Six Ways to Thrive or Die in the ‘New Normal’

Much has been written about how to succeed. But, I could not resist repeating what I consider to be six ways to either thrive or die as we continue to be in the valley of what Dr. Joe Webb once referred to as a possible L-shaped recovery—or lack of recovery from the recession. Consider this: Are we dealing with the impact of the recession, or is the restructuring of the industry more the culprit?

More and more, we hear that this may now be the “new normal.” The recession probably just accelerated the restructuring of the printing industry brought about by the Internet and everything digital. Does it really matter? I think not.

The better news is that a printing firm can thrive (or die) depending on the business approach it takes.

Thrive by being the one left standing; or die by being one of those gobbled up by the survivor.Strongly financed, well-managed companies with a good business plan can and will always survive. They can also thrive by recognizing that getting a larger slice of a pie that is shrinking can be a fine growth strategy. That does not automatically happen. One must aggressively be on the lookout to pick up the sick and wounded via acquisition/merger or landing the accounts before they disperse in a shutdown.

Thrive by diversifying into areas like marketing services, wide-format printing and more; or die by “sticking to your knitting” and not trying anything new. This one is easier said than done. But if you don’t grow by being the one left standing, you must find something new to sell to existing clients, while also landing new clients.

Thrive by becoming a first-class marketer of your business first, and investing in the internal infrastructure to provide these services to others; or die by promoting yourself as a marketing services provider without first having an honest value proposition for potential clients. The industry landscape is becoming littered with printers that first tried to make a halfhearted attempt at becoming a marketing services provider. It’s so talked about in the trade media, one would think everyone should do it as the best way to diversify. The fact is, only a few companies are being really successful and most do not have a clue how to go about marketing their own business let alone try to tell someone else how to do it.

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.

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