Quick Printing
April 2004
7 simple rules for a happy shop
Real solutions to help you enjoy life in your shop a little more each day
If you’ve paused to read this article, I am telling you in advance that it will take you about seven minutes to discover how to have a happy print shop. These are some of the best ideas from my 20-year career as a print-shop owner—my simple list for enjoying your life at work a little more every day.

Solve problems quickly Many managers avoid difficult problems because solutions can be painful. I’m surprised to hear printers talk about some of the problems they’re facing. They ignore something until it turns into a dark cloud over their heads.

My solution Make your decision quickly—the longer you carry a weight, the heavier it gets. Free yourself from the burden and work will be more fun.

Don’t become a perfectionist I am commited to excellence—but I work hard at not becoming a perfectionist. Why? Because trying to get it perfect will slow you down, frustrate your co-workers, and cause you to miss good opportunities.

My solution Don’t over-analyze, and never let the possibility of future problems stand in the way of present improvements. Go ahead with a new idea, even if it’s only 90% right. You’ll be money ahead if you do and you’ll create positive energy in your shop.

Invest in training for your co-workers Training takes time and costs money, but you’ll have happier, more motivated and productive employees. I once asked a printer why he never sent his employees to seminars and he told me, “I hate to spend money to train them because they might leave for another job some day.”

My solution The only thing worse than training them and having them leave…is not training them and having them stay.

Make life easy for your customers Your customers’ biggest gripe is not that your printing products are bad, but that they are too tough to order, receive and pay for. Redesign your workflow to save them time, money, and frustration. Run your print shop for their convenience, not yours.
My solution Become a process fanatic. Good process will blow away high costs, confusion and delays. Process is the discipline that makes outstanding effort a matter of design rather than luck. You’ll be smiling all the way to the bank.

Forget yesterday’s problems I admit that I sometimes struggle in this area. When things go wrong, some of us tend to replay and relive it: “What could I have done differently,” or “What they did wasn’t right,” or “It’s not fair.” These kinds of thoughts are meaningless because it’s too late—the event is over and done with.

My solution Don’t allow yesterday’s problems to suck the energy out of you today. I had a little sign made for my desk that says, “Yesterday ended…last night.” It’s done, over with, time to get on with your life. Forgetting yesterday’s problems is one of the best ways to be happy and enjoy life.

Encourage those around you Most people are starved for encouragement. One of the best things you can do to make your print shop a happy place is to give words of encouragement to the people you work with. If you continually lift their spirits, you’ll soon observe them doing the same to your customers.

My solution Look for opportunities to encourage those you work with. Simple statements such as, “I like what you’re doing,” or, “Thank you for staying late, I really appreciate your effort,” can really mean a lot. You will feel more energized too, and your print shop will be more successful because people like to do business with happy, positive places.

Do a regular monthly mailer OK, you knew I had to get in something about marketing, didn’t you? A monthly direct-mail program is very good for team morale: it shows your employees that you are disciplined; it shows them you’re concerned about the future of your print shop (and theirs); and it motivates everybody when it creates new customers, increases bid opportunities, and causes the phone to ring more.

My solution Make an absolute commitment to a monthly direct mailer. Remind your co-workers that your own direct mail advertising is the single most important job you print every month.

There you have it, seven ways to help make your print shop a better place. You might say this list is a recipe with seven ingredients for a happy print shop. No fancy philosophies here—just real solutions that have helped us smile a little more at my print shop.
Mike Stevens is one of North America’s most successful small printers. He owns Express Press in Fargo, North Dakota. Starting with sales of $10,900 a month in 1985, volume now exceeds $250,000 per month. You can reach him at mikestevens@expresspressusa.com or visit www.expresspressusa.com.
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