Should Print Brokers Be Licensed? Some States and Industry Pundits Are Predicting It
Trade associations of all stripes tend to fight government interference in the marketplace. The preferred alternative is self-regulation by an organization of peers that keeps its house in order. But what if that doesn't work? Suppose, for a moment, that doctors, nurses, engineers and lawyers didn't support or even acknowledge a professional association because they thought it unnecessary. Of course, these groups do participate and, in fact, are proudly so with memberships approaching the entire population of practitioners.
Unfortunately, this is not the case with printing intermediaries. Most are "lone rangers" who operate carelessly and without pride or investment in what are typically home-based businesses. There are few barriers to entry as buyers rarely check a broker's credentials of which there aren't often any, regardless. Printers (the ones with machinery) indulge rather than respect brokers — necessary evils they are called, or worse. The three biggest complaints persist even 35 years after our trade association [PBBA] was formed: Incompetence, financial inadequacy and lack of loyalty.
The largest proportion of lawsuits are categorically breach of promise, contract or payment. Courts try to avoid trials and juries, but there is no mediation and arbitration service with knowledge specific to ink, paper, imaging and finishing. The waste of time and the huge costs of litigation inevitably bring about policies of not engaging brokers; a blacklist of sorts.
If there is a solution, it can be found in other fields where brokerage is better established and is a greater share of total activity. Insurance, real estate, securities, yachts, and even trucking and beauty culture, mandate the passing of state exams for licensing and continuing education. Where substantial amounts of money are involved, performance bonding is typically required.
Of course, for these standards to be devised and undertaken, a trade association is essential. We have one. It's called the Printing Brokerage Buyers Association. Buyers, manufacturing printers and, most of all, brokers should provide input to the process. There should be recognition and rewards for good practices, and penalties or license revocation for bad behavior. Printing brokerage can't continue to be a "wild west attraction." Fairness and discipline are in order.
The "bad apples" can not contaminate the fruits of honest labor and professionalism. There will be far fewer but many more large companies as a result of licensing and bonding. The case is compelling and being presented to legislative bodies at this writing. Stand by!
Vincent Mallardi, C.M.C., is a the chairman of the Printing Brokerage/Buyers Association International (PBBA) and is a Certified Management Consultant in the paper, printing and converting industries. He is also an adjunct professor in economics. Contact him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org