Adopting a Positive Outlook to Boost Your Profits

Alice, my sister, lives in Rockville, MD. She works for a large public interest lobbying firm in D.C. and is extremely well informed as to Washington D.C. politics. She reads the Washington Post and New York Times cover-to-cover every day. Like everyone else, she has strong opinions about what is right and wrong in the world of politics. She also has a clear understanding of how the country operates from inside the D.C. Beltway.

Alice and her husband recently took a short vacation to Tampa where she had a chance to visit with Mary and me, along with our daughter Stacy and her husband, Hayes. During the visit, she had the opportunity to observe a number of heated, political debates between me and Hayes. The debates ranged from gun control, the whereabouts of Obama’s birth certificate, reforming health insurance, the shortage of ammo, and illegal immigration to a host of other “hot button” political topics.

Hayes and I don’t even agree about when the sun rises each day, so it was no surprise that the arguments got pretty heated. Alice pretty much sat on the sidelines, listening to one debate after another.

On a couple of occasions, she would interrupt the arguments with her own opinions and views, but realizing how strong the feelings were between Hayes and me, she finally spoke up and made a suggestion. The suggestion she offered has actually has made a significant difference in my view on life, politics, and most importantly, my own financial future.

Give Up Talk Radio & TV

Listening to the bickering, Alice finally spoke up and said, “You know, listening to you guys for the last few minutes, I have a serious suggestion. John, you need to calm down. You need to go cold turkey and stop listening to guys like Chris Matthews, Keith Olbermann, Rachael Maddow. And Hayes, it’s the same for you, only you need to quit listening to Bill O’Reilly, Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity, and especially Rush Limbaugh. Both of you guys are allowing your minds to be poisoned by entertainers. That’s right—entertainers—most of whom can’t hold a candle to your intelligence.” I liked that last remark!

“There’s no doubt that you both have strong beliefs, but both of you are allowing entertainers—not educators, not researchers, not individuals willing to explore the depths of an issue—to dictate your beliefs. These guys are pure and simply entertainers who make their living entertaining, and not educating.”

She added, “Not to pick on Bill O’Reilly, but anyone who believes his show or any of the shows on either side of the political spectrum represent ‘fair and balanced’ news coverage is terribly naïve. These guys don’t present news. Their shows are created, produced, and built around their entertainment value, and certainly not for their intellectual contributions and analysis.”

“The both of you ought to give these shows a break. Stop listening to them, and stop listening to folks who listen to them. Just change the channel. If you don’t, you will find yourselves getting more worked up and accomplishing little!”

Alice then suggested that if we still felt some strong desire to get a better handle on what is happening in the world then at least give the News Hour with Jim Lehrer on PBS a try for a while.

I Went Cold Turkey

Well, guess what? I followed her advice. At first I tried to compromise by switching back and forth between Olbermann and O’Reilly, but that still wasn’t enough.

I finally went cold turkey about two months ago and my life has improved immensely. Now I catch a bit of NBC or ABC national news and then switch over to the News Hour.

Amazingly, things started looking up. Sure, Mary and I have faced some challenges in the printing business in recent months, and even my consulting and publishing business has been affected. But you know what? Things are improving.

I took the time I otherwise would have spent debating politics and spent it on exploring a couple of brand new marketing opportunities, and I’m excited for the first time in the past couple of years. On the consulting side, I am concentrating more than ever before on “quickie” business valuations and new opportunities in statistical research in the printing industry. Once again, going cold turkey on politics and talk radio is working.

I no longer find myself getting into endless debates about the collapse of our economy, the inability to get ammo for guns, the horrendous costs of healthcare, or the pending collapse of freedom as we know it in this country. Instead, I concentrate on things I know I control and that means Mary’s printing business and Q.P. Consulting, my company.

The economy in our little world is getting better. And most of the improvements we are experiencing have occurred as a result of things we have done, and not because of what is talked about on talk radio or TV. Business is actually getting better, and I no longer find the time to get worked up about things I have little or no control over.

Better yet, I am discovering a number of like minded friends who feel the same thing. They too are experiencing a relative upturn in their own businesses, and it is far more enjoyable talking to them than entering endless debates about current politics.

Every week I talk with printers with sales in the $400,000 to $6 million range and many are noticing an upturn as well. These are the kinds of people I want to associate with, not the naysayers and the folks addicted to those political pundits mentioned above. The upturn is real, at least in my mind, and that’s sufficient for me.

I think too many owners in this industry have lost sight of how fortunate we really are. We are fortunate in knowing that we—not the government—are indeed in control of our own destiny.

We won’t be laid off or fired and, if we choose, we can takes steps every day to improve our businesses. I love being an entrepreneur and having the ability to implement changes and make improvements in my business almost instantly. Some work and some don’t, but I’ve survived and prospered for more than 34 years and I see nothing on the political horizon that is really going to change that fundamental outlook.

My Conclusions

In 30-plus years of writing, consulting, and conducting statistical research in this industry I can state with almost 100% certainty that almost all of the challenges faced by printers and mailing firms (today and in the past) are self-induced and not the result of external forces. In fact, I am hard pressed to think of a single failure in our end of the industry, past or present, that can be blamed on political legislation or what party is in power. There may be a couple of exceptions, but I can’t think of one.

My suggestion is to quit blaming your problems on outside events and circumstances. First, they are out of your control anyway, and second, the chances are pretty good that I can find the root of your problems within your own profit and loss reports and balance sheets.

If I examined your financial statements, I could easily produce an “emergency task list” that would keep you busy for the next six months. You wouldn’t have time to listen to talk radio or catch Olbermann or O’Reilly on TV.

To quote a friend of mine, Scott Cappel in San Diego, CA, “There’s a lot more to life than just political ideology. We need to focus on the things we can control—the things within our sphere of influence—and let the rest handle itself. It’s useless to worry about the things we can’t control; worry about the things we can.”

“When push comes to shove, small businesses are the most adaptable to changing conditions in the marketplace. Most of us don’t take the time to realize this, and many of us find ourselves getting distracted by all the noise in the media, but ultimately small business owners have much more control over their destiny than most,” adds Cappel.

Scott just said in one or two paragraphs what I tried to convey in two previous pages.

New Bindery Study Analyzes SPE

By the time you read this, NAQP’s 2009-2010 Bindery & Finishing Study will have been published and distributed free to more than 300 participants. The last bindery study was conducted almost eight years ago, so this new study was way overdue!

Anyway, this newly released study is packed with information regarding pricing practices on a host of bindery related services, including those related to both traditional offset and digital printing. (Visit NAQP at or call them at 800/234-0040 for additional information on this valuable new pricing study.)

I’ll have a lot more to say about the new Bindery Study next month, but suffice it to say the graph on page 31 is indicative of the broad range of productivity being achieved in this industry.

While I cannot prove there is any direct connection, I nonetheless strongly suspect that those at the top worry far less about the things they cannot control and spend a great deal more time working on the things they can—and it shows up in outstanding sales per employee (SPE) as seen above.

Senior contributing columnist John Stewart is president of Q.P. Consulting, Inc. He is the co-author of the industry best seller “Print Shop For Sale.” Visit his website at or a website dedicated to the book at Contact him at 2110 S. Dairy Road, West Melbourne, FL 32904, call 321/727-2444, or email