I thought I would take this issue to update you on my up close and personal view of our industry. You may or may not already know my history, but I owned and operated an American Speedy Printing Center in Orchard Lake, MI, from 1977 to 1994. After selling it, I started speaking and consulting within the industry.
After 14 years of working with printing organizations of all types and sizes, I decided it was time to take what I had learned and get back into the real game. So in March 2008, I signed on as the general manager for Peter Marcus’ Allegra Print & Imaging Center here in Tucson. It was a win/win since Peter wanted to back away from the daily management and I wanted an opportunity to practice what I had been learning and preaching over the last 14 years.
I thought it might be useful to provide a progress report on how things are going and also share what I have been learning along the way. Most of you have felt the pain of the last two years of economic trauma and much upheaval. Some have been hit very hard, while others may have suffered less. Be we have all been affected in some way.
For some, the worst may be over, but for others there may still be more upheaval before they are truly on the road to recovery. By and large, there was hope that if they could just hang on, eventually things would get better. However, judging by the state of the industry reports, and listening to economists in general, as the economy turns up, it doesn’t mean that everyone will get back to where they once were. In fact, if you haven’t been making the necessary changes over these last two years, you may find yourself struggling even longer and harder.
A New World
The structural change that has taken place over the last couple of years has permanently changed the landscape. The supply chain has changed, relationships are different, vendors have consolidated, outsourcing vs. doing more in-house is a concern, more automation is necessary, and different media for communicating are only a few of the challenges we will all be facing.
Before going on, I want to let you know that we have seen a 10% growth, year over year, for each of the past two years and have a very healthy bottom line as well. It’s important to know this because here is an example of having a business owner who understands the numbers and one who has continuously re-invested in his business. Throughout the years equipment and technology have been upgraded. Training employees has been important, and challenging the status quo is a regular event.
For the past two years, we have focused on making sure we have the right infrastructure in place and shoring up systems and processes. Unfortunately, right after I started at Allegra, the economy started slowing down, but it was a great opportunity to start weeding out the weakest of our employees. In our most dramatic act, we terminated some long term employees who had become entrenched, had attitudes, and were frustrating harmony. We have hired replacements, but only those who met a new, higher bar. Now we have a solid team that works well together and enjoys coming to work. Despite our growth, we have achieved higher SPE with the same size staff.
Building a Better Future
Have we made other changes? Absolutely! My main goal has been to become an “Employer of Choice,” which means having a staff that is engaged and bragging to the outside world about their workplace. This type of marketing spreads and sends a message to the most talented workers, making them want to work for us.
In order to be an employer of choice, there must be a clear vision of where we are going, strategic goals that hold individuals accountable, measuring and monitoring, complete engagement from each individual, constant feedback, and most of all, open communication from all angles.