June 2008
What is this industry missing?
For all its advantages and technological wizardry, printing lacks one key ingredient
This industry actually has many good things going for it. It constitutes a very large market worth about $11 billion. No single company or group of companies controls the market, so independent print shops aren’t frozen out by a monopoly. Almost all businesses need some form of printing. And an ongoing stream of technological developments keeps creating new markets. For example, variable printing has opened up 1:1 marketing or personalized printing. Inkjet has created and continues to expand the wide-format or poster and banner market. Metal FX and hexachrome screening are creating specialized niche applications that other forms of communications can’t match. The list keeps expanding and the print market keeps diversifying. The industry is never dull and keeps evolving in different and surprising ways.
Yet, with all this diversity and change there’s one thing we seem to be in short supply of: passion about the industry and printing as a medium. All the technology in the world can’t make up for a shortfall of passion about what you are doing. Have you ever gone into what looks like a retail store only to be greeted by a salesperson who seems to hate what he’s doing? You usually lose interest in what they’re selling fairly fast. Or the call center that really doesn’t know the product you’re calling about and could care less, anyway? How enthusiastic are you about giving them your business?

Unfortunately, there are too many people in our industry who just can’t muster excitement for what’s good about printing. There are, however, plenty who get excited about how bad things are, which doesn’t inspire much confidence about the value of print among many customers.
To be sure, there are a few individuals whose passion and enthusiasm really stand out. Warren Werbitt of Pazazz Printing in Montreal recently posted a video on You Tube and issued a press release about the value of print, leaving the enthusiastic message that this guy really believes in printing. Dick Kouvenhoven of Hemlock Printers in Burnaby, B.C., and George Kallas of Metropolitan Printers in Vancouver also both create the impression that printing is almost an art form. Both have won more awards than you can count. Jeff Tapping of M Real talks about the feel or tactility of paper as if the printed page is the ultimate thing. Norm Beange of Specialty Graphic Finishers seems to love doing the impossible when it comes to binding, and talks about having fun working with customers’ printing projects.

All these individuals communicate a passion for print that permeates everything about how they run their businesses. When you think of them, you don’t think about the equipment on the shop floor, but you remember their enthusiasm and commitment.

There are others that could be added to this list but for an industry of more than 9,000 shops in Canada it would still be much too short. Nothing sells a product or service like people who have a passion for it or really believe it’s a good idea. Remember the ads that Victor Kiam of Remington used to run: “I liked it so much, I bought the company.” It sold a lot of Remington shavers. George Foreman and his grills, Joel Matlin of Alarm Force, and Lee Iacocca of Chrysler (I’m dating myself here) all have presented their companies and products with some passion. It made a difference.

Maybe, just maybe, if a lot more owners in this industry showed a little more passion about printing it just might make some difference with customers. Passion does sell. Lack of passion does not.
Alexander Donald is the publisher of Graphic Monthly Canada.
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