Association Insights: Unique NAPL Programs Help Members ‘Measure Twice’

The old carpenter’s adage of “measure twice, cut once” can prevent unfortunate, and costly, missteps. In fact, measuring carefully before taking action is a key to success in virtually every trade or business, and graphic communications is no exception.

Printing companies that strive for continuous improvement know that computing waste, spoilage, makeready time, and other operational metrics is critical if they are to cut costs and improve profitability, but leading companies also take business measurements far beyond the shop floor.

NAPL helps printers track their progress in a number of key areas—and see where and how to make needed improvements—with two unique business measurement tools provided free to its members: The NAPL Management Plus Best Practices Assessment and NAPL Performance Indicators program.

Industry Standards

A comprehensive diagnostic tool, the Best Practices Assessment is a review of eight critical management disciplines: Strategic Planning, Sales, Marketing, Finance, Operations, Human Resources, Leadership, and Community/Industry Relations. By answering a series of questions in each category, company leaders can see how their management practices measure up to industry standards in these areas.

The first stage of the Best Practices Assessment is completely confidential and self-directed. Company executives fill out an assessment form, which is available 24/7 online in PDF format, or may be obtained as a printed document. There is no deadline for completion, although the greatest benefit will be realized if the form is finalized within a fixed time so that data from section to section are consistent, e.g., sales and financial performance figures are for the same period.

Once the form is complete, the company may use it for an internal review. In fact, many report that they benefit simply from seeing what questions and indicators should be included when measuring overall performance, looking more closely at areas they may not have given thought or attention to in the past, or considering whether they are monitoring financial, sales, and other data in the best way possible.

Members may also submit the completed questionnaire to our NAPL Business Advisory Team, which will provide a confidential, customized “report card” that will detail strengths and weaknesses in each assessment area. Through this analysis, NAPL advisors can help company leaders pinpoint areas of opportunity and develop action plans that will enable them to maximize their management effectiveness.

Vital Few Metrics

Measuring performance is not a one-time activity, however. Leading companies will complete the Best Practices Assessment annually, for example, and they will also use the NAPL Performance Indicators program to track a baker’s dozen of key financial indicators on a more frequent basis.

Developed by the experienced economists of NAPL’s Research Center, Performance Indicators complements the Center’s macro-economic and industry data with micro data on how an individual company is doing. The service operates via a confidential password-protected website where companies enter data each month and receive tracking reports, trends analysis, and group/industry comparisons on the vital few metrics that can spell the difference between profit and loss. The service is free to all members who agree to supply the monthly data.

Members may also subscribe to a Premium Plus service that includes custom reporting by revenue range, geographic location, and process. All NAPL Peer Group members receive the Premium Level at no charge as part of their peer group participation. Also available to Performance Indicators participants is an optional NAPL Quarterly Performance Indicators Analysis, which includes quarterly one-hour conference calls or webinars during which an NAPL advisor and the company’s leaders will discuss causes and actions needed to reverse or improve trends that have been identified.

Action Steps

Both the NAPL Management Plus Business Assessment and Performance Indicators programs will yield suggestions for action steps companies may take to enhance their current performance. NAPL members will find many of the instruments they will need to help them take these next steps in the association’s WorkPlan for Success business development program.

This free corporate member-benefit program is a compendium of strategies, tactics, and tools for using industry best practices to handle a broad spectrum of business issues successfully, all in an interactive, user-friendly format.

With content derived from NAPL’s Management Plus System, NAPL Research Center surveys and studies, and the frontline field experience of NAPL’s Business Advisory Team members, WorkPlan for Success includes guidelines, step-by-step instructions, and interactive applications for implementing the most effective management policies.

The program comprises hundreds of pages of information and instruction accessible online whenever it is needed—worksheets, job descriptions, interview questions, tables, and charts in template form so that users may adjust them to fit any company’s individual structure and specific requirements.

Aligned with the disciplines in the Management Plus Business Assessment, WorkPlan now includes six units: Strategic Planning, Sales, Financial Performance, Human Resources/Leadership, and, introduced this fall, Operations. Users may download an entire section or a PDF of any individual chapter or page, and each unit is updated regularly to add new approaches and ideas for dealing with evolving industry challenges and changing business conditions. Although WorkPlan for Success has been designed as a do-it-yourself tool, NAPL is helping members understand how to get the most from the program through a series of free webinars that demonstrate the importance of different business concepts and walk attendees through some of WorkPlan’s exercises and worksheets. During each program, members may speak directly with NAPL experts, and members of the NAPL Business Advisory team are always available for one-on-one help.

Members will be confident they have “measured twice” by making full use of these NAPL programs to assess their current business practices, monitor their performance trends, and use the latest business tools to improve or enhance their management methods with confidence. PN

Joseph P. Truncale, Ph.D., is president and chief executive officer of NAPL. Reach him at (800) 642-6275, ext. 6310, or