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Sat, Aug

Word of the year for 2016 seems to be ‘smart’ - five letters that when put together means something incredible, intuitive and beyond all other normal things.

At this time of year I like to spend some time talking to friends and foes in the industry and catching up on what everyone’s been up to. General consensus is that it’s been a busy year and I’ve yet to speak to anybody that isn’t happy with how things have been recently. Even the “stack it high, sell it cheap” brigade have been increasing their print prices over the last two years.

As the managing director of Mole Enterprises Plc, I would do – and I must apologise to Meatloaf and Jim Steinman for the plagiarism – anything for my business but I wouldn’t do the following …

It’s happened! For the first time I have been stopped in my tracks with the loss of an internet connection. No Wifi, No 4G. Not even 3G!

For the first time in over 20 years of working within the large-format graphics industry I am starting to feel that I'm not just a printer anymore. This moment came when I was on a night out with other parents from our kids’ school. Chatting away to somebody I'd just met for the first time I was asked the inevitable question: "What do you do for a living?".

Having operated a bank of solvent printers for a number of trouble free years, mainly printing onto self adhesive film, we were approached by a reseller representing a very large, worldwide manufacturer of inks and offered a compatible ink for our machines. The cost savings were potentially huge, the colour gamut as good and maybe even better than the OEM version, it was low odour and everything seemed to stack up.

Just before Christmas the Industry Mole was the victim of a burglary. His Cornish bolthole was burgled and a few items stolen. Nothing too valuable and insurers soon paid out.

However, arriving at the house two days before Christmas there was an immediate need to replace items, especially the TV which is central to Mole family life. With limited choice at the Penzance branch of Curry’s we quickly picked out the latest Samsung Smart TV and took it home.

As I write, it’s the first few days of 2015 and I’m desperately trying to kick-start myself into the New Year. It’s funny, I was full of enthusiasm a few days ago but yesterday the thought of having to set the alarm clock seemed to suck the life out of me! By lunchtime on my first day back my brain was already full to bursting and I had a long list of ‘To-Do’s’ written down. I think it’s going to be an action packed 2015!!

Employment seems to be a hot news topic at the moment with the debate about foreign workers, minimum wage and the headline grabbing ‘living wage’ that politicians keep talking about.

The UK large-format digital print industry has now hit 20 years of existence, during which time I have personally witnessed enough skullduggery to last a lifetime. It still goes on now, with salesmen overpromising on a daily basis and business owners too concerned about earning money today to worry about the longer-term impact of the quality of product and service that they are providing. 

I was in conversation a few days ago with a chap that I’ve known for many years. We were talking about work and he said that he had recently changed his business strategy and was turning away orders from his largest customers (I don’t believe he was being fattist!) as profit margins were invisible, they took months to pay and always wanted the delivery within the hour. 

“Building Earth’s most consumer centric company.” It’s a powerful mission statement by Amazon and one that, except for the odd snafu over delivery, has been reflected in by the service I get when I buy from them (too often).

As we all know, when it comes to our print business reliability is the key. With a plethora of poorly built digital print equipment available, usually at an attractive price, it is always a leap into the unknown for those that decide to invest in one. Sometime you are lucky and the machine can prove to be a good purchase that serves your business well. At other times the old motto, “Buy cheap, buy twice” springs to mind! 

I slept like a baby at Fespa. I mention this only because, for businessmen of a certain age, it is a point of professional pride to insist, loudly as they breakfast with colleagues, that they NEVER sleep in hotels. Presumably we’re supposed to believe they spent their wakeful hours devising a dynamic new strategy. They probably regard the concept of a work/life balance as the subversive brainchild of the department they invariably call Human Remains.

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