Big results from thinking small
Delivery drivers, sleep, websites and other little gems guaranteed to set your shop apart
You know I like little ideas, those small, but crucial steps that are helpful, easy to implement and don’t cost a lot of money. They’re not as exciting as a big eureka idea, but they work. So here it is, the third annual list of my favourite small, but effective ideas.
1 Pay attention to the delivery driver I’ve noticed two extremes in the printing industry when it comes to delivery drivers. Either the company owner delivers the goods, or the printing firm hires a low-paid, low-skilled person to do it and hopes the driver doesn’t wreck the vehicle. I think delivery drivers are one of the most important hires in your company because they come in direct daily contact with so many of your customers. Pay a good wage and hire a sharp, smart driver with good communication skills and a smiling face. If you, as owner, are the only person with these characteristics, then it’s ok for you to do it IF you have a strong in-house operations manager to run things while you’re gone.
2 Get enough sleep Thomas Edison averaged only four hours of sleep a day for more than 50 years, but I wouldn’t recommend it. Many print-shop owners are so over-committed they often try to make up for lost time by sleeping less. When you short-change yourself on sleep for an extended period of time, it tends to make your brain a little fuzzy. This business is competitive and difficult enough without trying to make important decisions with a sleep-deprived brain. Get some shut-eye and think of it as an investment in your business.
3 Stay engaged in the industry It’s so easy to focus on the tasks at hand and lose touch with the bigger changes occurring in the world. One of the best ways to stay current is to attend at least one big trade show a year. You’ll get a little vacation and come away invigorated because you discover new ideas.
4 Don’t invest money unless you’re debt-free I’m not an investment expert, but I often see printers putting money into an investment because of the “good rate of return.” Well, have you looked at how much you’re paying on your loans? I believe you’ll be ahead if you eliminate your debt as quickly as possible, and then invest your money. If you want a great book for a simple strategy on how to become debt free, read The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey (www.daveramsey.com).
5 Start a monthly direct mail program Direct mail is, hands down, the best way to market your firm. Too busy to do it? Yeah, right. I’ve heard that excuse from a couple hundred printers—many no longer in business. Make a commitment to print and distribute a direct-mail piece by the end of next month and include your current customers on your mailing list. Start small, maybe 500 businesses a month. Then add 50 more each month until you have 3,000, 4,000, 5,000. By that time, you will be thankful you had the wisdom to do it.
6 Can I send someone out to pick up the order? Give quotes over the phone. Bids by fax or email are a low-stakes proposition. My suggestion? Always overview and explain each estimate briefly and ask, “Do you have any questions about this estimate?” After you get the answer, pause for a moment and then ask this powerful question: “Can I send someone over to pick up your order?” Wow, it works. I’ll predict you’ll win 25% more estimates. It does take some courage to do it, but once you see results, you’ll be encouraged to continue.
7 Take a fresh look at your website Compare your website to your top ten customers’ websites. Does yours look as professional as theirs? Is it current? Does it provide for online commerce, like the ability to proof, order, get a real-time estimate or look at documents that have been ordered? Most printing firms lag far behind the rest of the world when it comes to websites. I can’t think of a more effective way to drive customers away from your company than to have an outdated or functionally useless website.
8 Tend to your health If you’re a guy, and you’re over 40, get an annual prostate exam. Prostate cancer is a silent killer. The statistics are staggering. Almost one in three men will face prostate issues as they get older. A simple blood test, called a PSA test, can easily determine your prostate health. It’s embarrassing to talk about it, but don’t wait.
9 You’re a printer when Just remember, you’re not a real printer until these three things happen: One, you discover you’ve got one spot of ink on every shirt you own; two, you’ve worked all night to hit a deadline, only to have the customer pick it up a week late; three, you’ve bragged about stealing a big customer away from your competitor and then the first check bounces!
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.expresspressusa.com.