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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.


We Reap What We Sow – Honesty Rules

You may be familiar with one of several versions of the following story; the original author is unknown. It carries a powerful message that I want to share. Look for the employees like "Jim" in this message and you might find your successor and certainly employees that are keepers.  Read More >>

Industry Centers:

Celebrate Your Losses

Celebrate your wins, create a positive work environment and make your workplace fun. It makes good business sense and pays dividends. Don't ignore the losses either. We certainly don't want to celebrate them, but we should put plans in place to fix them.  Read More >>

Industry Centers:

War Stories: Your Best Marketing Tool

I think we can agree that positive word-of-mouth is one of the best marketing tools any business can have. To get this to work, you need what I like to call "war stories" that are affirming. These are customer experiences about doing business with you that are so compelling they want to share the story with their friends and colleagues.  Read More >>

Industry Centers:

It's OK to Spill a Little

Too often I find many small-business people to be too conservative. I don’t mean in the political sense. I mean they become too risk-adverse and afraid to take on new things because they are "too busy."  Read More >>

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How to Hire and Keep a Dynamo Salesperson

I believe that there are many firms that are unable or unwilling to pay the price to hire and attract the caliber of person that can succeed in today’s marketplace. Many more sales hires fail than succeed. I set up an equity program for a young person and eventually sold the entire business to him. The entire process took about 15 years. He had no cash but lots of talent and willingness.  Read More >>

Industry Centers:

'This Is a Football.' Back to the Basics

There are many football and sports analogies that apply to business, but how does this one apply? In our fast-changing environment with all of the talk about diversification and "becoming marketing services providers," we often leave the basics to chance and assume they will take care of themselves. Not true. The fundamentals are something that must be constantly practiced and inspected.  Read More >>

Industry Centers:

Seven Words You Can’t Say

I’ve heard the following seven words a time or two when visiting our franchise members: "We have never done it that way." It’s human nature to continue doing the things we believe will work rather than something that requires taking a risk...or something suggested by a staff member, a fellow shop owner or business advisor.  Read More >>

Industry Centers:

Attacking Quotes Is Simple Business Sensibility

We often spend big money on sophisticated marketing plans to attract new customers. If we fall down on quick, professional response to quotes, we end up making this the weakest link in the marketing chain. We leave the low hanging fruit on the tree for a more aggressive competitor to pick.  Read More >>

Industry Centers:

More on M&A on Steroids

In the last blog, I talked about the “Deadly Law of Inflation” and the toll it has taken on our industry. In my opinion, it has also caused merger and acquisition activity to accelerate as though on steroids. The following list identifies the top 10 needs to ensure a successful purchase/sale and transition.  Read More >>

Industry Centers:

The Deadly Law of Inflation and M&A on Steroids

I think too many of us in this industry are lulled into thinking that because we have had relatively low inflation in the past decade, that it does not have an impact. Wrong!  Read More >>

Industry Centers:

Shrinking Your Way to Prosperity

I have said often that I think there is more fun and opportunity in this industry now than when I started in 1985; it’s just different. You have a big advantage in owning your own business and understanding this market. It simply takes action, hard work and the willingness to get some help and to think differently than in the past.  Read More >>

Industry Centers:

The Best (and Necessary) Motto: Be Prepared

In recent months, I have been reminded a couple of times how disaster can strike our businesses. Over the holidays one of our franchise members had a break-in that caused a fire, burning the center to the ground. Disaster struck, but fortunately, the owner had good insurance coverage, a second location that allowed for minimal business interruption and a franchise network for support.  Read More >>

Industry Centers:

Paper Price Increases - Problem or Opportunity?

We are always nervous about informing our customers that our services will cost more. However, I have always looked on paper price increases as more of an opportunity than a problem.  Read More >>

Industry Centers:

Volatility, Peaks and Valleys

Yogi Berra once said, “If you don’t know where you are going, you will end up somewhere else.” The need for planning was never greater, but planning for volatility has never been more difficult.  Read More >>

Industry Centers:

You May (No You Will) Live and Work Longer Than You Think!

Sixty is the new 50, 50 is the new 40 and so on. Most of us will most likely live well into our 80's. This puts a new reality on not only how long we must fund retirement but also how long we can be a productive citizen.  Read More >>

Industry Centers:

‘Within 20 Minutes, I Referred 5 People’: Best Business Sense Story of the Year

For my last PI Blog of 2013, I couldn’t help but share a recent experience of our franchise member in Des Moines, IA. The prospect in this story consults with ophthalmologists and wrote about his business card experience in his blog. Everything that happened is enough to provide almost any printer, or any business for that matter, lessons in how to succeed in today’s competitive environment.  Read More >>

Industry Centers:

A Matter of Space: Rethink Your Workspace

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.  Read More >>

Industry Centers:

Cannibalize Print to Grow Bigger

If we buck the trend that makes business sense for our customers, sooner or later they will see us as aging dinosaurs and will find other partners that are more progressive. Investments are always necessary to keep your products and services in growth mode.  Read More >>

Industry Centers:

‘I'm Wonderful and I Am a GYPSY’

Good business sense and sensibility should tell us to understand why people react and behave as they do. We can then go about managing them in a way that will result in the most productivity, as well as career growth for the individual. It will cause us a lot less agony in dealing with them and wondering what we are doing wrong...nothing.  Read More >>

Industry Centers:

Celebration and Fun - Boots and Bling21

Grab your boots & shine your spurs, the invitation starts out. It’s another celebration at Allegra Louisville-East. Denise Spalding, Jennifer Eberle and their staff are celebrating their 21st birthday of being in business for themselves.  Read More >>

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