Printing companies are failing for far more basic reasons! In fact, Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn don’t even show up on my radar as anything other than background noise. And I challenge those who disagree to give me some proof to the contrary.
The primary causes of failure in this industry have little to do with social media acumen. And the reasons for business failure remain pretty much the same as they have been for more than 25 years:
• A growing inability to consistently deliver – on a timely basis – high quality, competitively priced products, and
• Failure to monitor and react accordingly to aberrations in key financial ratios
As simple as these two causes of failure may sound, they are violated every day, to one degree or another, by thousands of companies in this industry. Below is a very small, yet good example of reason #1 above.
Two Sets of Business Cards
Mary received a call from an architectural firm in a nearby community. The caller asked how soon she could get 500 each of two full-color business cards for two gentlemen in her office. The caller said she already had the basic artwork and just need the names and titles set.
Mary told the woman we could get her a proof in two or three hours. If we received the OK that afternoon, then we could have the cards ready for her the next day – probably around noon, but sooner if necessary. By the way, not once during the conversation did the subject of price ever come up.
The customer shows up the next morning and picks up her cards. The total charge for both sets was $106 plus tax. The cards were set 10-up (five each of two names) and were produced on the KM 5000. Total click and stock cost was less than $8. However, pricing is not, and never was, the issue in this case.
The Story Behind the Story
“Now for the rest of the story,” as Paul Harvey used to say. When the customer picked the cards up the next morning, she told Mary she had sent the same artwork to a nearby printer 10 days prior. When she called the printer (a day before she finally called us) and asked nicely about the status of her job, she was told the proof was not quite ready, but they would have it soon.
On hearing this story I thought to myself, “We could typeset and print the Guttenberg Bible in less than 10 days, and that would include time for proofing by the Apostles.” How is it possible, I wondered, that a printer in this day and age – especially considering the fragile economy – could be so disorganized, take so long on a job, and still not have it ready?
If the above was an isolated example I wouldn’t be mentioning it in this column. The reality is that this type of service, or lack thereof, is quite common in our industry. Being late on a job is bad enough, but blatantly lying about its status is an even worse offense in my book. If it isn’t lying about the status of a job, it is knowingly putting a job off to the side because it lacks some detail or requires clarification prior to going into the back shop. Many employees, rather than solving these types of problems, tend instead to put them off for others to solve.
Meanwhile, these jobs just sit around in their plastic job jackets, until the inevitable happens. The customer, not hearing from the printer in the past 10 days, places a call to the printer and inquires as to its status. Sometimes the job has been sitting around so long that owners and CSR’s look at each other with shoulders shrugged, as if to say, “I haven’t the faintest idea about the job, do you know what she is talking about?”
Monitoring Key Financial Ratios
Earlier in this column I mentioned two causes of failure in this industry. The second reason was failure to know and react accordingly when an owner discovers that one or more key financial ratios are out of kilter with the rest of the industry.
Below are some ratios developed from a special sort of data extracted from the 15th edition of the NAQP Financial Benchmarking Study. I sorted the data using the following criteria:
• Sales between $750,000 and $2 million