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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.

Execute a Mediocre Plan in 2012. It Works

Last week, I got a call from a printing company owner down in Atlanta who many would say has a mediocre business plan. By the end of our conversation, I was laughing so hard because I was so wrong about the state of his business. The office could hear me laughing as I was looking at his Website.

At first, all indications pointed toward a failing business, but the more I learned, the more my admiration grew. The lesson learned is that you are better off executing well on a mediocre plan vs. over planning or executing poorly against a great plan. This guy knows how to succeed and make money. I will call him Tim, for reasons that will become clear shortly.

As I was speaking with Tim on the phone, I went to his company website. It looked like your typical low-budget, out-of-the-box website for a printer with $300K/yr. in revenue. Pretty uninspiring, but Tim doesn’t care because his current plan is focused on other things.

The “About Us” page had the standard wording you see on the ready-made website for printers that is supposed to be changed on day one. For a split second, I judged a book by its cover and said this company is one of the many on their way out of business. Then, Tim said the shop was a $2.5 million printer that is growing and expanding. He then went into his strategy in a little detail.

Maybe he is the Tim Tebow of printers. Even if you are not a Tebow fan or he crashes and burns soon, you must admit he has been beating the odds—executing in an unorthodox manner, but getting the job done. It ain’t pretty, but Broncos win.

I had to learn how Tim the Printer did it with such a run-of-the-mill website. We hear so often how much weight a website contributes to a company’s perception, efficiencies and marketing prowess in this day and age.

Hit the “A” prospect:
Tim doesn’t waste time chasing any deal. He rather not bid unless he knows his chances of winning are high. The job must be in his wheelhouse. The printer selects clients that “are a fit.”

I know, you may say you can’t do that because you are in a small market and need to scramble for everything. That may be true in your case, but Tim has that as part of his mediocre strategy and he executes well. He knows his market and how he should play. I have talked to other printers who have a different strategy than the “A Prospect” philosophy because of their market, and they win as well with a broader definition.

Go deep:
He goes overboard creating and maintaining relationships, rolling out services that complement what he is offering existing clients. No shotgun approach, but a surgical implementation of value-added services. Then the firm executes as an expert once it masters the service one at a time.

Too many printers are throwing out way too many new services as they can all at once and not doing them well. The result is a bad reputation and a dark cloud building over the operation through the eyes of the customer.

Do the basics extremely well:
You can have a fancy website, online ordering, complex phone systems, self-serve tools, but that is not Tim’s game. Campaigns with many legs are his game, along with doing the basics well in project management. From speed of getting a quote to prospects and customers, to communicating along the way, Tim’s company loves the customer fromstart to finish. Effective communications is his game.
Hiring stars:
Tim takes hiring seriously. Every hire goes through a rigorous interview process to make sure that person will make the cut and current employees will embrace the new team member. Yes, there is that team environment and everyone is part of the hiring process, not just HR or the executives. Tim puts the people he interviews through a process that includes exposure to many employees. Let prospective employees see the place’s good, bad and ugly aspects so they know exactly what they are getting into.

Foundation of trust:
I sensed a warmth and genuineness from Tim. No shyster here. He was someone you would want to hang out with not because he was the life of the party, but because he had integrity and true leadership with a moral and ethical backbone. He walked the talk and I sensed his employees probably did the same. Customers valued that. Water flows downhill, so my gut is that his team follows the same philosophy. The approach is a magnet for success and long-term relationships.

I’m sure there are other ingredients that drive success. You may feel Tim does have a great plan and it is not mediocre. Whatever the case, execution and focus on the critical few things is what sets this company apart.

Have even a mediocre plan for 2012, but some plan at least. More importantly, execute on whatever mediocre plan you hack together. You can be a hack and still win some games. The brightest, most talented, and wealthiest aren’t the most successful unless they do something with those gifts. Just watch Tebow.

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