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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.

 

In-Plants: A Partnering Opportunity

 
If you haven’t thought about making friends with in-plant personnel or contacting management of companies or organizations like universities, perhaps it is time to do so. Partnering with the management of an in-plant operation could be a win-win opportunity. All of us are struggling to grow our business and, in some cases, keep critical mass for a certain type of production or a second shift.

Why not offer to help an in-plant to produce some of its work where you may have either better capability or excess capacity? Possibilities could ranged from prepress/design to digital or offset printing, finishing, mailing, wide-format inkjet, fulfillment, etc. If you have entered the marketing services arena, perhaps you can help the in-plant work with its marketing departments.

In like manner, the in-plant shop may have areas of expertise or capacity where you are light. Offering to give it some business may bring some back to you in return—a quid pro quo.
 
Too often, we can look at in-plants—or even other competitors—as the enemy when they could make a good partner. Of course, there must be trust on both sides. And, it might even be worthwhile to have a formal agreement, just like you would do if you were making a contract or purchase agreement with any client; even to agree to protect or not solicit each other’s customers.

Remember, the in-plant has customers within the parent organization, and its managers need to know you will agree to not do an end run. In like manner, you will want that agreement to protect your customers, since many in-plants look to insource printing business to supplement what comes from the parent company/organization.
 
Such a relationship will require a different mindset than some of us are used to, but in this fast-changing world, we all need to look for new solutions. Some in-plants are coming under increased pressure from upper management to justify their existence, so having an existing business relationship may at some point lead to an opportunity to acquire a book of business, and perhaps even the equipment and staff of a struggling in-plant. Having such a partnership in place can also help the parent organization avoid any interruption in services.

Or, it may afford the opportunity for the company or organization to keep the in-plant operation, but scale it down. Perhaps eliminate offset, for example, and keep only the digital production capability that better fits the given volume of work.

Either way, there’s a chance for a win-win.
 

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