Written by Howie Fenton
Senior Technology Consultant, NAPL

4 Steps for a Better 2014

One of the most common questions I get asked around this time of year is, “How does the coming year look?” As the New Year begins and I look into my crystal ball, I see the possibility of good news or bad news, depending on how active a role you play in building your business. The bad news is that if you expect things to change all by themselves, you will be disappointed. However, if you consciously decide to take an active role in change, this next year will be better than the last.

As described in a blog written about the most recent NAPL State of the Industry Report, “The economy will not improve enough to solve anyone’s problems. Consolidation won’t solve our problems, either. In fact, despite fewer printers—NAPL estimates the number of commercial printing establishments in 2012 at 25,242, almost 5,500 fewer than 2007—competition has intensified.”

In another blog post, we see that productivity is not increasing much within the printing industry. This information comes from the Bureau of Labor Statistics productivity data from the third quarter of 2013. At first blush, the 1.9% increase looks good until you compare it to the third quarter of 2012, when there was an increase of 4.1%.

The good news? You don’t have to depend on what’s happening in the economy or do the same old things to improve the performance of your company. Sometimes little things can mean a lot. For example, we recently spoke of how simply rearranging where your equipment sits in your plant can increase productivity (Tip #1). We also spent time talking about how simple measuring can increase performance (Tip #2).

While increasing productivity remains important, so are marketing and sales, and there are new strategies to increase the efficacy of your marketing efforts that will not break the bank. We first talked about this back in April, when discussing how search engine optimization can generate sales leads (Tip #3). We returned to the subject later in the year when the algorithm used by Google changed, making search more of a conversational tool.

And, perhaps more importantly, is identifying what the leading companies do that the rest of the industry does not. The fact is that the leading companies are better at overcoming issues in both sales and production than the rest of the industry. Often we think that the leaders buy better tools. But that’s not true because both the leaders and the laggards can buy the same software and hardware tools. More often than not, the leaders identify when there are sales and operational issues and can focus on strategies to overcome them (Tip#4).

So, returning to the original question, what’s the outlook for next year? In my opinion, it depends on how much of an active role you play. If you are hoping that an improving economy or doing more of the same is going to change anything, you will be disappointed.

However if you’re willing to try to do things differently, perhaps dealing with some of the nagging problems that have existed for years while trying different operational or sales improvements, you are more likely to achieve greater success.

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Howie Fenton is a consultant and business advisor at NAPL. Howie advises commercial printers and in-plants on benchmarking performance against industry leaders, increasing productivity, and adding digital and value services through customer research. For more information click here.