Who’s Interested in Being a Print Broker?

I’ve been reviewing the searches that have brought people to my blog. It seems that there is quite a bit of interest in being a print broker.  I have to tell you that anyone who thinks being a broker is the key to easy money needs to have their heads examined.  Psychological evaluation, in my opinion, is definitely warranted.

It‘s a narrow canyon

You see, a printing broker operates on very tight margins, in an often hostile environment. It’s a little like walking a narrow canyon with mountain lions all around. Customers think we add cost to their printing. Printers think we are unreliable and untrustworthy. The printer’s sales reps think we are going to steal their customers. Advertising agencies hold on tight. They portray themselves as being the experts, even though print buying is usually an entry level job. Experts? Well you decide if a rookie can compare to a seasoned veteran. And even though I have not found it to be a major problem, there is competition from other print brokers.

why do it

“If it is so difficult, why do you do it?” You might ask. It is a good question and one I have to often ask myself . Why do it? I like being self-employed. In these uncertain times with layoffs happening everywhere there is a certain satisfaction in knowing that I won’t be laid off. My customers may trim, and they have, their marketing budgets. I may lose a customer to someone who promises to cut their costs, and I have. But, when the dust settles I still have a job and there is a core group of customers that appreciate my work and will keep hiring me to handle their printing and mailing needs.

Second, I like the work. I really enjoy being able to solve my customer’s printing challenges without the limitation of one company’s equipment base.

what’s with the animosity

“Why is there so much animosity in the business against brokers?” I’ll be one of the first to admit that some of my fellow brokers have not helped our cause. It is too easy to become a print broker. All you have to do is declare yourself a print broker. There are no requirements, no tests, no government oversight–except to pay your business license.  One day you are something else like a office worker,  a shoe salesman, or a disk jockey, and the next you are a print broker.

just a telephone and a pen

There are no special requirements to be a printer either, but at least to go into the printing business you have to pony up to buy equipment. The only equipment a broker needs is a telephone and a pen.

printers fail to think it through

“Why are printers a challenge?” You know that is the funny thing about all of this. Many printers don’t trust us and some refuse to work with brokers, or if they do they make stipulations they wouldn’t make of others. They want full payment in advance. Why? A broker brings business into the print shop without asking for compensation.  Compare that with a sales rep that receives commission, expense reimbursement, matching social security, health insurance benefits, 401K’s, and overhead. On one hand the printer gets business at no cost, on the other they may be paying 10% or more commission, add matching social security at another 10%, expenses, health insurance, etc. Zero for the broker, 30%  or more for their in-house salesmen. In my business I do ask the printer to discount my invoices by the amount of commission they would pay, so if my customers buy from me or directly from the printer the cost is the same. But, remember their sales people are earning 30% or more and I’m getting a 10-15% discount. I’ve been in the business of printing for nearly 40 years and have learned how to avoid many of the errors that their sales team makes. Believe me a new sales rep makes a lot of mistakes that cost the printers plenty. In my mind printers who disrespect brokers really haven’t thought it though.

we need to save ourselves

There is a lot more I’d like to cover on this subject, and I hope it doesn’t come across as sour grapes, I honestly think that a good print broker can help their customers immesurably, and that it is the duty of all print brokers to weed out the incompetent, the unscrupulous, and the unworthy who tarnish our good names. Just how to do it is another problem altogether.

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