Print Manager
February 2009
Survival strategy: excellence models
Given the amazing meltdown of the economy over the last few months, several clients have asked what they can do to develop a long-term plan to make sure their business survives. If only we worked with magic wands, that would be an easy task. Unfortunately, it takes a lot of hard work to survive.
I sure don’t have any magic cure for the current economic crisis, but over the longer term I usually recommend one of the various business models out there. Excellent models such as the Baldrige Criteria for Per­formance Excellence in the United States, the Canadian Quality Criteria from the National Quality Institute here in Canada (see websites), and the ISO 9001 and 9004 quality management standards are great frameworks for developing a model for your company. I’ll write more about these programs later in the year.
But it’s tough for a smaller printing company to go from not having much of a business model to a full-blown Baldrige approach, which can be overwhelming. So, I’ve been introducing clients to the National Association of Printers and Lithographers (NAPL) Management Plus program. It’s a really nice entry vehicle for setting up a business model and can be expanded to accommodate more detailed models once you get your feet wet.
Management Plus can help you determine your business strengths and weaknesses. NAPL advertises the program as a diagnostic tool that printing managers can use to judge their own management performance against accepted industry standards. It’s actually a two-part program. We’ll look at the first step here, which requires you to complete a self-evaluation form and use the information to take an in-depth look at each area of your operation. You’re asked to look at your company in nine specific areas:
Human resources Here the focus is on people being a primary ingredient for success. Consequently, well-managed firms develop programs and organizational activities that nourish employee needs for challenging work and job satisfaction. You’ll be asked to list yours.
Strategic business planning In this section you’ll be expected to have short-range plans that guide your daily, weekly, and/or monthly operations. You’ll also have to examine your long-range plans that focus on goals one to three years out and call for consideration of more external influences.
Environmental and safety Outline your policies. NAPL feels that strong safety and environmental programs can make good business sense by decreasing costs and increasing community/employee relations.
Community and industry relations  Describe your company’s involvement in the community and list the local and/or national organizations to which your company belongs.
Marketing and sales Declare if you have a written marketing and sales plan and outline what it contains. Among other things, NAPL looks for information on how you measure customer satisfaction.
Internal control systems  These are helpful in monitoring and maintaining control of your business activities, so here’s where you’ll list the activities that make up your internal control system.
Quality assurance Detail your quality program. Printers often say they have a quality program, but actually detailing it is usually a bit of a challenge.
Managing vendor relations This is an often-overlooked opportunity to control expenses and meet your quality standards so here’s where you’ll be asked to detail your supplier review process.
Financial performance This is the largest part of the assessment. (31% of your total score.) You’ll be asked for your financial statements—detailed balance sheet and statement of income—for the latest full fiscal or calendar year. This information will be used for computing eight selected financial ratios that  assist the evaluation process, but more on that in the next column.
If you like the results of your self-audit, you can enter the Management Plus Awards Competition to see how you stack up against the best in the industry.
I searched through the database of winners and the only Canadian firm I could find in the last 10 years is Friesen’s Corporation in Altona, Manitoba. Friesen’s is a Hall of Fame recipient and as former CEO David Friesen points out, “Not only does winning a Management Plus Award give us a higher profile among our customers, it provides a solid confirmation of our company’s progress.” 
In the next couple of issues I’ll review the specific items that are being benchmarked in each of the sections, map them to the Baldrige, NQI, and ISO criteria, and show you how you can tie in your Balanced Scorecard results as well. You’ll find that these excellence models aren’t only for large companies, and that firms with five to 25 employees can develop a very effective model that works for them too.
Lorne Patterson saw managing director of Bowne's financiak printing operations across Canada. Since 2006, he has been a consulant to the printing industry. He lives in Vancouver, but heads to his second home in Puerto Vallarta whenever he can. Reach him at
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