When You Come to a Fork in the Road – Don’t Take It?
I have never witnessed a time during my 27 years in this industry when more printers (and other small-business owners) feel like they are at a fork in the road. They have, no doubt, faced similar divergent choices over the years, but this one is more agonizing.
- One road takes them down the same path they have been on for many years—staying a traditional printer with basically the same type of customers.
- The other road, or roads, leads down a new path of diversification into new markets, new customers and even new ways of running a business. Take your pick—there’s the most talked about path of becoming a marketing services provider or a sign business, packaging printer, promotional products provider, fulfillment house and a host of other options.
So what’s the message in this? Based on my observations, the above headline’s “don’t take it” kicker from one of my favorite philosophers, Yogi Berra, may be interesting—but confusing—advice. If you don’t pick one of the paths, can you successfully take another or follow multiple paths? Do you have the resources and staff to take more than one path successfully?
I read and hear stories about printers attempting to diversify into new services or markets only to fail and retreat to the old road most traveled. Too often, the attempt may have been made without devoting adequate resources to the venture or with poor strategy. This may be the time to call in outside resources to help evaluate the business directions that are open to printers. In the franchise world, this is what we do every day with our members. If you are not in this world, then it may be time to call in the outside consultants.
The other message I want to leave you with is this: Don’t forget to resurface and take care of the road you are on. Again, I have observed too many cases where people have tried the diversification programs, but lose focus on their current markets and customers. The result is a substantial loss of business while attempting to develop the new markets and customers. Don’t fall victim to this rocky road.