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The Power of Keeping It Simple

Posted By Sarah Scudder, Monday, November 23, 2015

 
"Complexity is your enemy. Any fool can make something complicated. It is hard to make something simple." – Richard Branson

I've been in the "real" workforce for 11 years (I turned 32 this past April). I took a sales job at a
small print distributor after college. I had no sales training or experience. I've always wanted the
flexibility that comes with owning my own business and thought that working for a small business would give me the hands-on experience needed to start my own company someday.
 
I quickly learned that our company's value proposition was weak and would not hold up against our competition. Our company did not have solid long-term strategies. How was our company going to help clients make more money? How would we differentiate ourselves from the thousands of other companies in the print industry?

I felt that to succeed at my job (i.e. bring in lots of new clients), I needed to infuse technology into our company. I spent two months interviewing print buyers at companies that bought a significant amount of print.
 
I scheduled a meeting with the two owners of my company to talk about changing the company's business model. The meeting went well. I facilitated a conversation using five strategies I learned at Sonoma State (where I participated in major campus clubs and organizations, serving as president and in several other leadership positions). Those strategies were as follows:

1. Know your end goal. Is it to build understanding, create new processes or to make a critical decision about the future of the business?

2. Invite the right people. Bring together a diverse group of people who provide unique perspectives on all aspects of the business. Don't downplay the value of having representation from each department. If you are talking about marketing, a colleague in accounting might be able to provide time-tracking process ideas.

3. Make it visual. Visuals are often much more effective than words to communicate the problem.

4. Create the right environment. Conversations in a successful meeting are engaging and focused. Positive interaction supports the best work and promotes unity. Create a meeting environment (whether remote or in-person) that encourages conversation. I have learned that fast Internet connection, good phone services, fresh air, natural light and organized materials are important. The small stuff matters.

5. Keep it simple. As Shakespeare said: "Brevity is the soul of wit."
 
I spent the next 12 months helping design and build our print storefront. Once our computer system was ready for operation, we stopped selling print and started selling an online buying solution — and it brought in $10 million of new business in seven years. How did I do it?

I had strategic conversations with buyers at companies that spent a lot of money on print and
had complex buying needs. I kept the conversations and communication simple. I would ask a
prospect questions about his or her current buying environment, technology needs and goals around increased labor efficiency and product cost savings. I listened and uncovered the buyer's real needs. Then I clearly showed and explained how our technology would solve each need and how it would provide additional value above and beyond what our client thought possible. All my communication was simple. The buyer never had to interpret or analyze what I said or how it would help them. My emails were short — about two to four sentences. If I needed to prepare a proposal, it had very few words and lots of visuals.

My company sold to The Sourcing Group (TSG) in May 2013. I’m the chief growth officer at TSG, and I continue to facilitate strategic conversations. If I keep it simple and clear, the conversations work.

Sarah Scudder is the chief growth officer of The Sourcing Group.

To learn more about communications strategies that work, download the current issue of PSDA's Beyond Print.

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Strategic Partnerships: Why They Should Matter to You

Posted By Bill Jourdan, Monday, October 26, 2015

 PS Magazine editors recently spoke with PSDA board member Bill Jourdan, president and CEO of Reign Print Solutions, Inc. in Arlington Heights, Illinois, about his perspective on industry partnerships, specifically between distributors and manufacturers. Here, he shares why he thinks business owners today should be more open to working more collaboratively, consultatively and innovatively in order to solve clients' problems.

Why is the partnership between distributors and manufacturers important for the industry and for individual businesses?
In my opinion, the idea of a strategic partnership goes well beyond the typical manufacturer-distributor relationship. "You provide me a price list and product features and benefits, maybe some samples, and then I buy this from you and sell to another party." You may laugh at that, but this is how a lot of members still function today. For the membership to not only survive, but to thrive, we all need to better engage and collaborate. Work together to become more innovative and to help solve clients' problems. That's why we are all in business — to be truly innovative. One should not go it alone. 

What do you think is the first step toward building stronger partnerships?
There are three first steps, actually. First — it's all about internal culture and mindset. You and those in your organization all have to realize the value of your partners and how critical they are to your future success. Today, far too many distributors, and manufacturers, too, for that matter, try to do everything themselves. Or they continue to do things as they always have. Not only do we need to hire and train the right employees, we should also leverage the right strategic partners. That is, find the right partners who will help both parties achieve more success. 

Then, sit down with your management team and map out a strategy. Ask, "What is our growth plan, and what partners will help us get there?" Pick a few of these possible partners to target (PSDA already has an excellent stable of partners, right there and waiting). Consider those who can help you from a technology, sales and marketing, and financial perspective, as all areas can be crucial to your specific needs. Pick a leader who can drive this initiative. This is critical.

Lastly, hold strategic planning meetings between the key stakeholders of both companies. Is there synergy? Can you help each other achieve agreed-upon goals? What will it take (support and training) to get to those goals? What are the measurables? You'll both need some "skin in the game" to succeed. 

How have you done this within your own company?
From day one, we have not hidden the fact that we are part of a strong national network of print resource experts — a huge $5 billion dollar supply chain that encompasses the "best of the best" in print and marketing related services. We proclaim that we have every "expert" imaginable, right at our fingertips. We have always tried to work closely with our manufacturing and supply partners through a strength-in-numbers mentality, bringing them in when necessary to help find and close new business, in either existing accounts or new markets. We are certainly not perfect, but we realize the importance of these partnerships and are continually looking for new and creative ways to maximize our relationships. Keeping our best partners "close to the deal" brings added expertise and confidence to the client, while also minimizing the margin for error — a win-win for everyone!

I also want to point out that as strongly as we feel about the importance of partnerships, we do realize that this is not for everyone. 

What would you say some would consider is the "downside" to distributors and manufacturers working more closely together? And how do you combat that notion?
Lack of commitment is one downside. I also think that lack of trust has been a deterrent. It is really no one's fault. I think it is simply a product of how the industry has evolved over the past 10 years. The marketplace now has more educated end users because of the Internet. Strategic sourcing management is forcing commodity-like pricing on print, and technology is changing how companies use and view print. The PSDA supply chain had become less of a melting pot of organizations and a bit more like a salad bowl — all of us tossed together, working more independently than as a melded, cohesive unit. It is my opinion that, collectively and collaboratively, the PSDA members can better band together, possibly in small contingencies at first to help rebuild the commitment and trust.

Do you think we'll ever get to the point where the distributor / manufacturer relationship is naturally more of a team or partnership? 
I think we can certainly get better, possibly get back to our roots, if we laser-focus more on consultative value and less on price. So many are already there. The most successful strategic partnerships have structure, accountability and encourage company-wide collaboration. 

PSDA recently enacted a "Strategic Partnerships Task Force." This initiative is a direct result of engaging conversations that took place at this year’s CEO Summit and P2P Solutions Summit. This taskforce of distributors, manufacturers and suppliers will be collaborating on bringing new tools and ideas to the membership over the next year, so stay tuned for more information that will surely bring value to us all.

Tags:  Strategic partnerships 

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Exit Planning: 3 Things You Should Do Now to Prepare for the Future of Your Business

Posted By Kevin L. Ramsier, Friday, October 16, 2015

 

The printing industry is undergoing rapid change. Online competition, advances in technologies and changing consumer behavior — to name just a few — are transforming the competitive landscape right in front of our eyes. Demographics of owners in the industry bring us to the start of an interesting crossroads — Baby Boomers are starting to retire. Roughly 50 percent of the business owners will transition ownership of their business over the next decade.

 
This massive turnover will have a significant impact on valuations in the industry. As more owners
contemplate the right time to sell their businesses, I wanted to share some insight on what you can do right now to start maximizing the value of your business and effectively monetize the value of your life's work.

1. Establish Proper Expectations
Sometimes we see buyers that have unrealistic expectations about what their business is really
worth. Business valuation is a complex animal, as various factors can come into play when determining value for any given company.
 
For companies with positive cash flows, a multiple of EBITDA is a very common measure of value. EBITDA is net earnings less interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization. For companies that have negative cash flows, you would likely see valuation based on a percent of the market value of the assets, less liabilities. This is called the liquidation value of the business.
 
You might hear the term "book value" while discussing business valuations. The current book value of a company is simply assets minus liabilities. When an investor pays more than book value for a company, they have "stepped up” the assets to reflect the future earnings potential of the company. This step-up is known as Good Will.
 
In most discussions people have about valuation, they often talk in terms of "multiples.” It is usually implied as a multiple of EBITDA, but can also be used as a multiple of revenue. It is imperative that you set realistic expectations for what you think a reasonable buyer would want from you after the sale. Are you willing to stay on board to assist in the transition? Will you tell the employees about the pending sale or not? As you can see, there are some important questions to consider before putting your business up for sale.
 
One of the most important expectations you can set for yourself is understanding what you will do after the sale, and if the sale will support the income stream you will need to fulfill those desires. Knowing exactly what you want the next chapter of your life to look like is a key component to a successful sale.

2. Manage Your Business with Value in Mind
If you can remember any key takeaway from this article, make it this: The stronger the business can defend future earnings potential, the stronger the case for a high valuation. The answer on how to get there lies in a specific Valuation Improvement Program that would maximize the company’s value through the eyes of a potential acquirer. To properly implement a Value Improvement Program, the company needs to have a detailed system. Here are some easy steps to get the process going:

I. State of the company. This first step looks at the overall health of the company and would include a narrative on the company’s expertise, production capabilities, geographic reach, management team, cost structures, margins, equipment and marketing strategy.
 
II. State of competition. It is extremely important to understand as much as possible about the company’s competitors. Having a firm grasp on their strengths and weaknesses can have major implications on potential value drivers going forward. Take your top three competitors and undergo a similar exercise as we discussed in the "State of the Company" section above.

III. Benchmark results. Every company needs to analyze their strengths and weaknesses by comparing results to specific standards. These benchmarks will measure results in the areas of financial, operations and service. In this exercise, benchmark the company against three common criteria: past performance of the company, comparing that performance to the main competitors and comparing them to industry averages.
 
IV. Rank issues. Companies that get higher valuations tend to exhibit much stronger averages in key metrics than the industry as a whole. Pick the areas that are most important, and create a framework to discuss all possibilities for improvement. This list should contain three to five major actions.
 
V. Execute. For each item on the list, the company would create a separate spreadsheet to track progress on items such as timelines, costs and accountabilities.

3. Build Your Team Right Now
It is never too early to create a team of professionals who can help you plan your exit. It all starts with an honest and experienced M&A professional. These folks can help you implement the proper process, and they are well-connected to strong buyer networks.
 
Next, you want a CPA firm that has experience in transactions such as yours. They can offer invaluable guidance and support when it comes to tax strategies for the sale. Finally, you want a transactional attorney. This is not the time to stick with your old golfing buddy who helped you set up the business many years ago. A good deal attorney is a critical component to your team. Combined, they can all help you sell your business to your ideal buyer.

Kevin L. Ramsier is managing partner and CEO of Vesticor Advisors, a national mergers and acquisition advisory firm that helps business owners prepare their businesses for maximum value.

Tags:  exit planning  succession planning 

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A Millennial's Perspective: 6 Ways to Attract and Retain Us

Posted By Sarah Scudder, Thursday, October 8, 2015
I attended a supply chain conference this past May. The average attendee had to be at least 50 years old; there were just two of "us" (millennials) in attendance. Much of the first day's discussion centered around how to attract millennials to the purchasing industry. Concerns that we have limited attention spans, we want everything now, we bounce from job to job, we are entitled and that we have substandard work ethic were expressed. I thought it a bit ironic that no one asked me or the other millennial for our perspectives, so I spoke up. I highlighted the positive attributes we can and do bring to the workforce: information sharing, compassion, caring about a greater cause, creativity and innovation.
 
All that being said, here's how to attract us creative types and innovators.
 
PURPOSE
We care about the greater good. It's not just about the profit today, but how what we do today affects our peers, friends and families five years from now. How do our actions affect the planet? Let your employees know how their work is contributing to the greater health, wealth and livelihood of the company and the world. Be open and clear about the cause and effect. Let your employees know that their actions will help improve the end game for the greater good. Start the conversation and then step back and listen. Your company's mission should evolve and improve
through your employees. Ultimately, your employees should not feel like employees at all. We millennials want to feel like we are part of a family.

HAVING THE RIGHT LEADERS
We know that we work for our bosses. But if we don't like our bosses, we are happy to leave and find another company that has managers more in line with our goals and purpose. Hire or teach your leaders to be strategic, inspirational, forward-thinking — and be real people that we can relate to. Listen to "us."
 
MENTORSHIP
We like feedback. But we want that feedback in real time versus a traditional once-a-year performance review. We want to know how we can improve and become better contributors now. Set up a mentorship program. Allow mentors and mentees to spend quality time together, but don’t make it too formal. Allow us to guide the relationship and let the mentors know how they can be of most value.

FLEXIBILITY
We aren't always fond of an 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. schedule. We perform at our best when there is
flexibility in our schedule. We might work a few hours in the morning, then take a break to workout, play with our kids or visit the dentist. Then we can resume work in the afternoon when we are recharged and ready to focus. Empower your leaders to give millennials the flexibility they need to perform at their best. Focus on the results, not on how much time you see us sitting
at a desk. Consider allowing us to work from home at least two days a week. Working at home allows us to structure our schedules to maximize productivity.

COMMUNICATION
Millennials check their social media outlets for news, entertainment, sports and just about any information we need. We like short, concise information as opposed to long, clutter-filled, tedious reports. Adjust the way you communicate with your employees and your customers. Don't send formal written notices. Consider developing an internal company platform to post information online, such as company wins, employee of the month and inspirational quotes. Encourage us to engage with other employees online and talk about new ideas.

INVOLVEMENT
Now that you have "us" and like "us," how do you keep "us" at your company? We are contributors. We like to be involved and offer ideas and suggestions. We don't want someone always just telling us what to do. We want to be a part of the process to help make things better. Schedule regular time for leadership to meet and talk about strategy and vision and how to solve the problems within the company. We have thoughtful, innovative and sometimes even fun ideas. Have innovation meetings at least once a month with people from different departments. Many of the best ideas will come from employees working in the business. Be a good listener.


 
Sarah Scudder is chief growth officer at The Sourcing Group.

Tags:  hiring  millennials  staffing  talent 

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5 Things to Do if You Have Millennials on Your Team

Posted By Claudia St. John, Affinity HR Group, Friday, August 21, 2015
Updated: Thursday, August 20, 2015
 
Nothing gets a group of business owners riled up more than asking their opinions about their Millennial employees. Also known as Generation Y, these are people who are between the ages of 18 and 32.

We hear it all the time. They're entitled, they can’t communicate well, they are needy, they don't work hard. And they have no job loyalty! (We could go on.)

While there may be some truth to this, we must also remember that we, ourselves, created these young people. As parents, and as a society, we nurtured them and protected them, and we told them to make their own way because no one (certainly not their employer) would look out for them. Who knew that they would actually listen to us and act accordingly? 

As their employers, we also need to remember that these creative, smart individuals are starting their professional lives at a time when Baby Boomers are not retiring at the rates we would have expected them to. Accordingly, they are not easily finding pathways to the jobs they trained for, they have debt that will last for decades, and many of them entered the job market in the midst of a miserable economy.

Yet, despite all this, they remain optimistic. They still think they can change the world — and they likely will. Thank goodness!

In the meantime, what's a manager to do? Here are five practical things to consider if you have millennials on your team:

1. Relationships, respect and purpose matter more to this group than money. Connect the dots for them; explain how their jobs matter in the big picture.
 
2. Let them use technology. If it doesn't cause a safety or productivity problem, let them have access to their phones during breaks at work. They see 24/7 connectivity as essential to their own sense of purpose (just as many of us do), and they will be more productive if you don't stand in the way of that (within reason). And use them to be your organization's social media ambassadors — generally, no one knows that space better than they do. 
 
3. Give them lots of feedback. We all need it and so do they. If you see them doing something well, celebrate that. Don't restrict your feedback to constructive criticism. If that's all they get from you, then you will lose them.

4. Find ways for them to give back to the community and the world. These are truly global citizens who want to do good. Find opportunities to engage them in the community.
 
5. Know their concerns. Many in this group face both crippling debt from school loans and mediocre job prospects. Offer them benefits that provide financial protections and savings opportunities. Study after study show this cohort is more financially cautious than all other generations in the current workplace. 

Claudia St. John is president of Affinity HR Group LLC, PSDA’s affiliated human resources partner. Affinity HR Group specializes in providing human resources assistance to associations such as PSDA and their member companies.


 
Want to learn more about millennials? Download the current issue of PSDA's Beyond Print today!

Tags:  human resources  millennials 

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9 Ways to Earn a Seat at the Table

Posted By Dennis Pottebaum, Thursday, August 20, 2015
Ever have one of those days? Who am I kidding? If you are in the printing business, of course you have! It may have even been a week, a month or perhaps a year.

We are in an industry where 99 percent right is 100 percent wrong. You might have done a spectacular job of design, production, storage and distribution, and then discover that you missed a word and the entire job is wrong. You could service an account flawlessly for years, correcting their problems, improving design and process while lowering costs, and then lose the account over a few dollars when a new individual joins the clients' firm.
 

 
Yet this truly is a great industry. It is filled with challenges, opportunities and phenomenal people. This is especially true if you are in the independent channel. We have the ability to evolve, add products or services, and grow by listening to what our clients and prospects want. We can use this channel to bring them the solutions they need.

I once read "if you are not at the table, you are on the table." In other words, you must be at the table, being proactive with ideas to help your client improve, and if you are not, someone else is at that table and you will be their lunch. So, how do we earn a seat at the table? Don't you wish there was a single answer to that, or wish that you knew what all the answers were? Here are just a few things that have worked for professionals who I have met. 

1. Show up. 
Do I need to say more?

2. Ask lots of questions. 
Clients and prospects want to know that you are looking for a solution and care about them. You can impress them when you have a solution to make them successful; they don't care how successful you are the first time they meet you. 
 
3. Develop your value proposition and learn to articulate it in terms that a client understands and values. 
Your value proposition is not a "me too" or fluff piece. Everyone has "excellent customer service" or "really cares" or "offers high-quality products at a competitive price." Where will you bring value that the customer can measure?
 
4. Have integrity; do what you said you would do — and a little more. 
It sounds simple, and it really is, but you will be surprised how many of your competitors do not. 
 
5. Be proactive. 
Bring the ideas to the client before your competitor does.  
 
6. Continue to learn. 
Do you have 10 years of industry experience, or have you repeated one year of industry experience 10 times? PSDA has many opportunities to learn, such as the P2P Solutions Summit, Young Innovators Conference, CEO Summit, as well as tons of educational programming
 
7. Always have your client's best outcome in mind. 
Once you start thinking about what you will get out of the transaction versus what the client will get, you start losing the deal. The lifetime value of an account well-served is dramatically better than a single fat order. This certainly does not mean that you want to give the order away. You need a fair margin on the work and knowledge that you bring to the transaction. You owe it to your client, co-workers, suppliers and family to be profitable and have the ability to service your clients for the long haul. At one of the first seminars I attended, the speaker taught us a lesson that I have never forgotten: Volume is vanity and profit is sanity. 
 
8. When you have a problem, you need to own it. 
Don't blame the plant, your CSR or the company. The customer will forgive you if you are not perfect. However, if you keep blaming others, they will fire you, thinking that they cannot trust the channel. 
 
9. Say thanks! 
Appreciate your clients, co-workers and suppliers before someone else does. 

Tags:  client loyalty  customer service 

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Inside the Minds of End Users

Posted By Darin Painter, PSDA, Thursday, July 16, 2015

 

The chief marketing officer at a company in the higher-education market has more than 15 years of experience in data analytics, and he spends part of each business day thinking of ways to improve the firm's online and offline marketing effectiveness. He has several academic degrees, and one of them is a bachelor's in physical chemistry from an Ivy League school. This is a smart guy.

He's the target of numerous distributors and direct-selling manufacturers. His office phone rings frequently, and his inbox has a growing folder of emails from people who hope he accepts invitations to lunch meetings, golf outings, online technology demonstrations and more.

He's a coveted client for good reason: The organization's annual print and marketing services budget is well into the six figures, and its marketing programs are built upon the things many distributors do well — the list includes direct mail campaigns, promotional products, event materials, brochures, search engine optimization, email and website lead generation.

"I get a lot of people reaching out to me," he said. "I don't know how many times I've spent five minutes on the phone with people I don't want to talk to, because they haven't taken the time to understand our business."

Like many end users responsible for either strategy or sourcing, he feels bombarded as he receives daily cold calls, emails, new product announcements, podcast invitations and advertising messages. Meanwhile, the supply options for end users have never been greater, including distributors, direct-selling manufacturers, online printers, advertising agencies, print management specialists and "big box" retailers.

"Getting my attention is more like earning my attention," he said. "Show me something I'm truly interested in, like a white paper or a case study of a similar project you've handled before. I'm not enamored with marketing-speak or strange gifts. But if you can show me an example of success, you might get my attention, and I might look into who this company is and what they're doing. Then if I'm impressed, a follow-up phone call will be much more productive."

He adds that the higher-education organization prefers working with incumbent vendors whenever possible, because "trust is huge, and our current partners have built up that trust over time." He also said it's important for all vendors to be honest about what they don't do well. "I've been in relationships with former partners that have soured because the companies took on work they shouldn't have, instead of just saying no or recommending another firm that might have been able to help."

That's one end user's perspective. What about others' opinions and experiences? In an industry that's increasingly fragmented and frantic, how can distributors break through the clutter, get around barriers, start meaningful conversations, impress more "gatekeepers" and ultimately win more business? What do end users want?

We asked some of them, under the condition that we would publish their perspective, but not their personal names or company names. Here's what they told us:

COMPANY: Vineyard
LOCATION: California
LIKES: Desire for long-term relationship, new marketing ideas
DISLIKES: Failure to grasp branding needs

For years, a vineyard in California has produced port wines, some of which are aged in oak barrels for 10 years. Companies constantly call on the vineyard's president and winemaker, hoping to land deals that would include labels for the 10,000 cases of wine the company produces annually. And while he occasionally answers those calls, he purchases nearly all of the company's printed items from one provider. When buying printing: 

  • He's concerned more about long-term relationships than pennies.
  • Besides quality service, he appreciates the distributor's desire to talk with him about marketing ideas.
  • Fast turnaround is important, but image is his main concern. "Everybody in the business is trying to get his bottle to stand out and grab the consumer’s eye."
  • He said he appreciates providers who listen to his ideas, then take steps to make them better.

COMPANY: Non-profit medical center
LOCATION: Midwest
LIKES: Operational efficiency, centralized purchasing, low costs
DISLIKES: Complexity

A medical center in the Midwest purchases documents such as admittance packets, insurance forms, booklets, annual reports, promotional products, flow sheets and more. Its supply chain manager handles print purchasing for its headquarters, as well as for two long-term care units and various clinics. His goal: centralize print purchasing.

The company selected a third-party mail house and invited print providers to bid on its other work. A direct-selling manufacturer offered an arrangement that impressed the medical center: It would buy and keep the center's printing equipment, hire the center's print employees, and add a part-time representative with a design background and several years of experience in the medical industry.

The benefits:

  • The supply chain manager said having a rep of the direct-seller work onsite is critical.
  • The medical center previously had problems getting printed materials to proper locations on time, the supply chain manager said. The rep ensures that those items move from the print services department, through the direct-seller (and sometimes third-party vendors), and back to appropriate departments. 
  • The rep also helps the center comply with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO).
  • The center sends about 300 annual reports to doctors and laboratories. The direct-selling manufacturer redesigned them, producing offset shells that can be variably printed with additional information and mailed in two days. The medical center saved up to 60 percent on the job, said the supply chain manager.

COMPANY: Hotel chain
LOCATION: National
LIKES: Customized materials, on-time delivery
DISLIKES: Inventory problems, quality issues, passiveness

A hotel chain's director of strategic sourcing leads a six-member team that purchases and manages about $200 million in printed products, service contracts and property operation supplies. The team's major purchases are business cards, note pads and sales collateral.

To encourage competition on quality and cost, the team develops product specifications and operates a bidding system. "Then we advise hotels which supplier has been awarded the program, and in many cases, have them work directly with the supplier on orders and payment," he said.

He estimates that 25 percent of the company's print business goes to distributors, including the majority of its small runs. His team currently works with about 30 print providers.

He said the ideal distributor offers:

  • High-volume capability
  • A proven track record of upholding promises
  • On-time delivery
  • A proactive, problem-solving mindset

Tags:  distributor  end user 

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Winners Never Quit (Except Sometimes They Should)

Posted By Darin Painter, PSDA, Saturday, July 11, 2015
Updated: Thursday, July 9, 2015
 
 
I’d like to encourage you to please stop whatever you're doing!

No, I don’t mean to quit what you're doing right now. I mean to stop that thing you keep doing at your company — the one that doesn’t seem to be working and maybe was never a good idea. I want to encourage you to simply … quit. 

On its face, quitting seems like the easy, weak way out. For certain, it's not the decision a good sports coach would root for, or the mindset a territory sales manager would support. In fact, the polar opposite of quitting has become so ingrained, we don’t even think about it anymore: "A quitter never wins," we've heard time and again, "and a winner never quits."

Are we sure?

The quitter-never-wins mantra was published in 1937 by a self-help guru named Napoleon Hill in his popular book, "Think and Grow Rich." He was inspired by the rags-to-riches life of Andrew Carnegie, and Hill was spot-on, of course, with the premise that it takes a tremendous amount of effort to succeed in business and life.

But how often does your company take that same nose-to-the-grindstone approach to a specific problem — that marketing approach that never seems to work, or that compensation plan that doesn’t incentivize salespeople to offer programs instead of products, or that new software development that keeps hitting snags?

Hal Arkes says sometimes quitting is downright strategic — the best possible plan. A psychologist at Ohio State University, he often talks and writes about how badly humans weigh what's called "sunk costs" — the time, money or "sweat equity" put into a job or project. These sunk costs make quitting hard, he says. People tell themselves they can’t just quit because of all the resources already spent, when actually they ignore "opportunity costs" — the concept that for every hour or dollar you spend one on thing, you’re giving up the opportunity to spend that hour or dollar on something else that would yield a better result.

"We shouldn't fall for this fallacy, but we do it all the time," Arkes says. "Your dog isn't going to have any rules like, 'Oh, I spent a lot of time at that location waiting for him to feed me, and I wouldn't want to waste all that time, so I'll go back there and wait even though it wasn't very successful.' There's a chance that what we’re working on actually can’t be rescued or resuscitated."

Another psychological force at work is called cognitive dissonance. It says that if you've acted in a certain way, over time, you're going to overly justify your behavior. A CEO, then, might suffer for a concept he loves. We might love the concept so much, in fact, that if he keeps suffering for it, he decides he must love it even more.

But in our zeal to "tough things out," we tend to ignore signs that quitting is the right thing to do.

It also might be the healthy thing to do. Carsten Wrosch, a psychologist at Concordia University in Montreal, says people who are better able to let go when they experience unattainable goals have less depressive symptoms, lower Cortisol levels and less inflammation. In general, he says, they develop fewer physical health problems over time.
 
So, literally, you might feel better if you realize that while persistence is a virtue, so is giving up. The key, economists suggest, is to quit quickly, before sunk costs have a chance to weigh you down.

At your company, if you realize you've made a wrong choice — a new hire isn't working out, a sales presentation slide doesn't solicit questions, etc. — there’s one great, healthy move you can make.
 
Quit.

Tags:  leadership 

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Fear Not

Posted By PSDA, Friday, July 10, 2015
Updated: Friday, July 10, 2015

 

What's stopping you from taking a risk? Tackling a new challenge head on? PSDA Executive Vice President Barbara O'Connor talks facing your fear in the June/July issue of PS Magazine.

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Protecting Your Customer's Brand

Posted By Darin Painter, PSDA, Thursday, July 9, 2015
Updated: Friday, July 10, 2015
 
Marketing team members put their heads together to create logos, corporate color guidelines and other elements to boost and reinforce their organization’s identity. Too often, they’re left scratching their heads when their marketing materials appear differently on various media. Without the guidance of a brand-aware print and marketing services partner, different papers, substrates and printing processes can make it difficult to achieve consistent color. Layering those substrates — for example, packaging a product using paper labels encased in shrink-wrapped film — intensifies the problem. The cost implications of inconsistent branding can be high.

Protecting and maintaining brand identity is critical to organizations of all sizes, not just huge corporations that showcase golden arches or athletic swooshes. In a recent survey conducted by the Pantone Color Institute, more than 70 percent of creative pros noted that brand color definitions, accuracy and consistency in creating products or packaging are important to their business, while 42 percent indicated that color-related challenges have a negative impact on their company.

So how can a distributor ensure that a client’s employees working in different departments and locations receive the same high-quality, properly branded materials?

Getting It Right: A Checklist for Talent
 
Here's what you need:
  • Trained in-house prepress and color management personnel. Brand partners can eliminate "offline” branding and color issues because their production employees understand (and test) how corporate colors and other visual elements will appear on different materials. Achieving consistency of final output comes from strong knowledge of prepress best practices and the dynamics of various print processes.
  • Ability to set and apply color profiles across multiple substrates and production equipment. A distributor should have the ability to coordinate color standards across multiple substrates, production equipment and even multiple plants. This is accomplished by setting what are called "ICC profiles” (ICC stands for International Color Consortium) within output files. ICC profiles, developed to provide a cross-platform method of color control, are used as inputs to software that transforms color information between input and output devices.
  • Digital proofs that reliably predict print results. Provide a calibrated digital proof to help clients visualize how the piece will appear based on its specifications, press conditions and inks. These proofs can help you and your client discuss optimal equipment choices, procedures and specifications for calibration, and other helpful topics that can protect and enhance the client’s brand.
Getting It Right: A Checklist for Technology

Consistent branding requires the right processes, not just skilled people. As a distributor, your toolbox should include a range of helpful technologies.
  • On-demand digital marketing management system. Empower clients with access to technology that streamlines the management, customization and delivery of print, promotional and other materials, making it easy for them to give individual team members self-service access to approved marketing items they need, when they need them, where they need them.
  • Updated color management software. Brand color data, equivalent to a digital color swatch, can now be stored in a secure, cloud-based portal that lets brand owners and other approved members of the supply chain manage digital rights and facilitate color communication across all materials in the production process.
  • Collaboration and workflow management system. You could offer an online workflow management tool that provides secure, 24/7 access to shared online resources, including images, fonts, native files, movie files, presentations and more. No matter where they’re located, members of the client’s team should be able to collaborate on, manage and expedite marketing projects through an integrated PDF workflow. This technology can give you a track record of accountability on projects while reducing the chance for production errors that negatively affect your brand.

Tags:  branding  distributor  end user 

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