(If you don’t already do it)
Website design can not only be a profitable part of any print business, it also dovetails perfectly into the existing services that most printers provide. If you offer design services, there is really no reason not to offer web design too. I did this, in a small way, as long ago as the late nineties.
Back then, coding was a complete mystery to me, so we designed the web sites and partnered with another local business that did the coding, hosting and posting. We would supply them with visuals of the pages and jpeg files of the graphic elements, and they did the rest. We then put a markup on the (pre-agreed) fee they charged us. We even made (a little) money from annual site maintenance! This arrangement was working well right up until we sold the business in 2004.
When I set up Business Momentum, web design was not part of my business plan but I did need a website for myself. I bought an inexpensive software package called Rapidweaver (Mac only, £59.99 (December 2014)) and set about creating a website for Business Momentum. Using this simple template based system for website design. There are other, similar, systems available, but at the time, Rapidweaver seemed the most suitable. The original Business Momentum site has since been replaced by my current site.
Until recently, I have never offered website design as a service but I had been asked to design websites for several other businesses. Despite using this simple system, sites designed have included features such as videos, blogs, online forms, ftp uploads and even a shopping cart system linked to Paypal!
Any print business with basic graphic design skills could fill the website needs of most small businesses without much investment in time or software. Web design dovetails perfectly with graphic design and it’s easy to use design elements that you may have already created for your customers - very profitably.
As for me, I’ve just upgraded to Rapidweaver 6 (Dec 2014) and find, as with most things in life, the more I do, the more I learn.
Not so much a re-brand - more of a de-brand!
The web address for Business Momentum (www.bizmomentum.co.uk) now re-directs to my new web address, which is www.paulstokes.eu.
Ten years ago, when the sale of our design and print business was imminent, I did not have a plan for life after Prontaprint,
beyond taking an extended holiday, but I knew that I certainly wasn’t going to retire! One thing I did do before the sale of the business was completed, was to design and print business stationery for myself, while I still had the facilities to do it. The Business Momentum brand was deliberately non-descriptive because, at that time, I had no idea quite what I would use it for.
As it happened, I wandered first, into a twelve month MIS project with a commercial printer, followed by just under four years as a salaried consultant with ODC. So five years later, having been made redundant from ODC, I had a ready made brand for the training services I offered. At that time I took it for granted that I would use the brand that I had ‘on the shelf’. However, since then, I have had numerous comments from clients and friends who say that they use my services because of my personal reputation. It now seems more appropriate to trade without the façade of a business name, so I will be de-branding and continuing in my own name from now on.
This website now reflects a variety of my activities, both business, and personal, so please explore the links below - I hope you enjoy it!
There are two personal questions that I am frequently asked. The first is "Why did you sell your business?" The second is usually a variation on the theme of "How difficult was it to sell?"
The answer to the first question can be quite long, as with any major decision, it was influenced by many factors, but the short answer is that Mary and I decided that we'd had enough of the pressures of running a business and decided to change to a lifestyle that involved shorter working hours.
The answer to the second question is that we prepared the business for sale over a period of about two and a half years, and when it came down to it sold far more quickly than we had anticipated. As with any sales process, you need luck, but there's an old saying that "Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity".
In preparing the business for sale I had in mind the kind of person that I would like to take it on. This is contrary to advice in "how to do it" books and the like but there were two personal factors that were important to me. The first was a responsibility to my staff to bring in an employer who would maintain their prosperity. The second was simply that I had started the business from scratch, and wanted to pass it on to someone who would develop it. Never the less, with this in mind I went about maximising profit, whilst investing in the condition of the business and premises.
The 'received wisdom' at the time was that selling would take two to three years from the time we put the business on the market. We sold in ten months, and at a price that was toward the upper end of the valuation we had been given.
If you would like my confidential assistance in preparing your business for sale, please contact me on 07971 820 990 or [email protected]
The screen of my Mk1 iPad failed recently. Apple’s guaranty is twelve months and my iPad is over three years old, but I decided to take into the local Apple Store to see what could be done, half expecting to told to buy a new one.
It seems that Apple have their own interpretation of UK consumer law, because although my iPad was not covered under Apple’s warranty, they gave me a new one free of charge! The staff in the Apple Store call this “The six year rule”, and it applies to any Apple hardware. The process (including deleting the data from my old iPad) took about ten minutes - no quibbles.
There seemed to be two factors that influenced their decision. I originally bought my iPad from the store that I took it back to, and my iPad did not look “knocked about”.
So if you have a Mac, Apple monitor, iPhone or iPad that has failed, but is in “good condition” - and is up to six years old - take it back!
I was recently chatting with one of my customers. This is someone who has taken a failed print business and really turned it round, but he was having trouble arranging meetings with customers or prospects.
This fellow was finding it difficult to get appointments with his customers and prospects in order to develop relationships and increase sales. I had two questions for him:
How do you feel when a friend in business, or someone you feel will help your enterprise calls for an appointment? - or - How do you feel when you receive the same call from a sales rep?
Clearly, it depends on whether you think the appointment will really help your business. So what can you do to make your customers actually want to meet you?
Add value! One way of adding value to your customer relationships is to offer practical advice that will benefit their business. I used to offer free marketing advice to small businesses. As my business came to be perceived locally as successful, I was able to offer sales and marketing advice by giving examples of things that had worked for me. I found that I no longer had to sell to these customers. As we built their marketing campaigns together, I designed and printed whatever they needed!
So before you pick up the ’phone to call a customer, ask yourself about the value of the call for them.
One of the limiting factors for the development of a small business is the “Glass Ceiling” that prevents the business from growing past a certain point. The limiting point will vary according to the nature of the business, but will usually be somewhere between six and twelve employees.
There is no universal solution to this problem. The factors limiting growth will vary from business to business, but the most common reason for businesses staying small is because the owners try to do too much themselves.
Growing a profitable business is hard work, but business owners that are running around, opening the post, fixing IT problems, constantly involved in production, and are always the first person to answer the phone - are doing themselves no favours!
Most people are familiar with the pareto 80/20 rule which states that 20 percent of your effort produces 80 percent of your results. As far as many small business owners are concerned, less than 10 percent of their time is spent on marketing and sales so how will they ever grow?
By entering growth MODE:
Market - and sell!
Market - and sell!
You don’t need me to tell you how important this is. Perhaps you will be able to devote more time to this by using the items below.
Your time is extremely valuable. Failing to outsource non income-producing activities is simply a false economy.
Your time is extremely valuable. Recruiting, training and retaining good staff is the most important way to liberate more of your time, so that you can concentrate on growing your business.
Establishing a clearly defined operating system, based around a fully implemented MIS system, is the foundation of any successful print business.
Take a day away from your business to consider the business, and ask your self these two questions:
What would you do with your business if you could not fail?
What would you like you business to look like in five years time?
Then plan how you will get from here - to there!
Need help with this? Then please click here.
Don’t you just hate those business clichés, the ones used by trainers and consultants (like me!). I can’t say I like them much. They usually sound a bit worn and hackneyed, but occasionally I hear one that makes me smile - and pause for a moment to question the intent of the metaphor, just to check that I’m not missing something.
Here’s one you’ve probably heard - maybe smiled at - and then dismissed.
Perhaps it’s worth another look? Maybe it’s more significant now than it was previously?
“You can’t fly with the eagles if you work with the turkeys!”
The eagles referred to here are talented (having talons,) flying in a direction determined by vision and intent. Making opportunities. Soaring over the competition. Taking the prize.
Turkeys always have their heads down, struggling and scrabbling for whatever comes their way, stuck in the moment of the days routine.
So what are you, high flying - or oven ready?
I’ll see you in the air then!
Selling to busy professionals is tough in any industry, but especially for small print businesses. Do you find it difficult to attract the attention of new customers? Unless you differentiate yourself from the competition and inspire new prospects from the first point of contact it will be an uphill slog. Most of your competitors will also have a compelling, customer focussed and cost effective story to tell, so how will you engage the attention of prospects ahead of your competition? Delivering engaging and thought provoking pitches and proposals is routine for attracting new customers, but waffling about your kit list and the so-called advantages of dealing with your company can be predictable and disappointing for your prospect to hear.
It’s not about you!
Understanding and practising the “It’s not about you, it’s about them” philosophy has assisted professional sales people to develop relationships with prospects where others have failed.
What can you do differently? By using the correct processes any salesperson with a quality product can succeed. It may be just a matter of using a more customer focussed philosophy.
- Inspire and influence. A mixture of passion and expertise is inspirational. Displaying a real interest in your customers growth plans and issues will assist you in building a successful business relationship.
- Pay attention. Changing suppliers carries a risk for any purchaser. Can you identify that risk and resolve any issues surrounding it?
- Add value. Your worth to the customer will be determined by their perception of what they get for their money.
- Volunteer creatively. Enter into discussions about your customers marketing plans. Volunteer ideas to promote their business, even ones that don’t involve you own products and services!
- Use a reality check. Does what you have to say pass the “So what” test? Otherwise you’ll be wasting their time, as well as your own.
- Follow the process. Always be attentive to the details. Follow up calls, delivering on time, gratitude. All the thing you know you should never forget.
The stresses of running a business can sometime make us forget the basics. It’s too easy to spend time worrying about sales figures, when more time spent thinking about customers’ concerns would probably lead to greater success. If you can focus more on the customers needs this will differentiate you from your competitors in a way that will be relatively difficult for them to emulate.
Clearly, there is no quick fix for sales success. It takes hard work, persistence and the ability to handle rejection. Success can, however, be made a little easier by remembering that it’s not about you, it’s about them.
As anyone who delivers training courses (and follows up afterwards) will tell you, the limitation of most conventional training sessions is the human brain’s capacity to retain information. Most of the delegates at a typical one day training event will only remember a small proportion of the information imparted in the training session.
There are two solutions to this problem. One is to follow up the training remotely. The other is to re-think the training strategy and, if practical, deliver it in a series of shorter sessions. This is why, where practical, most of the training delivered by Business Momentum consists of one hour, direct, on-line sessions.
These sessions are highly cost effective because they are customised to the customers requirements and delivered over a series of weekly sessions. Prepaid, one to one sessions, delivered in this way can cost as little as £65.00 each.
Do you know how much it costs you to find a new customer? Have you ever calculated the cost? Try this costing calculator and find out how much you need to spend on telemarketing to improve sales turnover. In the example below I’ve used sample figures to see how much you need to spend to win new work. By using your own figures, you will be able to see how to budget for the cost of winning new business. Click here
to download a budget calculator spreadsheet free of charge. The spreadsheet automatically calculates all but five of the cells.
I was with Bob, a business owner the other day and he asked:
"Paul, Why is it that when I suggest and idea to my staff, they don't act on it – then you or someone else tells them the same thing and they act as though it's the first time they've heard it?"
"Bob" I said. "Have you ever heard the saying that a prophet isn't recognised in their own land"
Well; it's true!
1. When the boss tells his or her people that a certain way of achieving more is brilliant – some of the people think that the boss has a hidden agenda.
2. When someone from outside the business explains the same ideas they usually come at the problem from a different perspective.
3. The person from outside the business may be (or should be) skilled at presentations.
4. People believe authority figures.
You see; part of the problem lies within the inaccuracy of the old expression which glibly states:
You have to be heard to be believed
When the reality is:
You have to be believed to be heard
So can you be more effective in communicating new ideas to your staff?
1. If the idea came from a book – give everyone a copy of it. That's what I did with a book I was so taken with about business organisation. It was called "The E-Myth Revisited" the author is Michael E. Gerber. And, I so loved the ideas that I bought all the members of my team a copy and we used some Gerber's ideas to help re-organise , and improve the efficiency of our business.
2. If the idea came from a TV or radio programme – play the programme at a team meeting.
3. If you have yearly meetings – get a professional speaker to present their (and your) ideas at that meeting.
4. Get recommendations from others who've used the ideas.
Two of the key factors in persuasion are authority and social proof. If you can use those, perhaps you can get your people to believe.
Does your business have the right workflow model?
Over the past five years, I have visited most of the centres in the network. One of the most common characteristics that I find is that centres tend to have an evolved workflow. The centres workflow may have been thought out several years ago, but custom and practice will have changed the workflow pattern over time. The result of this is often less than ideal.
Not many design and print businesses would survive today by using the same business model that was used ten years ago, so using a ten year old workflow could be costing you money. This is an ideal time to look critically at your centres workflow and modernise it if necessary.
Centres that have both litho and digital production usually run parallel workflows. This article is mainly concerned with the digital workflow. Is your digital workflow as automated as it could be? Why automate? There are several reasons to automate some aspects of your digital workflow.
- Handle more jobs automatically.
- Operators often have less focus on repetitive jobs. This leads to more errors - and more reprints, so automation can lead to fewer errors.
- You probably already have the technology, so little or no additional investment.
- Greater productivity.
- Less waste
Every error is lost time, lost profit, and a potential lost customer.
So how can you reduce errors by automating more of the process without making a large investment in new equipment?
Any print MIS system should have the facility to create job templates. PrintSmith, for example, will save any estimate or invoice as an invoice template, or any job as a job template. Using job templates in PrintSmith will enable you to incorporate all the required charges and job notes into the template whilst leaving you the freedom to edit any aspect of the job. This will help to drive consistency through the workflow, thereby reducing mistakes and omissions. Older versions of PrintSmith required you to manually copy any template created to all the other workstations. The current version (8.1.x) is able to save any template to the shared templates folder on the PS master. I have noticed that very few centres use templates effectively, but those that do, derive significant benefit from them.
Using PrintSmith site is a way of channeling your customers orders directly onto your workflow. The latest version is much more user friendly than previous versions. A small investment is required, to but it remains competitively priced compared to other on-line ordering systems, and it is the only one that integrates directly into PrintSmith.
If you have a digital colour production machine, you may already be using an EFI Fiery controller that will accept JDF digital job tickets from PrintSmith. I’ll be writing more about this in the new year.
Whatever MIS system you are using, It’s only as good as the information it contains. The quiet week at the start of January is the perfect time to ensure that your stock prices, press, copier and charge definitions are correct and up to date. Because none of the innovations mentioned in this article will will be of any use if they are not.
How can FSC certification form part of your marketing plan?
The FSC Standard is a Chain of Custody Standard. Put simply, this means that to maintain the standard, all you need to do is to ensure that any product that an FSC claim is made for has it’s transit through your workflow recorded, and that that record is kept and maintained in a way that can be inspected and analysed when required. A correctly set up MIS will do most of that for you. It will also facilitate reporting. In PrintSmith, for example, it is possible to report on the stock used and the product descriptions applied to any jobs that are invoiced or estimated.
It is well known that marketing to existing customers is more cost effective than searching for new customers - using reports from your MIS is probably the easiest way to manage it. Your MIS should be able to produce a report either as a document or as an export file for further analysis or variable data use.
So what might your marketing message be? FSC Certification helps your marketing message in four main ways:
- It shows a commitment to The Environment .
- It conveys an impression of good management practices.
- It discriminates us from the competition.
- It projects an image of corporate responsibility.
FSC is a market based initiative that is being progressively adopted by printers, and their customers. Increasing market pressure will soon make certification an essential part of every printers marketing message.
I was recently asked to investigate online brochure services for one of my clients, for the kind of online brochure that features an animation of the pages turning. After a little research I came to the following conclusions.
There are a number of online brochure services available on the web. Generally you submit a pdf of the brochure artwork and the service sends you back an animated version of it. There are a variety of payment models which are mostly variations of either subscription, or pay as you go schemes.
www.uniflip.com - Appears to be the most cost effective starting at £49 per document with volume discounts (if purchased in advance). See a sample here: www.uniflip.com/online-magazines/3/1233/30230/pub/index.html
www.pagegangster.com - designed mainly for magazines rather than brochures.Prices start at $349 per magazine and reduce with volume.
www.webpublication.co.uk - Looks really professional, but prices only by quotation.
www.digipage.net - Highly sophisticated presentation, but prices only by quotation.
www.ebxp.com - Looks a bit old fashioned compared to the others. No pricing on the website, but the site is all about selling their design service.
One of my readers has recently recommended www.issuu.com which has free options if you don't mind some unobtrusive advertising, or a subscription option for USD 19 per month which removes these ads. You can also embed them into your own website, and I believe also sell 'eBooks' too though I've not looked into this.
Alternatively there are software packages (like www.emagcreator.com)available from about £1500 that would enable you to do it yourself. This would not the most cost effective method unless you were already working with Flash (or offering web design), and anticipate sufficient volume to justify the cost.
If you would prefer to have Business Momentum set up your online brochure for you, just click here!
It seems, at the moment, that working part-time is becoming a full time job!
I find myself juggling projects then delaying my own projects in favour of those of my clients and feeling guilty about it. Of course, I’ve only myself to blame. The more time I put in to a project - the more interest I get out of it - the more time I want to put in, and I can never resist a really interesting project.
I am now a director of The Group Scheme Ltd. The Group Scheme is an FSC chain of custody scheme for printers and print related businesses.
The Group Scheme operates an FSC Group Chain of Custody Scheme. It has been set up so that smaller businesses can have access to FSC Chain of Custody in an affordable way.
Membership of this The Group Scheme is open to businesses that have fewer than 15 employees. However, for larger businesses assessment can be arranged via BMTRADA certifications.
A monthly payment scheme is available, which helps to make membership of The Group Scheme attainable for even the smallest business.
Cost effective training in the Chain of Custody standard is provided using qualified print-sector specialists utilising a ready- made template which minimises costs.
The initial training and pre-assessment costs approximately £800, with the annual assessment at £670 per business site.
What if circumstances forced you to be away from your business for the next week - two weeks - three weeks?
What if you were ill - or just wanted to take a holiday?
Would your business continue to function without you?
As well as making valuable time for yourself and your family, the ability to ‘step away’ from the day to day running of your business is an essential part of the development of the business. If you have any employees at all, there is usually no reason why the business cannot carry on without you, as long as your employees have the motivation and basic skills required.
Business Momentum will help you to motivate and train your staff so that you are free to develop your business in the way that you would wish.
If you have any questions about what I can do for your business, please ask them here. If there are any questions that you would like answered in confidence, please use the contact us page.