Part of IPMA’s COVID-19 and the In-Plant Industry Blog Series
As we are in unexplored waters of the pandemic, I dare say there is no one alive who lived through the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918 who can guide us or at least help us forge on. We printers thought we had survived the Great Recession, tougher, smarter and financially stable. However, the printing industry, including in-plants, had long before been enduring stresses, technology advancements that reduced the craftsmanship or the mystery of printing.
The digital age was beginning. Apple introduced desktop printing, copiers improved and were networked with higher resolution and more importantly user friendly. The introduction of new technologies, supply chains for stock, film, plates all increased. The timing was bad for technology and created a leveled field for quality and service.
Printers as a whole have often utilized new technology without passing on the true costs. Printers tried to absorb technology and rising costs and passed on discounts to their clients. In reality, the absorption of the increasing supplies/materials cost placed tremendous strain for them to break even much less make a profit. We all know that if you ask enough printers you will often find one printer producing below cost…an age old problem in printing then just as it is today.
Though the Great Recession reduced the number of printers and in-plants by close to 35%, there was still a buyer’s market. New intense pressure from marketers with touting “print is dead”, digital marketing, e-books, web-based marketing, and e-marketing being pushed as effective and inexpensive. A great marketing ploy indeed; however, like most things too good to be true, the inexpensive e-marketing and digital never came true. Direct mail, multimedia marketing and printing has won out. E-books did not in fact replace printed books, not with students nor with readers. Companies needed printing to drive customers to their web page. And social media though popular does not carry the conviction of trust that print media does.
All of this to say that over the last 45 years or so the industry has faced challenge after challenge, not always totally successfully and at times has made some effort to engage and change the message. But now it is even more important to change the message. Our industry is a valuable asset to our customers, to marketers, especially now, for we have to provide positive ROIs for our customers to reconnect and rebuild with their clients as well.
The Latin word spire translates to breathe and is the root in many ways of what we need to be doing now. Now it is the perfect time to breathe Respire new life into who we are, what we do, and how we can make our customers’ recovery faster.
First, as Deb Green with University of Nebraska-Lincoln said, “Calm is the word of the day” so let’s take a breath and be calm. Remember by reviewing what services, equipment and manpower we have, and re-imagine how we can utilize those resources to improve the response to our customer’s needs. Possibly, utilizing old processes combined with new processes such as utilizing digital printers to print mass quantities of product that need to be die-cut, using offset printing with special laminate with die-cutting for floor decals or chair wraps.
To improve our process in leadership, with have to think past where we were, where we are and where we are going. We have to Aspire, breathe anew. Everyone needs to Aspire to be something, maybe to be a better employee, a better person, a great leader or TOP Fortune 500 Company. The point is never to be satisfied, keep driving forward. This is why the Printing Industry has struggled for 45 plus years. We quit aspiring to be better, we took what we were given. It’s time to change.
There are some great young leaders in our industry who want and are making a difference. Amanda Bronowski with Heeter, is engaging her clients in multichannel marketing, and why not it is what they do. She knows she has to reach out in social media, e-marketing, direct mail and contact through web based conferencing. Amanda is not waiting or being laid back. She is charging ahead with a plan to improve her customer’s business. Shaun Daney with Alcom Printing is doing the same thing and almost the same way, but Shaun is educating clients everyday with new literature, sharing data, engaging clients not to wait but look for new opportunities as well. Both of these young leaders are shaking and moving. They will make a difference for their customers, their companies and our industry if we step up our game.
Like Amanda and Shaun, we have to Inspire. We have to garner the attention of our management, our staff, co-workers and just as importantly our customers. We must breathe new life into their faith, hopes, and desires in order to attain a level of excitement and confidence. For the road ahead is not paved and smooth, rather full of holes, rocks, trees and everything else. It is a hard journey. We must be aware that we do not know everything and we, like our customers, have a dependence on our vendors, who truly are our partners, more now than ever before.
Now we have inspired so our next task is to Conspire: to enlist the agreement with our team, our vendors and our customers as to how to best work together to achieve the common and desired goals. Just as the Egyptians used push/pull teams you have to do things in the right sequence. You have to push and pull in the same direction to move forward. Conspire is a synonym for Unity. We can change the world by working together.
Now it is time to engage our combined efforts and resources and begin doing the work. Work of this nature to blaze new trails, to use old, current and new technologies will require us to Perspire. Nothing worthwhile is attained without great effort and perspiration. The old adage, “No sweat” has no place here where we are changing our world. Those who are not willing to give their best will not succeed. We have to change our business model.
Why take on these attributes, to Transpire, to make a difference? We want to take back our industry and cause it to be once again of value to our customers. To have a reasonable expectation of rebuilding a stronger company and industry, we have to make the transition of being behind for 45 years, to once again being a leader, the pathfinder in a wild new era.
We will Respire or breathe anew our industry, our customers’ impact and revive our economy. We must take action. Printing materials are the most trusted, they are retained the longest and they are shared far more with others. This is the power of Print, the trust factor. For our economy to recover, there will be a huge trust needed. There are mailboxes empty waiting for marketing materials. Help your customers move forward with data.
Those who wait and sit back will be left behind.
John Yerger has been in printing all of his life starting with a family newspaper and Printshop. John has worked in almost every aspect of printing from hot type to cold, letterpress, flexography and offset, sheet-fed and roll-fed. With over 35 years in private sector printing and 12 years of experience in higher education, John has more 28 years of senior management experience specializing in growing and restructuring print operations to maximize profits and revenues.
He has used his experience to consult with other operations to better manage their workflow and make their operations more productive in Texas and Arkansas. Under John’s management, Stephen F. Austin State University earned the 2014 IPMA Print Center of the Year Award. University of Nebraska-Lincoln Printing Services hosted the IPMA Roadshow in 2019. John supervises printing, 3 digital printing centers, promotional products, over 480 MFD’s, and Mail services with a staff of 48. John has increased sales volume and been ranked in the top 10 higher education in-plants in the last two years increasing revenue for 3 of his 4 years at UNL, creating a self-sustaining operation.