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Carl Gerhardt

Business Sense & Sensibility

By Carl Gerhardt

About Carl

Carl Gerhardt is the chairman of Alliance Franchise Brands LLC, the parent company of Allegra Network LLC and Sign & Graphics Operations LCC, and a world leader in marketing, visual and graphics communications, linking more than 600 locations in the United States, Canada and United Kingdom. The company’s Marketing & Print Division, headquartered in Plymouth, MI, is comprised of Allegra, American Speedy Printing, Insty-Prints, Speedy Printing and Zippy Print brands of marketing, printing, mailing and Web services providers. Its Sign & Graphics Division, headquartered in Columbia, MD, is comprised of Image360, Signs By Tomorrow and Signs Now brands of sign and graphics communications providers.

Carl and his wife, Judy, owned and operated their own successful Allegra franchise for nearly 20 years before selling the $2.3 million operation in 2003. He is a PrintImage International/NAQP Honorary Lifetime Member and was inducted into NAPL’s prestigious Soderstrom Society in 2010 in recognition of his contribution to the industry.

 

A Matter of Space: Rethink Your Workspace

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When was the last time you remodeled your office and lobby space? First impressions are critical to wowing clients. And our employees are more productive when they have workspaces that fit their needs. In many, if not most firms, our workspaces have not kept up with the times. Is it time for some new thinking?

Former Quick Printers

Some firms started out as quick printers with the typical walk-in lobby and production area in the rear. With growth, owners fell out of love with walk-in business as they transitioned to commercial printers. The lobby became useless space and was often re-purposed as production area or as a makeshift conference room. Sometimes, the production area expanded by leasing space next door and taking it as it was. The result is often a less than professional and dated environment.

Commercial Printers
Other firms have always been commercial printers with no walk-in lobby. They typically have a small and often uninviting “entry room,” sometimes with a receptionist seated behind a window as the gatekeeper. Production areas and work flow have been determined by the building’s limitations and again, can be less than professional and dated.

As our businesses grow, we tend to make do with the space and walls in place with very little thought given to the most efficient workflow. The anticipated expense and disruption of activity often prevents us from making the changes to work spaces and customer areas.

Some Ideas to Rethink Workspace for Today’s Needs

  1. Office space should have activity-based workstations. Forget the traditional desk and “walls.”
  2. We work and manage by walking around and interacting with others.
  3. Create neighborhood areas for collaboration.
  4. Staff is no longer tethered to a desktop PC. For most, PCs and/or mobile devices are the rule of the day.
  5. Seek employee input about what would make them more productive and happy.
  6. Customer areas should be customer-friendly and sell, sell, sell. Consider:
  • An attractive and “creative” lobby area.
  • Space to sit and connect to Wi-Fi while waiting. Coffee and water offered.
  • Large and small conference rooms with monitors for presentations, etc.
  • Samples of creative work and printed work displayed attractively.
  • Awards or testimonials proudly displayed.
  • Vision, mission statement and values displayed.

A Plan to Bring About Needed Changes
Draft a change management plan to make the transition. If you can afford it, hire a professional space planner. Some office furniture companies will do this for free, if you buy from them.

Three essentials to move forward: organizational policy (What are the ground rules?); tools needed (What do you have that still works, and what do you need?) and a space plan (Change what you have, or start over?) One can’t work without the others.

Equally important is the change management plan to ensure it all happens on time and on budget and with as little disruption as possible. Do it, and you will be glad you did! It just makes good business sense.

Industry Centers:

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