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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.

 

Sequester Your Sales

We are probably never doing all in our power to grow sales, so let’s focus on a couple of ideas not often talked about. First let’s sequester or “take control” of our sales assets. Too often they have control of us. More to the point, our sales staff can control too much of what goes on in the company.  Read More >>

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Brokering Watermelons and Margins – Caution

Brokering or outsourcing has become more prevalent, especially for smaller firms that do not have the resources to keep up with rapidly increasing technology advancements. Also in recent years, “trade printers” have become more prevalent for certain types of work at very good prices. However, if the company brokering the work is not adding value to the job from other services performed, they are really in a potentially low-margin, commodity market.  Read More >>

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It's Not Easy Being Green – But is it Profitable?

FSC-certification has become an important criterion in selecting a print provider for some environmentally-conscious companies. However, those of us who have dealt with certification could get on a stump about the actual benefit to green initiatives versus the bureaucracy and cost involved for very little real “green” benefit.  Read More >>

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Sequester Your Way to Profitability

Set your own “sequester” and have some fun with it. We all get too serious as managers, and if we create some fun around serious issues, they can become more manageable.  Read More >>

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The “Other” Deadly Law of Inflation

What was the inflation in your cost structure last year and what will it be this year? How much have your rent, utilities, payroll, supplies and delivery costs gone up? Have the courage to always build inflation into your pricing, or it will eventually put you out of business. It’s happened to many of your competitors.  Read More >>

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The Deadly Law of Attrition

Have you heard of The Deadly Law of Attrition? If not, I may shock you with this statement: You are going to lose your best customer. It’s not a matter of if; it’s a matter of when.  Read More >>

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‘Don’t Lose Customers’ Is the Best Marketing Plan Ever

Avoid wasting good money on a complex marketing plan until you have a strong customer-retention plan in place. I recall one study that said the average life of a printing customer is four to five years. That’s unacceptable.  Read More >>

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When You Come to a Fork in the Road - Don’t Take It?

I’ve never witnessed a time during my 27 years in this industry when more printers felt like they are at a fork in the road. One road takes them down the same path they have been on for many years. The other road, or roads, leads down a new path of diversification.
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How to Break Even, Even in Your Worst Month

I’ve always felt it critical to keep constant track of my company’s sales break-even number. The strategy is to build your cost structure so that you can at least “break even” in the projected lowest sales month of the year.  Read More >>

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Better to Be Dead or Disabled?

Which would you rather be? Which would make your family better off, at least financially better off? With all of the focus on health insurance, it’s easy to forget about disability insurance. Consider these statistics: someone 35 years old has a  Read More >>

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Cash Flow Problem? I Don't Think So

I have heard many times from business owners that they would have a great operation if they could just solve their “cash flow problems.” Then, when you take a closer look, the problem is really a lack of profitability.  Read More >>

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I Want to Retire at 55! Why?

Many small-business owners, including owners of graphic firms, think they want to retire early. I find that many, if not most, of these people have not really thought it through. There are two very important questions that must answered:  Read More >>

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Getting ‘All Fired Up’ About Your Business

If you agree that we sometimes need to find a way to reignite the flame within us that can get a little low or burn out, it may be time to attend an industry event. If you haven’t taken some time away from your business recently, I suggest you do so this fall.  Read More >>

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It's Not Over When It's Over

Too often, when a job is completed—printed, finished, mailed and billed—we tend to think “it’s over.” How can a job or project be over unless we measure the results or, in some fashion, determine if the solution we provided the customer yielded the expected outcome?  Read More >>

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Get Out of the Way, but When?

We have all heard that, as managers, we should not get in the way of our staff people doing their jobs. The reality is, as a manager or owner of a small business, we find it necessary to work in the business at the same time we work on it.  Read More >>

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In-Plants: A Partnering Opportunity

Partnering with the management of an in-plant operation could be a win-win opportunity. Too often, we can look at in-plants—or even other competitors—as the enemy when they could make a good partner. 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.  Read More >>

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Bosses Below Average at Performance Appraisals

We have all had bosses who may have been reasonably good in running their companies, but rarely gave us even a “one-minute” coaching moment. Don’t be “that boss.” Employees want to know how they are doing.  Read More >>

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Make a Difference: Do Well by Doing Good

I have had the pleasure of serving on the board of directors of an organization that I would like everyone to know more about. The Electronic Document Scholarship Foundation provides college scholarships to students interested in entering the graphic arts.  Read More >>

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Time to Rethink Your 2012 Plans

One-third of the year has flown by. Assuming that you crafted a business plan for 2012, it is a good time to rethink your plans for the balance of the year. If the year is not living up to expectations, this is a good time to figure out why and what to do about it.  Read More >>

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Love of Print Is Secret to Dscoop’s Success

Dscoop grows every year, boasting a sell-out crowd this year of more than 2,000 attendees. One of the things I find unique at this conference is that people are happy, joyous and appear to be having fun in this industry.  Read More >>

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