Archive for the ‘Choosing a printer’ Category

Printers & Publishers Prepare to be Amazed!

Saturday, May 22nd, 2010

Seeking Glimpses of the Future

I have my crystal ball out. It is sitting right in front of me on my desk. I’ve been searching its depths for some clue about the future of printing, publishing, and related industries. You know what I get? Nothing.

The only thing I know for sure is that things will change. This little prophesy doesn’t mean much, except to say that time is a river and we can either find a way to float with the current, or test our strength against it. (Pretty poetic wouldn’t you say?)

I’ve spent a lifetime, so far, learning all about offset printing. I now know quite a lot, but what is that worth? What is it worth really? When I think back, I can remember people who were expert typesetters and others who were great with scanning drums for four color separations. Their hard won knowledge became irrelevant almost instantly with the changes in technology.

I used to laughingly pontificate that someday Bill Ruesch Print Broker, would consist only of an equipment filled Winnebago. Customers would provide me with art files. I would drive over to the paper merchant’s warehouse, load-in the stock, and by the time I arrived at the customer’s dock the job would be completely printed, folded, and bound.

Book in a Box

That used to be my weird vision of the future. It made me and my customers chuckle at the absurdity. It isn’t so funny anymore now that the Espresso Book Machine exists. In one machine a whole book is created; from file to finished product in less than seven minutes.  Seven minutes–printed, bound, and ready to read. That is if you have hot pads. I understand that the books come out pretty warm and need to cool down a bit.

My vision of the future has come true. What do I see in the future now? I haven’t a clue. I think my predictor must be on the blink. I’d be willing to go out on a limb by stating, “It doesn’t matter what crazy, ridiculous, impossible notion we conceive, someone is probably already a step or two ahead of us, and are right this moment building something to make it happen.”

I’m prepared to be amazed. How about you?


19 Excellent Reasons Why Print Brokers are a Godsend

Friday, May 7th, 2010

Print Brokers and search engines

I keep a close watch on the words and phrases that readers use in search engines to find this blog.  Questions about print brokers lead the pack. I guess I should have figured this out on my own because when I’m asked what I do for a living, and I say I’m a print broker, most respond by asking, “What is a print broker?” They wouldn’t do that if I said I was, for example, a stock broker, or even, as I saw on a television commercial recently, a shrimp broker. There’s something about the conjunction of print and broker that creates confusion, and often curiosity.

Why are print brokers attracted to the business?

I don’t know why others become print brokers, but I did because I wanted to provide better service for my customers. I reasoned that as chained print sales rep I was strictly locked into the capabilities, pricing, and business philosophies of the printer employing me. My customers, however, often needed either print production we couldn’t provide, or a redesign of their job to make it fit our capabilities. Either way I found myself in an awkward situation. What should I do, send them away or frankensteinize their project?

(Don’t bother looking up the word frankensteinize, it isn’t dictionaryized because I just created it, and neither is dictionaryized for the same reason.)

What services do print brokers provide?

In my experience a print broker typically performs these duties:

  • Consults with customers regarding parameters of the print order. Reviews and discusses any job particulars that will affect the outcome.
  • Suggests ways to decrease cost and/or improve quality depending on the requirements of the project.
  • Provides samples like paper dummies, paper swatch books, foil stamps, or any other visuals the customer requires to make informed decisions about the print order.
  • Aids the customer in determining and clarifying the specifications so that printers will bid apples-to-apples and identify production problems before they ruin the project.
  • Pre-qualifies printers or other providers to determine which is the best match for the job.
  • Submits bid specifications to qualified printers.
  • Consults with printers as needed to answer questions or address production concerns. This is particularly critical when the job is complex.
  • Gathers competitive bids.
  • Scrutinizes the submitted written bids to make certain the directions were followed, and nothing added or neglected.
  • Submits bid with specifications to customer. This gives the customer an opportunity to double-check the specifications at the same time as they receive pricing. The objective is to make sure all parties are in full agreement about the scope of the job.
  • Facilitates the transfer of files, or other art to the printer.
  • Works with both printer and customer regarding terms of payment and makes sure all conditions are met.
  • Arranges and facilitates all necessary proofing steps.
  • Attends press checks. Helps the customer understand the printing process and translates printerese into business normal.
  • Arranges for delivery of the product to the required destination.
  • Oversees and coordinates all parts of the job, this is especially critical if the project consists of multiple pieces.
  • Invoices the customer for the work.
  • Pays the printer. The customer writes one check and the broker takes care of the rest.
  • Most important–deals with problems that may surface during or after the job is delivered. The broker acts is a shield between the customer and the printer in the event of a disagreement.

What is the most valuable service print brokers provide?

The bottom line is that both customers and printers need brokers. Brokers provide the most valuable service of all, we facilitate smooth communication between customer and printer, and that in itself, prevents a whole raft of problems that could occur. Printing, as I always say, is not an exact science. The process, from creative idea to finished product involves so many steps and demands that every one of them be done right. It is a miracle anything turns out as planned, but despite the odds 95% come out great. It’s the 5% that keep us in the graphic arts industry awake at night.


Printers and Brokers — What’s Your Favorite Printing Story?

Wednesday, March 24th, 2010
My $52,000.00 Payday

The biggest print order I ever handled was a mailing package for cable TV. The package consisted of nine different elements and it went to one million customers. The total print billing was over $650,000.00. Now that in itself wasn’t the incredible part. Many who might read this blog work for, or have worked for large web plants that could easily handle this job. I didn’t. I was employed by a small sheet-fed printer. Our “biggest” press was a 25″ 5/color with a CPU. At the time presses with CPU’s were just coming into the market and we were darned proud of ours.

Never Overlook the Unlikely

The customer was an unlikely advertising agency that was so small it wasn’t on anyone’s radar. They were located in my area, but not in my regular path of travel. Anytime I found myself near them, once a month, or so, I’d dropped in to say hello and see if they were anticipating any printing orders. The answer was always no.

An Estimator Can do More than Sit in the Office

One day out of the blue they called. Over the phone they described a job so complex that I felt I needed help with the specifications so collared our estimator and took her with me. I was glad I had the estimator because she had been a former press operator with our company and came up with some suggestions on the spot to simplify the job.

Persistence Beat Price

Within a few days we submitted our bid. I didn’t think that there was a ghost of a chance we would get it, but I had to see it through. When the bids were in, we were second. The lowest bidder was a well-established 40″ sheet fed printer in town. I never saw their price, but it was close enough that the agency decided that I should be rewarded for my persistence in calling on them.

Thank Goodness My Sales Manager Didn’t Hear What I Said

That’s when I said something that my sales manager would have kicked me for if he had heard it. I said, “I would love to do this job, but it really belongs on a web press and not sheet-fed.”

My customer responded with this question, “Will a web press give me better quality than sheet-fed?”

I told him, “No, but 95% wouldn’t know the difference.” Actually the 95% figure was a bit low. Without a side-by-side comparison I doubted that anyone would know.

What Made the Sales Manager Strut Like a Goose

To my surprise we were awarded the job. The next hurdle was collecting a half-down. To offer the bid we did it required the purchase of a great quantity of paper. We settled on a $360,000.oo figure with the balance due on completion.

I remember the day I went to the agency to pick up the check. Their customer had given them a cashiers check made out to us. I brought in the dough and gave it to the sales manager. He balanced the check on the upper frame of his glasses and leaned it back against his forehead and then proceeded to strut through the office, the sales bullpen, and the shop inviting everyone to see the biggest amount of money ever seen by our company.

It isn’t Over ‘Til it’s Over

Later the estimator who had been so helpful asked me, “Bill, you don’t seem very happy about this, what’s going on?”

“I am happy, but more than that I’m concerned that we’ve bitten off more than we can chew. It is going to be a nightmare around here until this project is finished. I’ll be happier when it’s done.”

Pinned by the G.A.S.F.

I wasn’t wrong. To this day I think the customer should have heeded my advice, but I got 8% commission on over $650,000.00 so in the end I have to say I did okay, and a few months later I was presented with a diamond pin for achieving the highest annual sales award given by the G.A.S.F. The money, except what went into my IRA, is a distant memory, but I still have the pin.

Note: If any reader would like to add their own favorite printing story, just go to “comments” at the bottom of this post and share it with all of us.


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