The last two months we have looked at two of the three phases involved in the life of a graphic arts company. We began with the Sweat Equity (SE) phase, one often in evidence in the early days of a company: A time when its people are scrambling to get the “wheels” of stability underneath them. In recent years, SE can also apply to a company undergoing a turnaround.
Once survival is reasonably assured, the company goes through the Organization (O) phase. Everything changes here, as growth means hiring non-family members, increasing capacity, and a demand for more written and precise communication. One of the key points we emphasized is that the things you do in the SE phase can sink the company as it moves to the organization level. The O phase is a different game.
For those companies blessed with a solid organizational system and an operation that is consistently profitable, the time for Planned Growth (PG) has come.
Let me make one key preliminary point right here: A lot of successful companies miss the golden egg here. They simply continue to motor along in the same old yet seemingly successful way.
That is foolish. Once you have the fiscal and operational trump cards you need, parlay that into growth and greater dominance. If you don’t, you risk losing—or at least regressing, in the long run. Especially now. Why? Because the rate of change continues to accelerate, and failure to have a wide angle view of the market and our industry can mean falling out of the game eventually.
Planned Growth Phase
As the term implies, this phase means growing (rather than dying, albeit invisibly over time). So what should you do?
I suggest you divide your PG into three time intervals—one year, three years, and five years. What are you going to do now? What will you phase in over the next three years, and what do you want to do over the horizon?
Here is the guiding item: Make sure they flow into one another. In other words, you want the short, intermediate, and long-term plans to be compatible.
You are not a fortune teller and you do not know the mind of God, so you cannot be rock-certain about the future. But you do have indicators. You do have data. You also have history and industry research and trends. In short, you have enough data to think through some future matters. In short, there is enough information available to do some clear planning at least for the next year and probably the next three.
Outside the Industry
Do not do what so many companies do: look only inside the world of printing. Look outside the industry. That is where our market is. We do not sell to printers. We sell to an ever-changing market, and we need to brainstorm about what needs and opportunities are on the way.
Out of the Box
If you have a creative idea, a wild notion, now is the time to test it. You are doing well now. You can risk a couple of bucks on an outside-the-box idea that makes sense and could really pay off. If it doesn’t, so what? Don’t invest money you cannot afford to lose, but do remember the big money comes to those companies that grab a fresh idea and blow the market open with it.
Don’t do this alone. It’s too much work. Do this as a team. Take your key people and make them a task force. Have meetings, a retreat, brainstorming sessions, and other fun yet effective methods. Assign research tasks, whether it be internet research, attending seminars, or simply reading on anticipated future trends in the industry, general financial predictions for the economy, potential new directions and needs in the world of marketing and promotion. Hold your people accountable by having them write and give reports. Mix this with your get-togethers and you will chart a path.
You will grow.
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