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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.

 

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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Marketing ROI – Who Cares?

A study of 243 CMOs found that the large majority don’t establish their budgets with the intent to use ROI as a key metric. It would seem logical that marketers would want to prove the value of their efforts. More importantly, we can create competitive advantage by helping them to measure value.  Read More >>

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Benchmarking Your Way to Profit Master Status

Many small businesses do a pretty good job of producing financial statements, but in my experience, few really use them to the fullest advantage. Often what’s missing are meaningful benchmarks by which to judge financial results.  Read More >>

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Smart Financing - Be Your Own Banker

If you have any money sitting around collecting essentially no interest, you might want to consider loaning your business some money. If you don’t need to buy anything, consider paying down some debt and save yourself some interest costs.  Read More >>

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Announce a Price Increase...Why?

I’ve written before on the importance of intelligent pricing and its impact on profitability. A question I often get is, “Should I announce a price increase?” My answer is, “No.” Why call attention to an increase and invite shopping around by clients?  Read More >>

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My 9-0-9 Plan for a Surefire 2012 Budget

Here is a surefire way to develop a budget for 2012 that will keep your ship on course. Given the uncertainty facing graphic arts firms, I suggest you develop three budget scenarios—9-percent increase, 0 percent increase and 9 percent decrease.  Read More >>

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The Lost Art of Customer Job Stuffing

I just received an online order delivery that reminded me of the lost art of using customer-shipped jobs as a way to build relationships and market for additional orders. Packed inside with my order was a small pocket folder.  Read More >>

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Bad Customers Always Find a Home

Those that do not follow these credit fundamentals will find that the bad customers will drift their way over time. I believe in a firm policy that any accounts that go beyond 90 days should immediately be placed on COD.  Read More >>

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Ten Paradoxical Commandments for Printers

Some years ago, I ran across something called “The Paradoxical Commandments.” I found these to be intriguing and have since used “paradox” as a way to talk about  management topics. Take a look at my “Ten Paradoxical Commandments for Printers” and see if any of these “possible truths” apply to you.  Read More >>

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How Much Debt Is Enough? Too Much?

I have found that businesses that stay in that 5-10 percent debt range, over time, do a pretty good job of keeping the business healthy and produce good profitability and cash flow at the same time.  Read More >>

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Digital Communications and Print Are Here to Stay

USPS to Close - What if that was an actual news headline? I think there’s little for us to worry about as long as we get better at understanding and selling more cross-channel ways for delivering marketing messages...and can make money doing it.  Read More >>

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