In the past 25-plus years I have consulted with more than 450 firms, and I have published more than 30 statistical studies involving the printing, mailing, and reprographics industries. In the past five years, I have also prepared approximately 120 individual company valuations based upon “Print Shop for Sale,” a book I co-authored with fellow consultant Larry Hunt.
All the consulting visits, industry research, and valuation assignments involve a lot of one-on-one face time (or at least phone time) with clients. I get to know them pretty well and they in turn get to know me. I suspect that my list of industry leaders, laggards, and those in between—the individuals to whom I turn for advice and input—is probably one of the largest in the industry.
I am purposely citing the above as a preface for a real shocker of a statement: In the all this time, but especially in the past five years or so, I have never once had a single owner look me straight in the face and suggest that rising healthcare costs, foreign competition, illegal immigration, increasing government regulations, and/or rising paper costs were the core obstacles preventing them from improving their profitability.
And yet, based upon the results of one or more recent surveys I have seen in the past few months, you would think that the low or non-existent profits that are found in this industry are the direct result of these obstacles.
I don’t know if those creating the surveys have an agenda of their own, or if those who participate in the surveys are overly suggestible to the specific choices being offered, but in either case, someone needs to stand up and say “Whoa!”
I’m Saying “Whoa!”
Everyone who reads this column knows that I tend to be pretty blunt, maybe even offensive at times, but I just don’t take well to folks spouting off at the mouth before they have engaged their brains.
I’m still waiting for someone to call me and discuss how health insurance is killing their bottom line. The same thing can be said about government regulations. Sure, there are a lot of regulations, but don’t blame your poor financial performance on them. Maybe you need to take a lesson from the best in this industry, and that is to strive to change the things that you can control and, for the most part, forget the rest.
To be blunt, I think there are many printers out there who are clueless as to the real causes of their problems, and it makes them feel good when they lash out and blame rising healthcare costs, government regulations, and other such stuff that talk show hosts are offering up!
Without going off on a tangent, I just turned down a valuation assignment for an independent. It would have been a simple $975 for me. But I turned it down once I uncovered the fact that, other than the rental income he realizes from an LLC he owns, he has been unable to take out any salary for the past five years. Being a bit sarcastic, my guess is he’s probably a member of the Tea Party and has been yelling and screaming for months that the government needs to get off his back and repeal Obamacare! Of course, the fact that he carries no health insurance whatsoever doesn’t seem to dampen his fervor one bit.
Excuses Lack Substance
Every time I decide to take a new look at the industry, either from a short-term or long-term perspective, I become more convinced that most of the excuses for lower profitability being cited these days just don’t hold up under closer scrutiny. I think there are way too many naysayers out there, and it’s time to look at some hard cold facts instead of accepting the results of eye-catching surveys that seem to suggest that we are no longer responsible for our lack of profits. We can all blame it on the government. That sure makes an analysis easy.
My suggestion is that instead of listening to others (including me), that you begin to question everything that you read about this industry, and then ask yourself, “Does this pass the smell test?” “Is that really true as it applies to my business?”