Sometimes it is easier when you have only one choice and one thing to do. Every industry statistic shows less demand for print and growth in competing marketing options. Call a team or family meeting and map out a plan. Lead a team to retool the business or die.

I know, pretty morbid stuff, but don’t bury your head in the pillow. You can do it.

It’s not easy. No one said running a business would be, but you must admit it‘s fun when you see positive results from your efforts.  Good luck as you prepare for 2012. The fourth quarter is a great time to prepare to take the bull by the horns.

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