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

Once upon a time, I actually tried to print a job on an offset press. It resulted in me being presented with The Golden Ink Knife Award. This was a plaque made with an ink knife mounted to it, rolled in ink and gold thermography powder, and then run through a thermographer. The short story is that I got that ink knife caught in the rollers of the press and was never able to finish the job. I had to call one of our two press operators who were both home sick with the “Monday flu” to come and bail me out. Later, our production staff presented me with that plaque and made me promise to never again touch one of our presses. It was one of the best things that ever happened to me.

So why share this somewhat embarrassing story? Well, it taught me a valuable lesson. It was only two months after opening our print center in Colorado Springs. I had been out selling most of the time. Having pretty good success those first two months, we ramped up fast. I thought I could do it all and fill in for the sick press operator. The result taught me a valuable lesson. Do the things you do well, and don’t try to step in an area where you lack the skills to fill.

Too often during my career, I have known and consulted with owners who spend too much of their time doing work that they would have been better off hiring talent to do. In some cases, they did it because they liked to do it. In other cases, they were not willing to spend the money to hire good talent.

The moral of the story is, “Don’t get your ink knife caught in the rollers.” Don’t get in the habit of spending time on things that you do not have the skills to do or that are not productive in growing your business. 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. Owners must be involved in that part of the business if they are to succeed in the high calling of their business lives.

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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  • Andre Palko

    Great lesson. Another tool that’s helped me over the years is to assign a dollar value to my time. If I find myself working on something that can be delegated or outsourced for less, I make it a point to make that happen. It keeps me focused on my "high calling" and I have an accountability coach to keep me honest!