Posts Tagged ‘sales representative’

Printing’s Like a 3 Ring Circus

Monday, October 5th, 2009
Printing is never boring

Printing is never boring

A typical offset printing plant is like a 3 ring circus. I say that not because Barnum and Bailey was just in town, but because there are three basic workstations a job goes through before it becomes a finished product, and if you’ve ever visited a print shop you’ve seen people hurrying here and there, heard lots of odd sounds, and smelled unusual smells. Printing is not really a circus, but anyone in the graphic arts can see the similarities.

Ring No.1: Prepress

No job enters onto the press room floor without going through prepress first. Your electronic files may be perfect and prepared exactly in the manner that the printer has requested, but will still need prepress. For example, does your job have multiple pages like a booklet, or a book? Then the prepress department will have to paginate your pages. Is that confusing? After all your file was in order, probably in reader spreads, why then should it need to be paginated?

If I was sitting across your desk from you I would demonstrate what I mean by taking an 8 1/2″X11″ standard size sheet of paper and folding it in half to 8 1/2″X5 1/2″ inches. Then I would fold it in half again so it becomes 4 1/4″X5 1/2″ inches. This folded sheet of paper would represent an 8 page press signature. You can verify this by writing consecutive numbers 1 though 8 on the bottom right corners including the back. Don’t unfold it to do this, just lift each corner. It is easiest if you have the last fold on the right and the other folds at the top, this leaves the bottoms open for numbering. Now open your mock press sheet. On one side you should find the numbers 1, 4, 5, and 8. On the other side will be the numbers 2, 3, 6, and 7. You will probably also see that the numbers you wrote on the bottom right hand corners are no longer in the same place. The direction the number is in is the direction of the page. For example, page 1 and page 4 face one another, and so do 5 and 8. This seemingly unorganized alignment of pages and numbers is precisely what is needed to print the job so that it will bind as a booklet.

At this point you may think that it would be helpful to pre-paginate the files yourself. Don’t even go there. There are other complexities that come into play like the size of the press sheet, the size of your page, and the size of the press it is printing on. Trust me it is best to leave pagination to the printer.

Center Ring: The Press Room

Ah, the press room. The printing press is what it is all about. This is the place where ink hits paper.

Other than the name and the fact that they have machinery, no two press rooms are alike. Printing presses come in all sizes from small enough to almost fit in the trunk of your car to towering three story tall monstrosities, and everything in between. It is not true that if you’ve seen one press, you’ve seen them all. But, and here’s the good news–it doesn’t matter much. A cursory knowledge is all you need to be a reasonably competent buyer of printing. You don’t have to specify that the project be run on a 40″ eight unit press with a perfector and in-line aqueous coater. What you have to know is basically the dimensions of the job, the numbers of inks, the paper, what coatings if any, and bindery processes, i.e. does it fold, staple, or bind some other fashion? Then you need to shop around until you discover the printers who are best at that niche. Or even easier, contact a print broker like myself to get you to the right place.

You need to understand that I have no objection to a sales rep from a printing company serving as your source of information as long as you keep in mind that they are obligated to their employer to direct the work there. A broker on the other hand is independent and free to place your job where it fits the best. That’s why I became a broker. I hated working square pegs into round holes just because my paycheck depended on it.

Ring No.3: The Bindery

Again, binderies are as varied as much as there are printers. Commonly they will all have cutters and delivery stations. Other than that they could have folders, saddle-stitchers, perfect binders, collators, etc.

The bindery is where the paginated printed sheet turns into a booklet. The first stop is the cutter. A press sheet will often have color bars, targets, and tic marks for bleeds. You don’t want any of these things to appear on your product, so they are trimmed in the cutter.

The trimmed press sheet goes to the folder where it folds exactly the way you did in Ring No.1 except not usually by hand. The folded product looks very similar to the one you made, but one side will be a little longer.

The next step if you want a stapled booklet is to take it to the saddle-stitcher. The press signatures are stacked precisely to allow the machine to grab the longer edge. The sheet opens as it is pulled and drops onto the chain (it isn’t really a chain, but that is what it is called). If there are additional pages in your booklet there will be multiple stations filled with signatures. Each one stacking on top of the other. Once gathered they go through the stitcher. The stitcher doesn’t look like any stapler you’ve ever seen because first of all there aren’t any staples. You’ll see spools of wire like fishing line that feed into the equipment. You’ll hear a chunk sound as the wire becomes what you know as staples. The final stage is the trimmer, usually called the three knife trimmer. Until this stage your booklet still has the folds at the top, and the bindery overhang or lip on the face. Those things have got to go, so into the trimmer they roll, the blades come down and cut off the top, face, and bottom just to make it even.


The finished product is boxed, shrink wrapped, or skid packed and sent out for delivery. Is printing a career for just anyone? No. No more than just anyone joins the circus. Printing is a demanding, insane, deadline driven business. The three rings: prepress, press room, and bindery are the stages where the action takes place, but the real action, just like in a circus, happens with the people. It requires the attention of a juggler, the precision of a tight rope walker, and the humor of a clown to make it through the working day. Tomorrow it all starts over, but the show must go on!

Why is a Book the BEST Calling Card?

Tuesday, September 1st, 2009

Many years ago, in the distant past, even before Willie Nelson had a pony tail, I was working for an advertising agency and had a client who wanted to publish a book. His book was called It’s Your Money, Earn or Burn. Actually, I wrote the title, but that is beside the point. The information in the book is way out of date now, but at the time was cutting edge.

He, my client, and a partner had a business finding and promoting tax sheltered investments. Since then congress has closed most shelters and left many tax payers high and dry. The rules surrounding  acceptable tax shelters from those disallowed were somewhat discombobulated and difficult to decipher. Imagine that–tax regulations being difficult to understand–who wodda thought?

Willie Nelson

Willie Nelson

For example there was the famous case of country singer Willie Nelson who followed the advice of Price Waterhouse, one of the top 10 accounting firms in the country. The government disallowed his sheltered investments and the unpaid taxes and fines forced Willie Nelson into bankruptcy.

Get this, the government wouldn’t tell you in advance if a shelter would be allowed or not. You had to assume it would be, then wait for their audit, which could take years. If you guessed wrong–WHAM you paid dearly.

My client’s idea was to write a book simplifying tax shelters for people and leading them away from uncertain ones into those proven. It was an excellent idea, but marketing and distribution became a problem. The Internet didn’t exist in those days so it was difficult to connect with the very small percentage of Americans who were potential targets for his message, but that didn’t really matter.

Why, you might ask.

The very day books were delivered; he extracted a copy, proudly marched down the hall to the offices of another firm, and gave the book to the owner. The owner looked at the cover, turned it over and saw my client’s photo and bio on the back. Volia, instant credibility.

As a direct result of using his book as a calling card, my client secured a contract that paid him more than all of the costs of producing the book. All actual book sales were gravy.

Ask yourself if instant credibility would benefit you. Are there doors currently closed that might open if you used a book to jimmy the lock (metaphorically speaking, that is)? How do you crash through the glass ceiling? Try throwing your book at it. A book can give you more status than any other factor. These people would definitely improve their chances for advancement, better name recognition, and higher earnings if they had a book:

  • Public Speakers
  • Corporate Trainers
  • Presenters
  • Sales Representatives
  • Teachers
  • Executives

Note: Remember that writing a book is only the first step. At that point you aren’t even half-way done. To decide how you will market your book check into The Author Platform. It’s a comprehensive program to teach you how to use the Internet effectively.

Brokers Suffering the Slings and Arrows…

Wednesday, March 25th, 2009

There are several approaches to getting things printed. As for me, I prefer teamwork. I know of brokers who keep their vendors secret. Delivery receipts and boxes are either furnished by the broker or are devoid of any printer, or any other  identification. I do understand why they do it. Some customers and some printers view a broker as someone to dump. We can be viewed as a temporary obstacle.

I don’t see it that way. I see myself as an adjunct to the printer’s own sales force. I provide the same services as their people, but without the added cost. I’ve written about this before, but it bears repeating. A typical sales rep will earn: 1. 8% t0 12% commission; 2. Matching Social Security contributions; 3. Expense reimbursements (usually); 4. Group Health Insurance benefits; 5. Probably some kind of 401K or other retirement; 6. General Overhead (desk, phone, office supplies). Add these six expense  items and what does it actually cost to have locked-in sales people? Do the math, pay a sales rep 25% to 30% including commissions and benefits, or discount the invoice by 10% to 15% for the broker. Brokers are a win-win. Where printers go wrong is that they want to make the broker the customer. The broker isn’t the customer anymore than your employees are the customer. Get that right and everything will run smoother.

As for the real customers, they usually call me because their printing is problematic. They are paying too much, they aren’t getting cooperation, and the work isn’t up to their liking. Usually I can find ways to solve all of these problems.  Most people are untrained in printing, because they don’t know the best ways to get a printing job done, five to forty percent reductions are very common. As for getting cooperation, I’ve formed a growing cadre of printers, mailing houses, and other services that over the last twenty years have proven themselves over and over. When I choose a printer to add to my quiver I’m judging them through a lens of decades of experience. My customers don’t have that advantage. There is nothing like a history to gain cooperation. As for the quality issue, I make sure that the customer gets an adequate proof, and I go with them to  press checks, just to make sure. Most customers B.B. (before Bill) don’t know what to do when presented with a proof and have never heard of press checks until I teach them. And what if something is going wrong, does the customer have to take it up with the printer? No. They hand the problem to me and I discuss it with the printer. I am the customer’s advocate, but I’m not a trial lawyer, I don’t have to defend a customer in the wrong. I’ll present the arguments as best I can looking for the win-win, but I can’t morally support a demand that I see as unfair or unethical.

Despite all the services we brokers provide for both the printer and the customers, why do we continue “to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune?” Let me paint the typical life-cycle of a customer and broker.

  1. The customer is fed up with all of the problems they’ve been experiencing getting their printing done right, on time, and a reasonable cost.
  2. Someone recommends us to the customer.
  3. As a FREE service, we evaluate their printing needs and find ways to cut their costs while offering better quality, and outstanding service.
  4. We’re the conquering heroes. The customer loves us and wonders how they ever got along without us  before.
  5. Time passes and they forget how much they’ve been saving since our association. They forget how difficult it used to be getting their printing done.
  6. One day a printer’s rep calls on them , and tells them that brokers (not true–see above) are an added cost.
  7. The printer low-balls the price to get the business.
  8. The customer becomes convinced and unceremoniously kills the goose that brought them the golden egg. Down goes the conquering hero.
  9. Eventually the customer has turnover in that department. Printing becomes problematic again, because they are fragmenting it to suppliers who insist that they are capable even when they are not. Where a salesman’s commission is involved they will force, if necessary, the round peg into the square hole.
  10. The new people get frustrated.
  11. Someone recommends us. The company has a cloudy but long memory. They have  totally forgotten what we did for them, but they seem to remember that brokers cost  them more.  Are you kidding me? What happened to the conquering hero? We didn’t change, they did.

Despite  the fact that having an open relationship with customers and suppliers is risky, I prefer to focus on the job at hand and let those other issues take care of themselves. The job at hand requires that it be done right, on time, and at a reasonable cost. Sometimes I need to get the customer’s graphic designer in contact with the printer’s pre-press department to work out some of the file issues. Other times I’ll schedule a meeting with myself, the printer, and the customer to hammer out specific production, delivery, or billing issues. I don’t disguise where proofs originate, and more often than not, I accompany the customer to a press check. It is pretty difficult to hide your source when they are going to the building. Maybe blindfold them? Nah. I like the teamwork approach. I think it is the best way to proceed and if it costs me over the long haul, so be it. I’ll “suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune” if it gets the job done right, on time, and at a reasonable cost. But that’s just me.

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