Business and management advice for your shop.
By Marty McGhie
So how do you adapt to these changes? One way is to keep up with your customers’ needs. Your sales representatives should meet regularly with your key clients about their current graphics requirements as well as their future needs. Your sales reps cannot merely act as professional order takers, waiting for your clients to call and place the next order. In today’s marketplace, they must fulfill the role of professional consultant, technical expert, and customer-service rep all wrapped up in one.
Additionally, you should look into developing markets that you may not have previously considered. It may be government entities, or industries such as healthcare, real estate, construction, or even the professional-services sector including the likes of law firms and accounting firms. Everyone needs graphics. And if you want to retain your current customers and develop new ones, the formula hasn’t changed: Your customers-new and old-demand your best products and your best service.
A new crop of employees
The interaction between employer and employee also has changed in recent years. Gone are the days of a manager telling an employee, "Hey, you’re just lucky to have a job!" In fact, most employers now feel fortunate to keep the experienced employees that they have.
Today, employees can demand, and are entitled to, a safe workplace, good healthcare benefits, worker’s-compensation coverage, and other similar benefits. In return, employers often get employees’ performances going well beyond the 9-to-5 mentality that was indicative of the workplace in years past. The current crop of employees are typically dedicated to their jobs, often investing 10 to 12 hours a day, if necessary, to "make it happen." They are well-trained, bright, and anxious to contribute to making your business better.
Still, there are managers that struggle adapting to the mentoring and open communication necessary to foster a positive and productive workplace. They pine for the days when employees were just expected to show up, do their job, don’t complain, and get paid. Of course, these are the managers that will never retain good employees.
The lesson is an obvious one: Treat your employees as valuable assets to your company, and they, in turn, will give you their time, talents, and energy to ensure your business is successful.
Propelled by technology
Whenever change in our industry is brought up, most of us think about the dramatic differences in technology that have occurred over the years. It’s hard to imagine that less than 15 years ago none of us were producing graphics from digital files. Now, most of us no longer accept work that isn’t in a digital format.
Of course, changes in technology require significant capital investment. Let’s face it, this can be an expensive business to compete in. But the consequences of resisting change can be devastating. Many of those companies that have chosen to avoid our industry’s technological moves are no longer in business.
Technology also has played a huge role in changing the way we conduct business. For example, think about the time required to receive files, approve proofs, interact with the customer, produce jobs, and ship them. Jobs that once took five to seven days are now routinely requested by clients to be done in three or four. And, if you can’t get them done, well, someone else can.
If you have unlimited financial resources, there should be no problem keeping up with the ever-changing technology challenges that you face. Unfortunately, most of us do not. There is a dichotomy that exists here: If you invest in every new piece of machinery that comes along-and some do-it will likely drain your financial resources long before you realize a return on your capital investments. On the other hand, if you observe from the sidelines, the technology will zoom right by and, soon, you will find it difficult to compete.
Your challenge, then, is to invest in the equipment that makes the most sense for your business-equipment that will make you money. If you spend the time to study, evaluate, and invest wisely, technology can propel your business into continued profitability.
Accepting that change will always be a constant in your business will help you overcome some of the psychological, financial, structural, or other type barriers that you may encounter along the way. Embrace change as a positive step toward your next business success-whether within your market place, your employees, your technology, or any other area of your business.