Strengthening Graphics Businesses

PRINTING United Graphics Producers Luncheon — Jim RussellI’ve been in a decompression phase this past week — mentally unpacking everything I saw and experienced during PRINTING United in Dallas. It was a phenomenal event, loaded with exhibitors busy in their booths, and energy running high. It also presented a new model for viewing (and describing) the printing industry as it is today and in the near term. Profitability and opportunity loom large, as well as efficiency and effective action on all levels.

One event I was delighted to attend in Dallas was SGIA’s Graphics Producers Luncheon. The goal of the event was two-fold. The first was to foster networking among company owners and high-level managers serving the sign and graphics segment. The second was to provide “food for thought” (in addition to food) to help these professionals more effectively manage their businesses. Three short, yet impactful, presentations all focused on boosting business.

Barb Pellow, an industry consultant (and veteran) shared with the audience her strategies for selling to top-level executives, the decision-makers with whom strong bonds are formed. Among the facts presented was that two-thirds of companies currently experiencing double-digit annual growth are targeting specific vertical markets. By focusing on — and becoming experts within — these spaces, companies find space to flourish. High-growth companies also are more likely to provide a more sophisticated portfolio of services, including customer-focused elements like web storefronts and web-to-print capabilities. The presentation also highlighted the imperative need for making well-informed capital investments, building a sales force that matches the needs of the company and differentiating by providing customers with market insight.

Mike Philie, Graphics Producers LuncheonAnother industry consultant, Mike Philie, shared the true value of empowering employees. Describing how teams are the most valuable asset of any company, he described how employee engagement efforts need to transcend quarterly pizza parties and open door policies to instead foster leadership that empowers, inspires, facilitates change and promotes a shared vision. The benefits, Philie explained, include increased customer interaction and engagement, better communication and less spoilage. He noted the fact that employee compensation is the largest single line on the P&L statement of most companies, so why not make that investment worth it?

Finally, Jim Russell of New Direction Partners presented the 10 attributes of high-growth companies. Though lack of space permits me from listing all of them, I'll highlight a few that resonated with me. I'll also note that all the attributes Russell presented are easy in theory, but commitment-heavy in their execution. He urged attendees to make their companies as efficient as possible. Whether in the corner office or on the production floor, efficiency minimizes waste and promotes profitability. He emphasized the importance of companies having a plan, sticking to it, and regularly measuring and adjusting in comparison to competitors. View running a business like driving a car: Know where you’re going, but use the controls (e.g. steering wheel) to adjust your path. Russell also recommended companies target high-growth industries. This message, which dovetails nicely with Pellow’s reference toward vertical markets, facilitates going where the money is, but also maximizing the value of focused expertise.
Graphics Producers Luncheon AudienceAs we look toward PRINTING United 2020 in Atlanta, an interesting opportunity presents itself: In one year’s time, what can you commit to doing (and achieving) that will strengthen your company’s place within the industry, but also provide operational stability? While what you do may be described as either “baby steps” or “herculean measures,” the goal should be the same: To make your business stronger than it is now. Are you up to the task? Your business hopes so.

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