1) Price or service - choose your poison.
Whether you like it or not the customers you serve either value the services that you provide, or they don't. Many businesses pretend that they are a value service provider but in truth, they are not. "If your customers have a champagne lifestyle but a beer budget - then you better start serving BEER." Too many businesses try to be all things to all men/or women.
Price: In order to run a focussed, price sensitive business you need to get tough, really tough. Ditch the overheads, nice lounges, receptions, marketing and focus everything on the reduction of price. Commodity printers allocate all resources to the most efficient equipment, the minimum work mix and minimum resources. General printers, ones that do a bit of everything, should not confuse themselves with commodity; they will never be as efficient as a truly focussed commodity organisation. Alternatively, don't focus on price.
Service: If you genuinely do offer exceptional value then your customers should pay a premium, but every sinew of the business should be focussed on the customer, their needs and personal service. The business should be unique, special and different and have few competitors. It's like comparing a Savile Row tailor with a sweatshop - as I say choose your poison, the ones in the middle will have a tough time.
2) Get really good at a few things – simplify.
Many businesses are overly complex, they make 80% of the profit on 20% of the products. 2020 is the year to get tough. As above, if getting really efficient is your thing, and selling on price then get really, really good at it. Be the best at whatever you choose to do.
This could be - Process efficiency or market sector specialty, product specialty like special effects or customer understanding, new markets, technology and/or software development.
Whatever you choose, and this year you must choose, get extremely good at a few things.
Note: This doesn't mean that you can’t do lots of things, perhaps inefficiently, but you must be focussed on the 80%. I have sometimes advised businesses to split into two - One focussed on something, the other generalised.
3) Portfolio analysis.
To help with above, simplification. Consider portfolio analysis.
A simple Boston Box to understand where your products sit in the matrix. Cash Cow, Star, Problem Child or Dog. Which ones need investment, which ones need culling or outsourcing.
By analysing and simplifying your product mix, you are beginning to prioritise the organisation.
High market Growth
High Market Share
High market Growth
Low Market Share
Low market Growth
High Market Share
Harvest or Milk
Low market Growth
Low Market Share
4) Get under the skin of your customer.
All printers need to understand the plans of their customer. All too often we are kept at arm’s length and treated as a service provider, rather than a partner. It is your job, as their supplier, to try and understand their business and needs as well or better than they do themselves. It astounds me, that many businesses still do not have a CRM system for tracking and managing their customer behaviour and interactions. CRM is not just a database of names and contacts, it is the place where all interactions, good and bad are recorded, used and analysed so that the business is better at making customer centric business decisions.
Most printers can tell me the make-ready in seconds, utilisation and efficiency but not what the customer ordered this time last year. (Really).
5) Understand the new battleground - Insight and knowledge.
Many print managers, printers and service providers offer their customers insight services and yet many do not use them for their own business. Understanding your marketplace, your competitors and your customer’s plans, are critical these days. There are many business analyses tools, that you can use to understand the environment you are competing or acting in. Porters 5 forces, looks at the competitive landscape. Especially the threat of substitute products and services - Screens in store, Mobile, Video, Social Media are all fighting for our attention and perhaps some time and effort to better understand things, that you don't currently know about, may be a worthy investment - even a new product or service. Once you have built your own insight - use it for commercial advantage.
6) Marketing is simply an opportunity to show your products and services.
Many businesses believe, that their route to growth and success is by employing professional marketers to promote the business. In some cases, this is absolutely correct. BUT, before you go out and employ a Marketing Director. Understand what marketing really does. Marketing gives you an opportunity to show prospects how good your product or service is. (This is the important bit) If your products or services are RUBBISH you will just show more prospects, how bad your customer experience or your products are. First rule, get focussed on the appropriate products and services for your customers, before you invest in marketing.
7) Culture eats strategy for breakfast.
I am a big fan of strategy, strategic analysis and business analysis but establishing the right business culture within the organisation is way more important than strategic planning. You can plan all you wish, but if the culture and attitude of the organisation is wrong, no amount of strategy will help. Culture starts at the top.
Changing the culture of the business does not happen overnight. The leadership needs to plan and execute communication, training, empowerment, mentoring and support infrastructure to support the right cultural environment. Once this is achieved - anything is possible.
8) Training and Mentoring.
As above, building a knowledge base, encouraging training, encouraging mentoring will help the individuals within the business thrive. Recently I have built Learning Management Systems for all sorts of training needs from Health and Safety, Induction, Customer training, anything that can be put into a PowerPoint can be converted into a LMS, with quizzes, certificates and user progress reporting.
Encouraging your super skilled staff, to train and mentor others, starts with confidence in the business. No operator will teach someone else to do their job, if they are not secure in the belief that they have their own security in the first instance. Building security and then sharing skills, will help the entire business develop.
9) Stop getting bogged down with trivia.
Too many business owners get bogged down with trivia. I call it "working in the business rather than on the business". As a business owner or manager, how many hours per day do you spend dealing with trivia? How is your time better spent? Investment in executive support, or simple delegation will make your hours much more productive.
Sometimes delegation can be so difficult - because mistakes will happen, but you have to let this happen in order to empower others and to give yourself time to plan the business forward.
10) Use experts.
I am bound to say this as a consultant but having just invested in training for Prince 2 Project Management and Business Analysis qualifications, I have realised how much other experts out there could have helped me in the past. Academics are probably awful at running a business, but hell do they know some really useful stuff. By using experts, you will fast track your business, make less mistakes, and learn something in the process.
There are all sorts of experts; colour and quality, health and safety, standards and certification, project management, business analysis - or general leadership. Using people with a unique perspective helps you as a business owner to see a bigger picture.
Anyone who thinks they know it all - is a fool, life is about learning and the learning never stops. Bring in an expert when appropriate to advise and question your thoughts and plans. It may save you a fortune.
These are just 10 tips to start the little grey cells working for 2020 - If you want a conversation about how I can help your business progress please message me on this platform.
About the author - John Charnock
Director and Owner of Print Research International Ltd.
http://pr-int.net/ ; https://www.linkedin.com/in/jhcjhc/
Print Research International (Pr-int) is an international consultancy that has a network of consultants around the globe that specialises in helping businesses with business development, technology adoption and developing staff. Pr-int also helps equipment and software manufacturers to develop routes to market and new product development especially when technology led.
John advises many companies in the print sector such as: The Inspired Thinking Group, ProCo, Transcend Packaging, Colour Logic and Red Tie web to print. He is a judge for several printing awards, he is a mentor and acts as non-exec to several businesses that serve the sector.
Previous to running his consultancy John was the Group Technical Director of St Ives a £450M PLC organisation and introduced innovation and business strategy at all levels of the business. He was heavily involved in the group’s investment in digital production systems in the all 6 of its divisions covering books, magazines, financial, retail display, exhibitions and direct mail.
Mood Group evangelises and subscribes to the philosophy of the English Proverb – Experience is neither inheritance nor legacy!
We advocate that its in our client’s best interests to focus their attention and resources to the areas of their business they know best, and would be considered unique to themselves.
As part of a process of “realisation” and “thinking outside of the box”, and particularly in these most challenging of times, Mood Group are introducing a season of guest authors from the Print & Packaging & Industrial Processing sectors whose words might provide “food for thought” and "inspiration" to those seeking additional ideas on how to improve their business and also how to navigate the present changes as they develop and unfold.
Where ever requested Mood Group has the most comprehensive worldwide register of talented individuals such as this author and others similar, that we can introduce you to whose services are available either on a permanent or non permanent basis.
Marcus Doo - Managing Partner - Mood Group