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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.

 

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 >>

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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 >>

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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 >>

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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 >>

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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 >>

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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 >>

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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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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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