Archive for February, 2010

Chinese Printers Play Dirty in Stealing US Customers

Friday, February 19th, 2010
Is it too late to turn it around?

It happened again in my area. Two more printers, and I’m not talking micro-shops, but printers with 40″ multi-color presses, full binderies, etc. closed their doors. These were plants that just a couple of years ago were thriving, hiring people, buying equipment, and taking care of business.

What happened?

We all know what happened.

  1. The US economy tanked. The US government, Banking, Financial interests, and Real Estate speculators combined to nearly drive us into full-blown depression.  The harm dealt to the printing business was both instantaneous and long-term. The instant effect was that companies, all kinds of companies, got scared. They pulled back their printing orders because that was the perceived easiest way to cut expense.
  2. The banks got scared. They decided to circle their wagons and cut off loans to the printers. The printers, that are generally small businesses, have shallow pockets. In an economy of falling sales they needed the banks more than ever. Help didn’t come.
  3. Direct mail campaigns were scrapped or delayed by marketers who turned to the Internet for cheaper CPM. Was this a wise move? We’ll see. Early wisdom points to DM as still a very viable tool. In comparison to the Internet, DM yields higher response numbers. Will enough customers return to save printing?
Is Printing a Bellwether Industry?

The United States IS heading toward becoming a third world economy.  If anyone wants to know what living in America will be like in fifty years, all they have to do is look at how the Chinese live now. This is the legacy we are leaving to our grandchildren. Think about it, manufacturing jobs have been fleeing our shores faster than a cat with its tail on fire. Our country has huge balance of trade deficits, and enormous national debts. It doesn’t take a genius to see that if you aren’t making any products, there aren’t any products to sell. Apparently the only products we can produce and sell are hamburgers and fries, and they don’t export very well. How long will it be before our citizens will have to go to other countries to seek employment?

This Brings Us to the China Question

What happens when we chose to buy from China, India, Mexico, or Pakistan?

  1. We put American citizens out of work. I had a very kind, considerate person whom I have known for a quarter century, or more, say to me that Americans can find other jobs. Even if they have to work for minimum wage there are other opportunities. Maybe they are just lazy. Maybe they could. Just maybe they could go to work for minimum wage when they used to earn much more. What will they be able to spend their minimum wage salary on? A home — nope. A new car — nope. How about college education — no way. Minimum wage isn’t even enough to survive on, and barely surviving is what they do in third world economies. Every well-paying job that is eliminated hurts the entire economy and drags us step-by-step into inevitable decline. If you think Katrina was a disaster, just wait and see what a US economy will be like without a middle class.
  2. What about Chinese families don’t they need to be employed too? Sure they do, and we all feel for them, but if we take the food out of the mouths of our children to feed theirs, our children will starve. Can you visualize it, a neighbor, or a relative’s children dying because the work they could have had went out of the country? We have a global responsibility it is true, but our first responsibility is to our family, then our neighbors, then our communities, then our states, then our nation and finally the world. We’ve been doing it backwards!
  3. Isn’t it too late? Don’t we already drive foreign cars, wear foreign clothes, and shoes? Even Hershey chocolate is now made in Mexico. If we are already buying these things out of the country why not buy printing out of the country too? Anyone who accepts this line of thought needs to go back and read point No.1. This is the moral equivalent of saying that since murder is committed regularly in our cities it is all right to commit murder. No it isn’t. Just because a terrible thing has been happening doesn’t make it right! Moral people do whatever they can to stomp out wrongs, they don’t justify them and they don’t, for heavens sake, participate in them.
  4. Business people who buy from China forget what they saw when China hosted the Olympics. The world was only allowed to see what the Chinese government wanted reveal. They even censured the Internet. What is China hiding? They wanted us to believe that everyone was happy. That the country was clean, prosperous, and healthy. Is it? The loss of our jobs and the expenditure of our dollars don’t go to the people who really need it. It goes to the upper class, just like it does in the US. We discovered that when we bailed out the big banks and they rewarded themselves with BIG bonuses! The difference is we are allowed in this country to see the disparity between rich and poor, but the poor in China are hidden by the government.
  5. Don’t forget that Chinese businesses are guilty of serious crimes and injustices in their rush to grab all they can at the expense of their disadvantaged employees and helpless competitors.
  • They pay very poor wages bordering on slave labor — pennies per hour
  • They employ children. Impoverished children must work to help support their destitute families.
  • They use toxic materials like lead based paints and inks. Remember the problem with Mattel and the recall of millions of lead painted toys?
  • They substitute cheaper materials for the specified ones like in the wallboard fiasco.
  • They have very foul working conditions.
  • They have few, if any, environmental concerns or laws.

Is it moral to send work out of this country to benefit another, especially when you know that their workers are subjected to the rankest of conditions and living on poverty wages? They gave me a good price, and everyone else is doing it, aren’t very good excuses. Those American business people who are buying from the Chinese and are destroying the economic future of this country for a good price should hang their heads in shame. The karma they are creating will return, if not on them, then on their children or grandchildren. What moral person could live with that over their heads? I know couldn’t.

So is buying Chinese printing killing US printers? Yes it is, and it is killing our very way of life. Short term expediency will never justify the long term harm. Think about it. Think about it very hard and then choose to buy American. Our very way of life depends on it.


 

Savvy Printers Play Nice with Print Brokers, part 1

Monday, February 15th, 2010

In the last two blogs Top 5 Reasons Print Brokers P.O. Printers, and Printers, does Print Broker “Prejudice” Harm You? I’ve given reasons why Printers should consider or re-consider adding print brokers to their sales mix. The biggest reason, of course, is that print brokers have customers that are already printing somewhere and by attracting one print broker you could increase your sales by maybe millions. As for me, and I’m not the heaviest hitter out there, I swing around a million dollar a year bat — sometimes more, sometimes less, but always in the ballpark. A printer who convinces me that my business belongs with them has increased business by not just one, but by a couple of dozen new customers, worth maybe hundreds of thousands of dollars in new business.

And  you can do this without creating enemies in your local fraternity of printers. What happens when you send your sales reps out to grab business wherever they can? I’ll tell you; sooner or later you’ll take a prized customer away from a kindly competitor who doesn’t deserve this type of treatment. Maybe they helped you out in the past, or gave you good advice, or belong to the same clubs as you. When you create bad feelings among your peers it takes awhile to patch them up.

It's nothing personal -- just business.

Oh sure, you can say, “It’s nothing personal. It’s just business.” But isn’t that the same lame excuse the Mafia makes in the movies when they kill someone? Damaging a livelihood is personal. You can’t duck it no matter how you try. It’s nothing personal — BANG! — I shot you in the back, but it’s not personal. No, of course it isn’t, wink, wink.

If you decide that attracting brokers could be a good thing, here are some bits of advice:

  • Make sure all of your agreements are in writing. Don’t assume that because you have done things in a certain way in the past that the broker will know or understand what your expectations are.
  • A print broker is not your unpaid employee. They are independent business people who’s primary concern is their customer. If the broker is smart they will help their customer understand the printer’s point of view in the event of a disagreement, but when the chips are down the print broker stands with the customer, they have to, it’s their job.
  • A broker is also not your customer. They function more like an Independent Insurance Agent. The real deal, when all is said and done, is between the printer and the customer. You can squawk about that, but in every sense of what is morally and ethically right it is the person who possesses the product who is ultimately responsible for paying the bill. A broker is no more responsible for a customer debt than your commissioned sales reps are.
  • Get agreements with the print broker and their customer giving you the right to collect the debt in the event of default. You may want to insist that the customer provide a credit application and other information for your files. You should conduct a credit investigation on every customer just like you do with your own. Make sure the broker’s customer is credit worthy before offering credit — duh. Then set your terms.
  • If giving any credit sticks in your craw make every broker job COD. That is the easiest way to handle the issue, but it also means you will attract less broker business. Their customers have the same needs as your regular group. If they need terms and you aren’t willing to give them what can they do?
  • Print Brokers, the good ones that is, probably have a wealth of experience behind them. They aren’t naive. They usually have years of printing experience under their belts before becoming a broker. They are just as committed as you,  to getting the customer what they need, when they need it, and at a competitive price. When you disrespect the value added a broker brings and treat them in a condescending matter you ruin what could have been a good partnership. Get them on your side and they generally will move heaven and earth to help you when things go wrong.  At the very least they bring expertise that it will take your wet-behind-the-ears newbie years to learn. Weigh it out — newbie, pro. Who would you rather work with?
  • Don’t begrudge print broker’s earnings. Yes, some brokers earn a lot of money. Most of us do okay, but none of us are in the Fortune 500. It can be a good business, just like printing is a good business. More printers retire well-to-do than brokers ever do. Not every printer does well, and not every broker succeeds. No one becomes a printing broker to get rich.
  • Don’t moan that brokers beat down the price so you don’t make any money. NONSENSE. A broker can’t make you accept a job that is a money looser. What did they do, hold a gun to your head? Ultimately if you let anyone dictate your sell prices you are a damn fool, and in my experience anyone with enough business acumen to run a printing company is no fool.


 

Printers, does Print Broker “Prejudice” Harm You?

Sunday, February 7th, 2010

I’ve been waiting a little longer than usual to make this post. My last post the top 5 reasons print brokers p.o. printers is still drawing a good response and I didn’t want to lose any readers before proceeding, either that, or I just didn’t get around to it yet. Both excuses are probably true to some extent.

My promise at the end of the last post was that I would toss out some ideas to reduce friction between Printing Brokers and Printers so that both could benefit. That particular promise will have to wait until the next post as I continue to explore the understanding gap that exists in commercial printing sales.

The following thoughts are mine alone. I would really hope that readers would go to the bottom of the post, past the hat logo, tags, categories, and click on comments. This is where you can leave your opinions. I do have to approve which opinions are accepted, but I promise I only delete those who appear to be spam, or who may incite a law suit. Other than that, you can disagree with me all the live-long day and I’ll let it go through.

I’ve learned that my vantage point is rarely the same as another’s. Just because someone doesn’t see things my way,  doesn’t necessarily make them wrong. I like to say, “I could be wrong about that, I’ve been wrong before, and I’ll probably be wrong again.” The world might be a better place if we all let go of the idea that we have to be right, or I could be wrong about that too. See how it works?

I’m going to be addressing printers primarily, because in my experience it is the printers, who more than print brokers, cut off their noses to spite their faces. Again, please feel free to disagree.

In a conversation with a print rep the other day, we agreed that the negativity thrown at print brokers is  often undeserved. Instead printers should look toward their hired sales representatives. A print broker is more vulnerable, and has to walk a tighter line, in other words a broker has much more too risk. Involving themselves in transactions that are shaky can ruin more  than just a certain project.  The name of my company, for example, is Bill Ruesch Print Broker, LLC. If I screw up, I tarnish my name, my company name, and risk  my entire career. A printer’s sales rep on the other hand can botch something big-time and maybe get fired, but they can, and most always do, migrate to another printer where they can start over.

I read a survey a long time ago that concluded that the mindsets of a successful entrepreneur, a salesman, and a criminal were very similar. To be good at any of those three paths there had to be a willingness to accept a great deal of risk. It seems that the riskier the better. Printing company owners, sales representatives, and print brokers all have risk in common, but it is the effect on careers that makes the critical difference.

For commissioned sales people have immediate needs. You can’t feed the family or pay the mortgage if you don’t earn a paycheck. Therefore, they are often tempted to ram a square peg into the round hole. I don’t care how big the printer is, no company can efficiently serve the needs of every customer. The printer needs work, the sales rep needs a commission, and the customer, unfortunately, sometimes comes up short. And don’t say it never happens at your company because it does. See my previous post about withholding information from a customer to the benefit of the printer.

This may sound like I’m being critical of company sales reps — I’m not — I’m only being critical of the marginal ones. To tell the truth I have a great deal of admiration for those who work for one company. I’ve been there, done that, myself. I often wondered why there were few older folks working in sales. One reason is that it is nearly impossible to please management. Either you are bringing in too much work, or not enough, and the line for the exact perfect amount moves daily. The stress is wearing.

I can tell you that as a broker I don’t miss the constant harangue, not at all.

Print brokers make their living at bringing print jobs to printers able to do the job. They work very hard at finding a good fit. Theoretically a print broker will only bring in jobs that hit the printer’s sweet spot. Sweet spot jobs are those that the printer is best equipped to do.

My point is that brokers are more likely to bring work through the doors that is a better fit, and because it is, it usually runs smoother with fewer complications. Doesn’t that have real intrinsic value? It is one of the many invisible benefits brokers bring to the table that are overlooked by printers.


 

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