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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.

 

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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What’s Your Deathbed Advice?

Having a higher calling and purpose than just making money should be important when we ponder our lives and contributions. My former boss and mentor Bill McIntyre was instrumental in developing a very concise mission statement for our company back in the early 1990’s. It is: To Enhance the Value of the Businesses We Serve. To us, it means much more than making money.  Read More >>

Industry Centers:

EDSF Supports Graphic Arts Students and You Can, Too

The annual EDSF Give Back at GRAPH/PRINT event has become the “place to be” when the show floor closes on Tuesday of GRAPH EXPO/PRINT. This year, at PRINT 13, the Give Back event was attended by more than 200; a veritable “who’s who” of the industry.  Read More >>

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The 3/3,000 Rule for Customer Retention

There is a book by Pete Blackshaw called "Satisfied Customers Tell Three Friends, Angry Customers Tell 3,000." Do you have a proactive follow-up plan to cure any problems so the 3/3,000 rule does not have a negative impact on your business?  Read More >>

Industry Centers:

Must Love Dogs...and Cats

In the business world, some people have more of a cat-like personality, while others operate more like dogs. When hiring, our tendency might be to look for dog-like attitudes when in reality we need some cats.  Read More >>

Industry Centers:

The Golden Ink Knife Award...Don’t Get Yours Caught in the Rollers!

In today’s competitive environment, owners need to spend the lion’s share of their time building customer relationships and “chasing business.” You can hire the talent to do the other work, and landing new business is what will dictate success.  Read More >>

Industry Centers:

Giving Back Strategically Without Breaking the Bank

We should all give back to the community and to causes that fit our business and our personal values. However, if we are to operate a successful business, we should give back strategically and make it a part our business plan and marketing plan.  Read More >>

Industry Centers:

Be a One Minute Coach: Fix Behavior the Way You Want It to Be

We can’t change basic personalities, but we can alter behavior if we are proactive in dealing with both negative and positive instances. We have the right and the responsibility to form our companies with the values and a culture to which we subscribe. Why let our company drift toward values that we do not believe in? One minute coaching can be a valuable tool if we learn to practice it regularly.  Read More >>

Industry Centers:

A Hiring Tool That Works

If you have not used the Printing Impressions job posting site on PIworld.com, I recommend you give it a try. I recently assisted one of our franchise members with recruiting a production manager, and we used the site. Within two weeks of posting the job, we received more than 40 resumes.  Read More >>

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Huge Customers and Business Risk: Do and Do Not

Huge customers are great when you have them, but what happens if and when you lose them? It can be a disaster, and even put your firm at risk. We see this more and more in today’s market. The most successful and growing firms often have one or more very large customers that grow to dominate their sales and influence how they do business.  Read More >>

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Emergency Fund Wisdom

Whether you keep a very strong current ratio with large cash reserves in the business or you choose to keep it in liquid personal assets, do one or the other. You will sleep better and will be better prepared for emergencies. Equally important is to be in a position to capitalize on the great opportunities that are still out there in our industry.  Read More >>

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