Politics aside, I squirmed at the recent hubbub over our political elite being named and shamed for not knowing the price of milk and by inference, appearing out of touch with price-sensitive shoppers. I writhed because I too would have waffled and wriggled. I'd squirm further if I was asked the price of a kilowatt-hour of electricity, a low-energy light bulb or a roll of three-ply. At least I couldn't be accused of being a cynic. Oscar Wilde wrote: 'What is a cynic? A man who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.” In business, perhaps we're encouraging our customers to become commercial cynics.
“Waiter! There’s a fly in my soup.” Customer complaints justified or otherwise, can be as unwelcome as a bluebottle doing the backstroke in your broth. Sure, we all claim customers are important to our business, but how we handle customer complaints, especially those we deem unfounded, is our litmus test. Most of us are big enough to hold up our hand and admit when we’ve messed up. Whether we’ve innocently mismanaged customers’ expectations or let them down catastrophically, lessons can be learned.
Embark or miss the boat?
Being in business is inherently risky. Being successful, sustainable and bankable has more to do with foresight than fortune. In life, nothing is certain but death and taxes. In business, it's change. Technology and globalisation are inevitable levers for change. 40% of the Fortune 500 companies in 2000 were gone just ten years later. Who saw the writing on the wall predicting Amazon and Waterstones would report e-book downloads eclipse printed book sales, or how we now enjoy online music, TV, films, news, articles, and information would decimate entire industries? When Kodak filed for bankruptcy protection under chapter 11 in the US, the winds of change swirled and chilled. This may not be Kodak's finest hour, but for the rest of us it’s a wake up call. What risks threaten, if not our survival, then our sustainable success?
Cloud computing - what am I supposed to do about that then? Having spent a fair whack of time online over the Christmas holidays, trying to find out a bit more about how this ‘trend’ is likely to impact upon business in general, and trying and get some sort of insight into what I should be doing about it, I’m more bamboozled than I was before. And I’m no technophobe – we use some of the most leading edge printers and software applications around - but it’s a case of where to start when it comes to investigating how cloud computing should be used in my business.
I sold my way into my first print job with no clue about printing. I sold ad. space for a newspaper to start with and fancied a change. The fact I had ‘blagged’ the experience became apparent after a couple of days but my new boss said he admired my tenacity so trained me up.
Two years later I fancied another change so I left that company on the promise of a new diesel Golf and an extra £5k a year and poked two fingers up at the guy who had taken me under his wing. I feel guilty about it now but that’s the thing; salespeople have a fire in their belly and quite often want to be company owners so beware.
For the last two years I have taken advantage of the HMRC’s more liberal approach to the collection of corporation tax as they have allowed me to pay a small lump sum and then contribute a percentage of the debt monthly for ten months.
The Widthwise Report 2011 has come out stating that number one priority with us printers is that we would like the machine manufacturers to spend more on R&D to bring running costs down. Personally, I think there should be more transparency in cost. I bet my last pound that if every person who took part in the Widthwise survey had shopped around for ink and other consumables they would have found that the running costs of the machine they had bought could tumble.
July 2011Large-format digital imaging is still really a pioneering growth industry in this country. We, as print producers, are constantly striving to find new and innovative ways to create new products, find new ways to solve display problems and answer ever more demanding clients needs.
June 2011I’ve had a bit of a spend up over the last couple of months and software seems to be where my money has been going.
First on the list was a GMG colour server and smart profiler, the magic wand of colour management. For those of you not familiar with it, it removes the need for icc profiles on your Rip and by using the smart profiler with a spectrophotometer it enables you to make your own profiles that are specific to your printer and media.
May 2011I sell a service, a printing and installation service. When I pitch my business to a prospective new client I promise that my company will deliver, exactly what I promise exactly when they ask for it.
April 2011It’s pay rise season: or is it? Around April I like to do the annual review of my staff wages and incentives, though I must confess at this stage that this has lapsed somewhat over the last two years - there was no money for pay rises so the reviews were brief, if at all. I think the staff understood that the management team was working hard to keep everybody in employment and I’m proud to say we have not had to make anyone redundant during the financial crisis and resulting recession.
March 2011Is a merger an option for me? I started in this business as an ‘entrepreneur’ and, after 15 years in it, I think it’s fair to say I’m defiantly a ‘printer’ now. But, from time to time I think about my exit strategy - do I still want to be doing this in another 15 years? Or do I sell the company to another person or company to retire or try something else?
Talk to anyone in the industry and the same comments keep coming back - I’m busy but my cashflow is a nightmare!
Getting paid for our work seems to be harder than actually doing the work at the moment. There is a trend among some of the major retailers to raise money by extending credit terms with suppliers. More and more the terms have slipped from 30 to 60 days and now I’m sure you will have all heard the line ‘60 days end of month’, that’s a polite way of saying “I’m not paying you for three months”.