Building a Better Print Business at Dscoop 2019
At the Dscoop Edge 2019 convention, held in Orlando at the end of March, HP users from around the world came together for three days of intensive education, networking and learning about new technologies and trends. This year’s theme was “Turning Ideas into Reality,” drawing around 1,700 vendors, speakers and attendees representing 38 countries and 35 U.S. states.
In fact, more than 650 companies in total were present at the event — with 54% being print service providers — which highlighted 100,000 square feet of solutions in the vendor showcase and offered 75 educational sessions in several different tracks. Whether an attendee was a vendor, print service provider, current HP customer or prospect, there was something for everyone at this year’s event.
Right now, said Marco Boer, VP at I.T. Strategies in one of the sessions that kicked off the event on Sunday — New Opportunities in Production Inkjet — print right now is in a “perfect storm,” with the overall retail value of print declining and rising paper costs impacting everyone, from every segment of the industry. However, he noted, it is “not all fires,” with many successful print service providers still finding new ways to grow and expand.
Some of the trends that he noted PSPs will need to more firmly embrace in the years to come include a continuation of the decentralization of print shops, bringing more flexibility with delivery times, and allowing shops to provide much faster service to customers no matter where they are located — on the other side of town, or on the other side of the world.
Another trend he stressed will continue to play a critical role in which shops succeed and which do not is the degree of automation they embrace. Automation will allow shops to run the complex, diverse equipment lists with fewer, less trained staff — a problem, he noted, as the average age of a press worker today is 48. “In the next 6-10 years, shops will have a problem running these offset presses,” Boer said. “This is not a surprise.”
Finally, he noted that when looking at the top 50 shops on the PI 400 list this year, one of the things that stood out to him was that more than half of them are already adding digital services to their product mix, and it won’t be long, he noted, until all of the top commercial printers are offering inkjet and digital printing of some sort.
“Commercial print is still the biggest print segment,” said Boer. “and inkjet penetration is really small. But that will change in the next 5-10 years. I believe we will see a tipping point much sooner than we all expect. This is where the growth is going to be.”
But knowing change is coming, and being able to adapt to that change are two different things. The three main keynote speakers at Dscoop 2019 all had messages around building a winning team and boosting creativity — which in turns boosts productivity. It won’t be the equipment lists that set one print service provider apart from another as the industry continues to converge — it will be the culture of the business and the service provided that make all the difference.
It’s Time to Up Your Elvis
The first keynote speaker of the event was Chris Barez-Brown, the founder of Upping Your Elvis, who led a session of the same name. Barez-Brown noted that energy and creativity in business is all about individuals and how they “show off.” His company name, he noted, encapsulates the philosophy he now teaches. He used to ask “Who is Elvis around here,” in companies, wanting to know who breaks the rules, has fun doing it and has the most success.
Anyone, he noted, can be the “Elvis” of the organization, it is just a matter of tapping into the creativity and “inner genius” and finding the sometimes simple, but effective, ways to transform how the business is run. “It is the simple things that make an impact, that resonate on a deep level,” said Barez-Brown. “But work gets in the way too often.”
He told attendees that it is impossible to do great work “unless you’re passionate about it.” But, he noted, too often individuals get detached from their own creativity. He noted that people tend to try to emulate those around them — their bosses, their co-workers — and while that can be great for fitting in and building relationships, too often it also means losing touch. “You need to step back and recalibrate to be yourself,” he said. “When you do that, the better the work will be.”
No one ever says, he pointed out, that they have their best ideas while sitting at their desk working. They have them in the shower. In the car. While exercising. Anywhere the brain can let go of some of the conscious day-to-day activities and begin to tap into the subconscious, where the most creative and innovative ideas live.
Tips he offered for getting past this block include making a point of reframing even critical feedback as positive — negativity, he noted, gets in the way of creativity. Even if an idea is terrible at first glance, instead of dismissing it out of hand, try to find the nugget that could work, or use it as inspiration to jump to another idea that works.
For printers, this could mean that instead of immediately shooting down a customer’s grand-but-unprintable ideas, pull out one or two that can be produced and then work to make those features stand out so much the customer doesn’t miss the rest. Or take it as a challenge to invent new ways to push the boundaries of technology and find ways to bring the vision to life. Either way, it is taking what could be a negative response, and flipping it into a positive one.
He also noted that everyone should, at least three times per day, take a few minutes to step away from the daily work. Change things up, he noted, break habits and give the brain the opportunity to experience new things and get out of the rut it is too easy to fall in to. “Change the way you manage your time, and you will get a very different perspective,” said Barez-Brown.
Permission to Screw Up
The second major keynote featured Kristen Hadeed, founder and CEO of Student Maid, a small business she started in college cleaning for anyone who would hire her to make a bit of extra cash, which has grown into a large, successful business with a continued focus on employing college students.
Hadeed has made the transition to speaker, where she shares the pitfalls and lessons learned along the way — including sharing her failures and mistakes and teaching how to learn from them. And one of the biggest problems she sees in businesses of all shapes and sizes today is that more than 85% of the world is “disengaged at work, and don’t want to be there,” she said.
“The purpose of life is to find our gift,” Hadeed continued. “But we spend more of our time at work than anywhere else, and we’re disengaged. And if you look at the future leaders, we have an even bigger crisis — in the United States, Millennials have the highest suicide rate of any generation, and the highest rate of depression. They feel a pressure to be perfect.”
These Millennials are the same leaders printers will need to start paying far more attention to attracting and retaining in their businesses. Boer’s statistic that the average print worker today is 48 means that a very large segment of the working population will begin retiring out within the next decade — and it will be these Millennials who are struggling to find their place in the world that will take their place.
“These young people are afraid to mess up,” said Hadeed. “They don’t want to speak up because they are afraid. So how do we help people realize their potential and see what they are capable of doing?”
To do that, she said, businesses need to put more of an emphasis on building a welcoming culture that stresses teaching new skills and a willingness to throw out ideas and see what sticks — even though that means many, if not most, will never get beyond the idea stage. Building confidence, she noted, helps these young leaders own who they are and their ideas and creative process.
“We’ve been taught to keep work and personal apart,” noted Hadeed, “but we are just fooling ourselves to think that is possible. That’s not something you can turn on and off, and we’ve lost the humanity in business by trying to keep them apart.”
She urged everyone in the room to take the time to mentor the younger generation — share past experiences, including failures, and teach them how to learn from even the worst stumbles in life. Have empathy, she said, for whatever someone might be going through, even if it is impacting the bottom line. “Connect with people on a human level,” she said.
Make Tee-shirts Out of Cupcakes
Rounding out the keynote sessions geared toward helping attendees improve the culture of their businesses, which in turn leads to greater success, was Johnny Cupcakes, entrepreneur and founder of a tee-shirt company of the same name.
He shared with attendees his incredibly winding road to the success he has today — an international brand with an almost cult-like following, which can draw crowds that wrap around city blocks several times over with each new limited-edition design the company releases.
Johnny Cupcakes noted that he had 16 businesses before he was 16 years old, all of which failed, but which helped to hone his spirit of trying new things and seeing what worked. “Experimenting is how we grow,” he said. “It teaches you how to adapt.”
One of the driving forces of his success, he said, is an adherence to the philosophy “do more of what makes you happy.” That phrase doesn’t’ just serve as a foundation for his views on business, he also puts it on shirts and other items, helping to spread that take on life as far and wide as possible.
“The more you put in, no matter what the business,” he said, “the more you will get back.” He told attendees that one of the secrets to success is to keep positive every day. But with that said, he also noted that brands should be drawing inspiration from everywhere and everyone. And should have a strong focus on keeping the customer experience on target. “Don’t sell merchandise, sell memories. Make connections with customers,” he said.
For printers, who are often tasked with helping to execute this vision, it is still good advice. Don’t be afraid to go into every customer meeting, every pitch, or take a hard look at every job that walks through the door and see if there are ways to improve the experience. Would adding personalization make the piece more meaningful, and thus more successful? Would adding a coating or specialty finish like foil increase the wow factor and help emphasize the message that much better? Is there a way to better tie the printed materials into the rest of the brand messaging to make a more seamless experience for the end user? These types of questions can help a printer transform from merely a vendor to a valued partner.
All three keynote speakers focused on a theme of improving a business through personal connections and creative problem solving. Whether a printer defines themselves as commercial, in-plant, wide-format, packaging, sign, specialty or something else, there are lessons to be learned here. Print is, at the end of the day, a business — and finding ways to improve the way the business operates outside of simply upgrading the equipment or offering new finishing techniques can lead to growth that pushes beyond what seems possible in today’s landscape.
Creating a culture where people are excited to offer new ideas — both for the business’ own operations as well as for customer jobs — leads to far greater productivity and far better relationships. It is easy to quote the many speakers who have told printers to be partners to their customers, rather than simply vendors. It is harder to know how to put that into practice. The keynote speakers at Dscoop this year painted a picture of exactly how to get there.