Archive for the ‘Leadership’ Category

Savvy Printers Play Nice with Print Brokers — part 2

Tuesday, March 2nd, 2010

If I owned a print shop — which I don’t — but if I did, and I wanted to attract brokers to sell for me, I would do these things:

  1. Make sure the brokers are fully informed of your capabilities and preferences. By preferences I mean that two printers have identical equipment, but one prefers short runs and the other prefers longer runs. Normally pricing will reveal this to a good broker, but wouldn’t it be quicker if the printer identified their sweet spot right up front?
  2. Provide brokers with sales materials, especially if you have a special new piece of equipment or an exciting announcement. Think about this: it is difficult for a broker to take the business elsewhere if they are using your promotional materials to secure a project.
  3. Try to avoid competing with the broker unless they are after one of your established accounts. If one of your sales reps has a desire to go to battle over a broker’s customer, hold them back. Open discussion may solve the conflict. Be courteous and discuss it with all involved parties.
  4. Be sure to honor the broker’s trade secrets. There are some brokers who like to keep their sources hidden–I’m not one of them. I opt for efficiency. If my customer has an urgent question, or needs to STOP the press I want them to be able to do that. Yes, over the last twenty odd years I’ve had to scrap relationships with printers who didn’t honor the gentleman’s or written agreements we made, and yes, I’ve had customers seek a better price by going behind my back, but the truth is that it has happened very rarely. And in the end, customers and printers who engage in this unethical behavior can’t  be relied upon anyway. It’s good riddance to bad rubbish.
  5. Attempt to cultivate them as part of your sales team. Why not? They bring business just like your commissioned reps do. The more involved they are in your company and on good terms with your staff, especially your sales staff the smoother things will go. If they are treated like Darth Vader instead of Luke Skywalker when they come through the door, you lose. They’ll take their business elsewhere.
  • Invite them to attend sales meetings from time-to-time, especially ones where there is a special guest or new information to be presented.
  • If you have a sales contest, find a way to include brokers too.
  • Reward profitable brokers with surprise tickets to favorite sporting events, dinners at local restaurants, or weekend trips to nearby resorts. By the way, it is very easy for printers to trade for these spiffs and the out-of-pocket expenses are greatly reduced.
  • If you send your sales reps to a seminar or rally consider sending brokers too.
  • Make sure brokers are invited to other company functions.
  • If a broker is having trouble landing an account that would fit your particular niche, work together just like you would with your own sales rep to secure the business. This way you both benefit.

The bottom line is that print brokers are really and truly a part of any smart printer’s sales force. The good news is that they don’t receive salary, or commission. You don’t have to match their Social Security, or 401 K. You can keep money that you would have spent on a sales rep’s health insurance, expense reimbursement, company car, and overhead. If you have enough money to provide these benefits to your employees just consider what providing brokers with a nice benefit that is a faction of the cost of employee could do? They are possibly the best investment you can make for sales growth.

If you treat print brokers right, make them feel like they are a part of your team, let them know that they are appreciated you’ll discover an increase in trust. Many of the reasons cited by printers for their unhappy experiences with brokers were created by the printer’s disrespect. Respect the respectable brokers (yes, some brokers should be flushed — but not most — especially those who have been around awhile) treat them as part of your team and you’ll find that many of the problems printers have with brokers will disappear. Think about it. How can a broker be your enemy when bringing you business? You are only enemies when you aren’t fair with one another. Be fair.

10 Sure Ways to Pull Our Fat Out of the Fire

Monday, August 10th, 2009

I didn’t want this post to be another rant. I was going to concentrate on the printing or publishing business and leave my tirades behind. That’s what I intended to do, but I can’t let it go just yet. You see, my last post More Dangerous to us than Terrorists generated a lot of comments, more than my usual posts. That’s good! What’s bad is the sense I’m getting that we are giving up. Are we really all that fatalistic? Do we carry the thought that there is nothing we can do about it so why try?  I’m concerned that we don’t have a clear enemy, that we think it is beyond our control anyway, and somehow small businesses and the general public are at fault.

One commenter named Vic wrote, “Wait a minute! Casting corporate honchos as villains sure feels good, and has a degree of merit, but we all share responsibility in making this mess. We were the ones who took out mortgage after mortgage, partying with the accrued equity of our homes. We were the ones who never [gave] a thought to the non-logic of an endlessly expanding economy. We were, and are, the shareholders in the huge corporations you criticize. I agree with much of what you say, but we were not helpless bystanders victimized by ruthless tycoons.”

To be fair Vic suggested some things we can do, like attending stockholders meetings, boycotting products, and living a lifestyle that supports our values. Okay Vic that is well and good, but isn’t blaming the little guy like blaming a baby who is given a loaded gun to play with? And before you get too offended with the baby analogy seriously think about the financial complexity of getting a loan, and how many people really know what they are getting themselves into? If they understood ARM’s they would be a minuscule mortgage devise instead of a popular way to qualify buyers for more than they can afford–maybe buying a house that they got talked into by a slick Realtor. Think about it.

Another reader, Karl wrote, “A business that has not got the resources to weather a downturn like we are experiencing is probably not that healthy a business. Did the owners put sufficient funding aside, focus on paying of debt and providing a buffer during good times?…The priority of the business owner is the health of their business in good and bad times. Focus first on the business, and when it has plenty of reserves so it can keep marketing in difficult times, and is debt free, then the owner can ease off and get a few perks.

Yes, the large corporates are really, really bad, but are the smaller businesses any different? I say not. It’s just on a smaller scale.”

I think of the Billy Joel song that goes, “We didn’t start the fire.” I believe that we all play by the rules the best we can. Small business owners are just people trying their best to get by. They care about their companies and they care about its employees.  Just ask an owner what the most difficult job is and they will tell you, “Firing someone.” The small business person is up close and personal with their employees. They don’t devastate thousands of families with just a computer stroke, that’s the exclusive area of the tycoons.

In the movie Seabiscuit promoted the premise that this horse with heart helped shake the country out of the depression by providing a symbol. They could see this champion win race after race against impossible odds.

I am hoping that our symbol rises soon, but in the event that it doesn’t, I pray that the people will get some backbone and change things, like:

  • Demand public accountability of public corporations.
  • Replace the entire congress and executive branch if they don’t permanently ban lobbyists.
  • Rebuild the business infrastructure by encouraging American manufacturing.
  • Severely tax companies who send jobs out of the country. Make certain the tax costs are equal to the money saved by hiring cheap foreign workers.
  • If a shot in the arm is needed to jump start the economy, make sure it gets into the hands of the people and it encourages them to buy American made products.
  • Make sure that if any taxpayer money is used to bailout any company, in any way, that bonus and salary reviews become mandatory for all executives. No exceptions and no bonus money will ever be paid unless tied to productivity and the profitability of the company.
  • Punish and maybe jail politicians and bureaucrats found accepting any money, favors, or gifts from anyone seeking to influence them
  • Require single-payer health care. Any proposed solution to our health care woes that either force the small businesses to pay for it, or allow insurance companies to administer it will fail. We have to stop rewarding executives for denying claims. It is a sick system that turns away people in pain because they don’t have a magic card to gain entrance into the halls of  healing. We can’t afford the failure.
  • Pull back the military. Make it against the law to invade a sovereign country without providing evidence of a direct American threat. Why should we be the guardians of the word and spend taxpayer means to do it? Other countries don’t feel the need to do that–why should we?
  • Pay down the national debt. The thought that China and the Mid-East hold a sword to our necks is very disturbing.

I’m sure that these ten items will never come to fruition. See, I’m being fatalistic too, but it is something to think about. I love this country and am deeply concerned that if we don’t act in harmony and take the power away from those who abuse it, it will be taken from us.

More Dangerous To Us Than Terrorists

Thursday, August 6th, 2009

RE: Previous Blog, Stealing Customers for Profit in the Recession

My last blog post has stirred a lot of interest and sparked many comments. Some comments were posted on the blog, some used my contact form, and some responded through Linkedin. I’m not breaking any real news to the business world. This recession is a B-I-T-C-H  (sorry for the use of the b word, I just couldn’t express it any other way, forgive me).  Once we get through it, and I’m sure we will get through it, we will be standing on a figurative bloody battleground mourning our fallen comrades. We will never be as naive as we were and assume that the big money people know what they are doing. Just because they’re paid seven figure incomes doesn’t mean they have any sense. To believe otherwise is naive with a capital N.

We have a chance now to reform our system if we act fast and aren’t too weak from the beating we’ve taken. Here’s my thought. If a company is a publicly held corporation, doesn’t it have a public responsibility? Those CEO’s who bag multimillion dollar compensations despite the fact that their companies are losing money should be subject to Old West justice, in my opinion. One case in point is Prudential Financial’s CEO John Strangfeld. For the year 2008 Mr. Strangfeld snagged between $14 million and $16 million dollars in salary and other compensations. Now what did John Strangfeld accomplish to be worthy of such a grand bounty? Under his $14 million dollar leadership, Prudential Financial Inc. posted a net loss of $1.1 billion dollars. That’s right. Okay, his personal management may not have been totally to blame for the loss, but where does the buck stop? Where does it stop?

There is a ruling class in America today. If you aren’t in it. you count for nothing, or less than nothing in their minds. John Strangfeld when questioned about his excessive compensation said that the people expect him to live a lavish lifestyle. The King has spoken and of course We The People want him to live a lavish lifestyle even if it bankrupts us all.

Can you believe the gall? This ruling class is so out of touch with reality that they truly believe what they are spouting. My point goes back to the meaning of a public corporation. Now I know that the distinction by law is that a closely held corporation has a limited number of private stockholders and a public corporation sells its stock on the open market, so some would brush off my argument without thought. The thing we overlook is that great power to do harm lies in the hands of this “uncrowned royalty.” The United States of America was brought to its knees because these power brokers decided that No Income Verification mortgage loans, and 1% interest only loans, were a good idea. Really? Any elementary grade student could tell them that loaning money to people who didn’t have the means to repay it, was a very bad idea.

Then when they packaged their terrible decisions into stock and sold them to unwary consumers and foreign companies they walked away stuffing money in their shoes, pockets, under their hats and smiling the whole time. Who pays? We do. The common people losing jobs and businesses. That’s who pays. Heck if one of them got charged with a crime the justice system would take some money away from them. Let’s see, you get $14 million and lose half, you still walk away with more than I’ll make in my lifetime. How is that fair?

Now when you think about it, really think about it, these multi-multi-millionaires and billionaires did more damage to our country than Al Quida could ever do. They perpetrated economic terrorism on us all and when the government suggests that their compensation packages ought to be reviewed they scream to high heaven. Again I say they have a public responsibility that goes beyond the front gates of their lavish castles.

Why am I so angry? I’m angry because the printing business has fallen on very hard times. Printers are closing doors, and may never reopen again. I’m sure the same is happening in other industries, but the one I am most familiar with is printing. It breaks my heart to see companies who have been around for decades and their owners who put their whole lives into their businesses reduced to shambles. Now we see printers who used to be friendly competitors, employing guerrilla tactics just to keep their businesses alive.

Write to your congressmen, write to the President, tell them that those who head public corporations need to be answerable to the public, and if they wreak havoc on the economy because of their self-serving decisions we want them individually and severally to be held responsible. We want to take away all of their toys and give them stock-boy jobs at Wall Mart. If they had to make ends meet like the rest of us I wonder how long it would take to effect real change?

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