(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 The original Business Momentum site has since been replaced by my current site.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]
We all know how we do what we do, don’t we?
Or perhaps we wouldn’t be doing it.
The question is…
How does everything get done when we’re not there?
Does anyone in your team know how to do what you do?
Do they even really understand what it is that you do do?
They could - if you document what you do.
It’s a curiously liberating thing to do. Writing a step by step description of any task in a way that would enable someone else to do attempt the same thing.
In an odd way, you would show yourself just how good you are, and make a note of all the skills that are required to do what it is you do.
It’s said that running a small business requires you to be a generalist rather than a specialist, but doesn’t being a generalist require a multiplicity of specialist skills and procedures?
Write them down!
Simply making a list of the daily tasks that you carry out would be a great way to start. Doing this will help you to delegate parts of that list.
There’s a bonus…
Writing out procedures in this way often allows us to see how we could improve how we do what we do! - especially if you’ve been doing things in the same way for years.
So time invested in this simple process could have two benefits; Increased delegation, and improving your own ways of doing things.
(This posting by courtesy of A. Wood)
Like it or not, our country’s membership of the European Union (EU) has a way of influencing almost everything we do.
A couple of new EU regulations collectively know as the EU Timber Regulations (EUTR), have started to send ripples of concern through UK companies who trade in or use materials which have their origins in forests. Paper and board can be traced back through pulp to the forests which grew the trees, so this affects you.
The UK Government has added EUTR requirements to our burden of red tape through a new statutory instrument (2013 No. 233) entitled “The Timber and Timber Products (Placing on the Market) Regulations 2013.
This contains a number of new offences for failing to comply with the following:
a) Article 4 (1) of the Timber Regulation (prohibition on placing illegally harvested timber on the market);
(b) Article 4 (2) of the Timber Regulation (obligation to exercise due diligence);
(c) Article 4 (3) of the Timber Regulation (obligation to maintain and evaluate due diligence system);
(d) Article 5 of the Timber Regulation (traceability obligation);
(e) Article 5 (1) of the Implementing Regulation (record-keeping obligation);
(f) Regulation 10 (obstruction of an inspector); or
(g) A notice of remedial actions.
These regulations place particular pressure on companies bringing timber or materials containing forest products into our country from outside the EU, paper companies and merchants for example. The regulations also have implications for companies using these materials.
Government powers available to deal with failure to comply with these requirements include: remedial action, seizure of material, fines and imprisonment.
In order to protect your company from prosecution, you must be able to demonstrate that you have assessed the risks associated with your supply chain, have exercised due diligence in the procurement of materials and have records to support these actions.
Those members of the forum who are also members of The Group Scheme will have a Chain of Custody manual, policy, procedures and records already go a long way towards demonstrating compliance. Our documentation is being updated to provide better protection. Updates will be rolled out in the New Year.
If you are not a member of our FSC Group Scheme and would like to know more, please contact me for more information.
There was an interesting article about this in Printweek, Which can be read at this link (you may need to register).
(If you don’t already do it)
Many of the small print businesses that I know rebranded at the end of 2011. Some of them have spun out a marketing programme from their rebrand, but many have not, perhaps only running a limited “Anniversary” campaign after their first year as an independent printer. Some have done nothing at all, and have recently been noticing the effect of this lack of marketing activity.
It turns out that the one thing that some of you actually miss from the franchise days, is having a BDM! Now we all know that the value of individual BDMs varied enormously over the years. Some were greatly appreciated, and some, not so much. The better ones were good at encouraging franchisees to see the value of marketing their businesses, and to get on and do something about it. Everyone has experience of how the important, but non-urgent task of promoting our businesses can be a near impossible discipline to maintain on a regular basis. The ‘urgent’ has a nasty way of overpowering the ‘important’.
I have been asked by a couple former franchisees to provide some BDM style marketing support. The travel costs involved in supporting businesses that are not local to me would be prohibitive, so I have devised a remote support programme, which includes.
- One-to-one on line collaboration with the business owner to produce a marketing plan.
- Extracting customer data from PrintSmith.
- Setting up templates, and managing data for Mailchimp (or similar) emailing programmes.
- Compiling ’Lapsed’, and more importantly, ‘Lapsing’ data from PrintSmith.
- Analysing the success of marketing activities.
Are you conducting structured, regular marketing activity? Can I help?
Contact me [email protected] for a quick chat about your requirements.
“What is a ‘Chain of Custody’?”
The FSC® define this as ‘the path taken by raw materials, processed materials or finished products from the forest to the consumer including each stage of transformation, manufacturing, storage and transport where progress to the next stage involves a change of ownership of the materials or products’. So a chain of custody is essentially an audit trail, all the way from the forest to (in our case) the printed product. Each link in the chain needs to be certified so that it can be audited on behalf of the FSC.
“Are there any benefits to my business?”
FSC Certification can help your business to:
- Win business
- Retain existing customers
- Comply with tender criteria and legislation for the environment
- Take the first steps for an environmental certification
- Discriminate your business from the competition
- Establish credibility in an increasingly competitive and environmentally aware market
“How much does FSC certification cost?”
Printers with more than 15 employees will need individual certification. The cost of this will be from about £1,300 per year but will vary according to the size of the operation. If a print site has 15 employees or fewer, membership of an FSC group scheme can cost as little as £670.00 + VAT per year.
“What are the reasons for certification?”
I often ask my customers why they’ve gone in for FSC certification. The most common answers are:
“A large customer required it”
“It’s a less costly way to add some credibility to our letterhead/website/business than an ISO or more exacting standard”
“It may help us to win business with bigger clients”
“We work with a print manager that was putting FSC jobs elsewhere. Being certified has gained much more work from that customer - most of which is non-FSC”
I have yet to hear anyone say they did it for the environment.
“Which is better, FSC or recycled?”
FSC Mix or FSC 100% material categories are made from pulp from well managed forests. As more trees are planted more carbon dioxide is absorbed. This makes the use of paper environmentally friendly. Wood is a renewable resource; when forests are well managed, with consideration for the environment, the wildlife and the people who live and work in them, harvesting timber can actually be an effective way of safeguarding the forests for future generations. Choosing products sourced from these well-managed forests and from recycled post-consumer waste allows businesses and consumers to support the world‘s forests. Products carrying the FSC Recycled label have been made from at least 85% post consumer waste. Other recycling standards may not be as rigorous having as little as 25% recycled content.
“How difficult is it to manage chain of custody in my business?”
Not difficult at all. Any modern MIS can be configured to insert FSC claim information into job descriptions (on job sheets, delivery notes and invoices etc.), when claims are made, and produce the required annual reports. Once certified you can make claims on as many, or as few jobs as you like.
“If the paper is FSC Certified, why does the printer need to be as well?”
FSC has produced standards which
It is only by becoming part of a certified chain of custody that a printer can make FSC claims and apply FSC labels it’s products.
- Make sure that FSC wood is accounted for as it passes along the supply chain
- Make sure that when FSC wood is mixed with other wood, this does not come from undesirable sources (see FSC Con- trolled Wood)
- Make sure that recycled/reclaimed material is acceptable (see Recycled Material)
- Enables FSC certified products to be produced or stocked as well as uncertified products
- Provide a range of labeling options
“If one member of The Group Scheme fails an audit, does it affect the rest of the group?”
The answer is… No.
The Group Scheme could only fail if the certification body identified several members failing (i.e. systematic rather than isolated issues). We manage the members to pre-empt that. If a member consistently failed to correct issues identified we would suspend their membership.
“Why would my customers want me to be FSC certified?”
It is a very cost-effective way for them to demonstrate their commitment to the environment. FSC have been very effective in communicating their message to government, big business, and the public, so businesses see a benefit to their brands in being able to say that their suppliers are FSC-certified, or to buy FSC certified products and have the FSC trademarks appear on them.
In print, employees are far more likely to complain that there is not enough overtime than that they are getting too much. Many companies, though, are not compliant with legislation.
When the European Working Time Directive (which restricts working time to a maximum of 48 hours per week averaged over a 17 week period) was translated into U.K. law (The Working Time Regulations 1998), our government negotiated an opt out whereby employees could choose to voluntarily opt out of this limit and work more hours.
Even companies with opt-outs in place can have issues when inspected in business continuity or social accountability assessments; the assessor may not consider it “voluntary”:
- if the opt-out is a standard clause in a contract, or is a separate document signed at the same time as the employee starts work;
- if there is no clear mechanism for employees to change their minds and opt back into the limit; or
- if production employees always work five 12 hour shifts a week.
Best practice is for employees to be given the option to opt out only after they have completed their probationary period.
For the opt-out to be separate document that clearly states that they do not have to opt-out.
That this document states that they can opt back in at any time after giving reasonable notice (maximum 3 months).
NB it is the company’s responsibility under The Working Time Regulations to keep records to demonstrate compliance with the legislation for a period of at least three years, though in theory an employee could bring a claim against a company that they had been allowed to work excessive hours up to seven years after the event.
Thanks to Simon Edkins for this article.
“Using paper destroys forests”
EUROPEAN FORESTS HAVE GROWN BY OVER 30% SINCE 1950 AND ARE INCREASING BY 1.5 MILLION FOOTBALL PITCHES EVERY YEAR - AN AREA FOUR TIMES THE SIZE OF LONDON!
CEPI, Forest fact Sheet, July 2008
‘90% of deforestation is caused by unsustainable agricultural practices.’ Underlying causes of deforestation,
World Rainforest Movement; UN FAO
‘The paper industry is a relatively small user of wood. Of the wood extracted from the world's forests, 53% is used for energy production, 28% is used by sawmills and only around 11% is used directly by the paper industry.’
FAO Statistics 2007
Deforestation is generally occurring in the tropics but for a variety of reasons. The main cause of deforestation is either for agriculture or for domestic fuel requirements which between them account for almost half of the trees cut down worldwide.
Paper and the Environment, ATS Consulting, August 2007
‘The single biggest direct cause of tropical deforestation is conversion to crop land and pasture, mainly for subsistence.’ replantingtherainforests.org, April 2009
There have been, and continue to be in some tropical countries, issues over land rights and natural forest conversion to industrial plantations which are cause for concern to the paper industry, NGOs and consumers alike.
In northern Europe, where almost all ancient forests are protected, paper comes from managed semi-natural forests where the cycle of planting, growing and logging is carefully controlled. Even in countries where natural forests are used, like Russia and Canada, logging accounts for only a tiny share of the annual tree growth.
‘94% of the paper we use is made in Europe.’
CEPI trade statistics 2007
One of the many unique things about paper is that its main raw material is renewable and recyclable, providing a natural habitat for wildlife. The European Environment Agency (EEA) has stated that ‘Forestry practice in Europe is developing in a way that can be considered good for biodiversity.’
EEA, The European Environment, State and Outlook 2005, page 191 of report
‘In Europe, forests are growing and now cover 44% of the land area. 98% of all European forests are covered by a management plan or equivalents.’
MCPFE, Europe's Forests 2007
So the next time a customer starts talking about the "Paperless Office" for environmental reasons - you have the answer!
In the twenty years I spent running my own Prontaprint centre, and in the seven years spent visiting customer’s print businesses, I have been fascinated by the difference in sales success between different business owners.
If a franchisor is involved, they will typically have a series of marketing programmes, designed to drive customers to the business. This is a valuable activity, but should only be part of a sales and marketing strategy.
Sales training for customer facing staff is essential, but this usually concentrates on disciplines such as sales call rates and the basics of sales and negotiation techniques.
There is a missing link between the marketing and the direct sales activities that I have noticed is usually present in the most successful small print businesses.
Networking. The old saying that “People prefer to buy from people they know” is as true now as it ever was. Networking can mean different things to different people. It can be anything from joining a local breakfast club or business club to networking in conjunction with a sport or hobby. I know one small printer who, having had some success with customers in a particular industry sector, joined the trade association (for an industry that he wasn’t actually part of) - and achieved great success supplying that industry!
Supporting local charities and sports teams etc. is always good for public relations, and getting involved with local organisations will also bring you into contact with other local businessmen, and can provide another kind of networking opportunity.
Of course, as a small businessman, with so many daily urgencies, it’s difficult to get everything right. All one can do is to employ the best technology and staff that one can afford in order to release as much time as possible for gaining good customers - and to be lucky!
On luck. “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity”
Seneca, 5BC - 65AD
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.
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.
Special stocks - give them away!
One of the uglier characteristics of many of the print businesses that I visit is the section of the stock room that contains customers special order stocks. These are stocks that the printer would never normally carry, but at some time or other has ordered for a specific customer’s job.
The temptation (of course) is to print the job, then put any left over stock on the shelf thinking “I’ll sell that to someone else”, and (also of course) you almost never do.
Hopefully, the customer will be paying for all the stock that was ordered anyway. So instead of cluttering up the stock room with odds and ends that will never be sold - why not do this…
Offer the customer a deal that will use all of the stock. This is only common sense, and will enhance you reputation with the customer.
Or - If the order was for letterheads, offer the customer a deal on compliment slips printed at the same time.
Or - Offer the customer a quantity of plain continuation sheets for “free”!
Or - Offer the customer some “free” jotter pads - or anything else you can think of - made from the surplus stock.
Any of the above could be offered at little or no cost to you. Doing so would certainly help to improve your relationship with the customer…
…and just think of the space you’d save!