I’m a big Tony Bourdain fan. He’s the host of the TV show No Reservations which runs on The Travel Channel. In every episode, Tony and his crew travel to a city or region and give viewers an insider’s look at the culture – specifically the food culture – because Tony made his bones as a chef in New York City. Brasserie Les Halles, where he last ran a kitchen before becoming a full-time entertainer, is a regular stop for me when I’m up there, and for my money, the best food value in New York can be found at Les Halles, where you can get Steak, Frites, Salade – grilled hanger steak, a large serving of incredible fried potatoes, and a small salad – for only $19.50.
Recipes for Success
OK, that’s all very interesting, but what does it have to do with printing and sales? Simply this, when Tony was a working chef, he was in the consistency business. In other words, it’s not enough to serve a great meal, you have to serve lots of great meals. Consistency – of quality and service – is as important in the restaurant business as it is in the printing business, and maybe even more so, because printing customers don’t always see quality or service failures as life or death situations. In a restaurant, a quality failure can literally kill someone. (OK, it’s true that only a very small percentage of food poisoning victims actually die from it, but if you’ve ever had a serious case, you probably remember thinking you were going to!)
The key to consistent quality in the restaurant business has two parts. The first is to use quality ingredients. The second is to prepare them the same way every time – in other words, to follow the recipe! Yes, there is a trial-and-error stage in the development of a dish, but once the recipe is finalized, quality comes from consistency in preparation.
So is printing any different? I tried this idea out on one of my coaching clients, and he felt that “quality ingredients” would be less of an issue in printing than in food preparation. “Paper is paper,” he said, “and ink is ink and toner is toner.”
But think back on some of the quality failures you’ve experienced. Haven’t there been times when the paper or the ink or the toner was the problem? In the kitchen, there’s plenty of opportunity to inspect the raw materials, right up to the moment they go into the preparation of the dish. Just yesterday morning I cracked an egg in my own kitchen that looked fine on the outside, but quickly identified itself as spoiled. Fortunately, I was well schooled back in my own restaurant days: Crack the shell. Hold it upright. Inspect the egg. And then, if you are satisfied with its quality, add it to the dish.
You don’t necessarily get the same opportunity with paper, ink, and toner – especially if we’re talking about a sealed ink or toner cartridge – but if you don’t see a defect on the front end, you do have the opportunity to see its effect on the back end. Moral: If a meal’s not right, don’t serve it! (If a job’s not right, don’t deliver it!)
Start to Finish
Quality comes from consistency in preparation – from start to finish! That raises a question. Where does a print job start? I think the answer is that it starts at the point where the specifications of the job are being transmitted from the buyer to the seller. That could be limited to the technical specifications (stock, color, quantity, finished size, etc.) or it could also include the applications specifications (the purpose or objective of the printed piece). Either way, it’s critically important that those specifications are accurately communicated. I have found that the vast majority of quality or services failures originate at this point, which means that unless someone picks up on a problem and corrects a miscommunication before the ink or the toner goes on the paper, the job is doomed right from the start.