Well, the good news is that the 2011-2012 Quick Printing Industry Pricing Study has been published and is now available for sale. Approximately 350 companies participated in this year’s biennial survey and consequently received a free PDF of the study in mid-April.
The bad news is that it may be a long time before we see this type of study published again, if ever. Why? It’s a long story, and the reasons are varied. None of it is very good news, so I have put off discussing this subject to the latter half of my column.
Now, back to the good news. What follows is one of the many incidents that happen to me during the course of any single week or month. Some of them are good enough that they end up working their way into one of my columns. This is one of them.
As the deadline for the for the 2011-2012 Pricing Survey approached, I started receiving panic calls and emails from printers asking for an extension of another day or two. Yeah, I gave in to some. What could I do? One printer, so worried that his survey data had been lost in transmission (it wasn’t), faxed me his seven-page survey along with a cover sheet. Hand written on the cover sheet was the following message:
“Dear John, I mailed the electronic survey at 4:30 PST. But just in case you didn’t receive it I am faxing a copy also. I hope I will receive a copy of your survey. As I can’t seem to put any money aside. We barely pay the bills. I feel we are doing something wrong. Might be our pricing. Thanks”
Seat of the Pants Management
As I glanced at the material he had sent, two or three items jumped out immediately. First, the cover sheet failed to provide either an email address or a website—maybe that was an oversight, or a maybe a hint of lax marketing and other problems to come.
Based on the information he provided, this guy is an old-timer who has been in the business more than 35 years. The name of his company is clearly outdated, but that’s a topic for another day. I also strongly suspect that he has been running the business by the seat of his pants for years; never once attempting to compare his financial ratios against others in the industry, in the hopes of discovering what might be wrong. For many years, I suspect, it was luck that got him by. These days, it is going to take a lot more than luck or a few loyal customers.
As I quickly examined entries on his survey, one thing jumped out, and it wasn’t his pricing. The prices he listed were well within the “High/Low” limits provided in the Pricing Study. The one thing that was clearly out of range and provided a clear explanation for some of the difficulty in paying his bills was the fact that his sales per employee for 2010 was $73,000. You can’t expect to pay your bills or even pay yourself a reasonable salary with an SPE that low! It apparently took five individuals, including the owner, to produce $365,000 in sales last year.
OK, this is a rant…I can’t hold it back anymore. Put simply, that SPE is terrible, atrocious, and totally unacceptable. Quite honestly, I would have a similar reaction even if the total number of employees dropped from five to four. It would still be terrible. Note that there’s nothing inherently wrong with running a firm with relatively low sales in the $300,000-$450,000 range. What is wrong is when you use too many people to produce those sales! Enough ranting.
The 2011-2012 Pricing Study
Although you are reading this column in early May, I am writing it on April 1. Also sitting in front of me is a 140-page PDF of the final 2011-2012 Quick Printing Industry Pricing Study. I am actually ahead of the game at this point—I initially promised that the study would be available by May 1. If you want to confirm whether your company name is on the “free” distribution list, go to: www.quickconsultant.com where I have published the list.