Posts Tagged ‘Social Security’

Printers When Your Business Fails — Thank China

Wednesday, March 17th, 2010
I thought it was time to move off the China subject and go to something else, but there have been a rash of comments on this site and on my printing groups on LinkedIn that I’m going to post another China related blog in an attempt to address those other concerns.

Are American families, homes, and jobs worth defending?

Sometimes I can’t believe my ears. What has happened to America? Americans used to fight for their rights, but now our fight begins by laying down our guns. Our motto seems to be “why try; it won’t do any good anyway.”

Chinese printers market their low ball prices in the United States aided by two main things:

  • Their costs are one-tenth of ours. How did I arrive at that figure? It was easy; I know how much minimum wage is in the US. Remember this wage is mandated by the government. Employers have to pay it. They also have to pay matching Social Security, so the real figure is much higher. I also read an article in Reuters that discussed how much the average factory worker earns in China. Without matching Social Security, they earn 1/10th.  Suppose you are a Chinese printer marketing to the US, how difficult would it be to come in at half the price when your labor costs are less than 1/10th? Who is making the real money here? The Chinese workers? Ha!
  • China plays hardball when it comes to International Trade. They are members of the WTO, but you don’t have to look far to see filing, after filing, after filings of Chinese trade violations for anti-dumping and anti-subsidies. Some states have a three times you are out law to penalize career criminals. If we held China up to this same standard they would right now be serving several consecutive lifetime sentences. They can import some products to the US for 2-5% duties. We, on the other hand, have to pay some 24% to sell there. It is wrong, it isn’t fair, and it is killing the US economy.

Since our government won’t help, and the business elite are benefiting from cozy relationships with foreign countries, there is only one thing left to “we the people,” and that is our collective buying power. If enough of us refuse to buy Chinese, Pakistani, Indian, Mexican, or any other products made from cheap labor we can turn the tide.

Some say that it is unfair to blame these countries because it is the American consumer who really controls the prices. Of course I want low prices, but not at the expense of putting myself or my neighbors out of work. I don’t know about everyone else, but if presented with two identical items and one is made in the US and the other in China I would rather buy American, even if it was a little more. I would not choose Chinese industry over American.

What about the automobile business, didn’t the Japanese do the same thing? No — they didn’t. They didn’t compete solely on price, although they used price at first to get our attention. What they did is build a better vehicle than the crap being pumped out by Detroit. I hate it that we lost this giant industry to foreign competition, but we deserved to lose it. Not because of the workers but because of the fat cats at the top who left the office every day counting their lavish bonuses while steadily guiding their companies into bankruptcy. Bonuses for bad leadership — whoever thought that was a good idea?

We are experiencing a 10% unemployment rate in the United States right now, primarily because of a few bankers who used vast lobbying power to influence congress. Our government systematically deregulated the banking and financial institutions until we got chaos. Those who believe in free markets, take note, without some control everything goes to hell, quickly.

There is an axis of evil to coin a phrase from George W. Bush. Americans are being crushed economically by Wall Street Bankers, the US Congress, the Insurance industry, and unfair foreign competition. Until these four entities are brought to task it is going to do nothing but get worse. Do you hate 10% unemployment, reduced wages, and increased working hours? That is just a start. Over the next few decades we will see 25% unemployment, salaries cut to the bone, and typical working days of 16 hours. Once Wall Street has us where they want us, poor, starving, and desperate we will be competitive with China, because we will be reduced to their level. Welcome to the new America, the one world government, the one fashioned by the true axis of evil.


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.

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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