To state the obvious: Times are tough. Those who purport to understand economic indicators and the like tell us that things will probably get worse before they get better. But, all things being cyclical, the economy will improve eventually. The job of every printing company owner is to see to it that their business remains viable enough to survive until the turnaround actually happens.
The strategy most often recommended by print industry consultants is, essentially, get out there and sell something to somebody. At one time or another, every columnist who writes for this magazine has offered that advice, as have association leaders, conference speakers, and heads of franchises.
Even if you have already adopted that strategy, you might be looking for that little extra something that can put you over the top on sales. That's where brokering enters the picture. Offering products or services that you can't fulfill in-house just might help bring in new clients or allow you to increase your sales to existing clients.
The subject is especially pertinent in light of the current recession because print owners are shepherding their budgets even more closely than usual. For this reason, it might be more attractive to outsource a job than to invest in the equipment that would allow you to bring it in-house, at least for the time being.
For example, perhaps you've recently learned that a couple of your customers regularly order banners or window signage. You could choose to purchase a wide-format printer, media, inks, design software, a laminator and its related consumables, and spend the money and time to train one of your employees to run the equipment or even hire a new employee. Or you could opt to outsource the work to a trade printer that does wide-format work or even to a printer across town who already has the necessary equipment, but has excess capacity.
This would allow you to establish your company as the client's source for their signage so that you don't miss out on the opportunity. By the time the economy recovers, you will have a solid foundation on which to base your decision about whether or not to bring the service in-house.
Everything All the Time
For companies that seek to be a "one stop" print provider, brokering is a necessity. No printing company can do everything. And in the heart of a recession, even companies that normally consider themselves to be niche printers may find it desirable to expand their offerings by partnering with outside suppliers.
Of course, there are certain items that most quick and small commercial printers outsource on a regular basis all the time. Common examples are labels, business forms, promotional products, thermography, plastic cards, and magnetic products. It is also a common practice to outsource full-color printing orders that require run lengths that exceed your optimal parameters for profitability. Foil stamping, embossing, and die cutting are also frequently jobbed out.
Typical reasons for printers to broker work to outside providers include:
- Work that requires specialized equipment, e.g.: thermography, die cutting, embossing
- Jobs that exceed the optimal capacity of yourequipment, such as long run lengths
- Work that may be less expensive to outsource than to produce in-house, e.g.: labels, business forms, envelopes
- Overflow work when your schedule is full
- Specialty items needed to complete a job, e.g.: imprinted promotional products
- Translation services if you don't have the talent on staff
One of the most critical decisions you will have to make is where to send the jobs. There are companies that specialize in almost anything you might wish to outsource. However, don't forget to also look close to home. There may be a large commercial printer in your area that could fulfill the full-color offset work that you can't produce. Maybe a photo lab has a wide-format device that is often idle.