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A tale of two printers – Scott and Bill

Monday, 29 January 2007
By Print 21 Online Article

It’s never one-size fits all in the printing game. According to Dave Bell of Quote & Print, everyone has to work out where they fit in and more importantly, what they are good at. It’s a novel idea.

It was a sunny Wednesday in April and Scott was feeling very pleased with himself. He had just come home from his youngest daughter’s graduation ceremony and now he felt that some of the pressure was off his back. He was the sole owner of a second generation printing business. He had bought his brother out about 15 years ago. He was too young to retire but he did not want to spend more money on plant and equipment or have to mortgage his house.

His plan for the future was to make the most of his location. He was in a shopping strip on a main road that had lots of passing traffic, had invested in a colour copier and trained himself in Photoshop. He knew that he could handle the one- and two-colour printing.

In the past he had turned away full colour printing as too much trouble but now he formed an alliance with a four-colour printer in Western Australia who could turn around jobs in five days. In addition he could now design business cards and was making more money on the design than he ever did with the printing. In addition, he could always count on a steady flow of work from his mates in the Rotary Club. He thought he would be right until he turned 60. Thank goodness he owned his premises as he had very little in his super fund.

and then there was Bill

It was a rainy Tuesday morning and Bill had just dropped his youngest child at kindergarten. He was in a pensive mood. His printing business had grown since he started it 10 years ago and was able to comfortably support his family, including those private school fees.

However, over the past few years he had noticed that it was getting harder and harder to attract new customers. After much discussion with his accountant about what areas they could value add they noticed that for most of his customers they only did a fraction of their printing. Their decision was to reinvent themselves over the next few years as a boutique print management business.

They replaced their two old one-colour presses with a new two-colour press. The savings in wages paid for the lease payments. In addition they installed an online ordering system from their MIS supplier which handled online stock ordering and personalised stationery. Bill spent several weeks working on a presentation showing how businesses could save money by purchasing all their print from the one supplier. He then approached his top ten clients about placing all their print with him. After one year two had agreed to do so which resulted in an additional $12,000 of sales every month.

Like Scott, he was content to send out the colour print work and was often surprised at how cheap it was. His MIS system let him export all his stock reports into Excel format which impressed his customers’ accountants. Two more customers were looking at using him for print management in the next few months. He felt that he had made the right decision.

And the moral of the tale is …

Like Scott and Bill, you can’t just let your business drift along. You need a plan which you can modify from time to time. Your plan does not necessarily involve spending a lot of money, rather your need to leverage your existing strengths and make sure you cover your weaknesses.

For Scott it was playing within his comfort zone, holding back on investment while edging into areas such as design. His strengths were the local connections and personal contacts as well as being able to offer a one-stop shop – even though his own equipment was fairly limited. Importantly, his strategy allowed him to meet his goals.

For Bill the move into print management is likely to transform his company within a few years. With children still at school his comfort zone is going to squeezed if he doesn’t keep moving.

For both, the need for good management information is key. Without a good handle on where you are, you’ll never get to where you’re going.

This article was brought to you by Quote & Print

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