Commentary & Analysis
Once Upon a Time, There Was a Printer Name Marty
By Carro Ford Weston December 16,
By WhatTheyThink Staff
Published: December 16, 2005
By Carro Ford Weston December 16, 2005 -- Who would have thought the printing business had the makings of a novel? Mike Kind saw the potential to combine the story of Marty, a fictional print shop owner, with real-world lessons for re-energizing a sluggish printing business. The resulting book, Re-Energize Your Printing Business (self-published digitally on demand, of course), tackles both. It's Mike's story, Marty's story, and the story of every print owner who's felt alone and wondered, "What do I have to do to get back on track?" Owners and managers often miss the clues that it's time to re-energize. Mike draws on a reservoir of experience acquired over his 20-year career. In 1984, he founded the JKG Group and successfully managed the company through many changes, including his own turnaround situation. Today he is the managing partner of MyKind Advisors (www.mykindadvisors.com), a diversification strategy consulting firm for printing companies. (Mike's book can be found via his web site, and Mike can be found at various industry events, including the upcoming Xplor conference in Miami Beach.) Getting a Clue The day a print shop opens, it seethes with energy and vision. The business enjoys fast track growth and expands by leaps and bounds. Then something happens, and the gravy train hits the wall. Mike explains, "Every entrepreneur has a vision, but then they stop working on the business and spend too much time working in the business. They end up consumed with fighting fires and lose that original focus and vision." Business goes through cycles, he adds, and owners and managers often miss the clues that it's time to re-energize. In many cases, they don't act until it's too late, and the financial situation is already shaky. "…as Marty's pricing was getting tighter and his costs were increasing, there was less left on the bottom line every month. It was to the point where some of his employees were beginning to make more than he did, and he was taking all the financial risk." "A lot of business owners face burnout, especially in this industry," says Mike. "It's a very tough industry right now, and there are many people facing these types of challenges." His lofty goal with this book is to change people's lives. A Novel Approach "Re-energize" is really a "how to" guide disguised as a novel. The format just makes the messages easier to communicate, says Mike. Even if you haven't been into reading for years, maybe because you've been too busy working, "Re-energize" is a quick read and one most every printer can relate to. "Both small and large business owners tell me they feel they are reading about themselves," says Mike. "That's because it deals with a general challenge that all business owners can identify with." Loss of clients, sales travails, shortchanging family time, it's all in there. The book is really a guide to changing a bad situation and reconnecting with the company and vision that used to be. "Marty knew that bringing in someone from the outside to manage a sales staff could prove to be a very difficult thing to do…He found himself having to make even tougher decisions by significantly tightening his credit policies, which created an additional exodus of accounts." Be prepared to read with pen and notebook handy to make notes of all the practical ideas for re-energizing. Reading between the lines is encouraged, because the book is really a guide to changing a bad situation and reconnecting with the company and vision that used to be. By following Marty's trials, tribulations and transformations, readers can gain ideas for their own business. "Marty now had the capability to understand that any business that is unprofitable is not worth holding on to, especially if it is a large amount of the total business." "Change boils down to the CEO," says Mike, a former CEO himself. "To transform, there has to be a refocusing with the CEO as coach and mentor. The CEO has to lead by example and have the vision. He or she can't do it alone, but they got used to doing it that way in the growth phase and trusting their gut. Now they need a team effort." Clean Your Desk, Clear Your Head The five basic steps of re-energizing are: organization, vision, communication, execution, controls and follow up, but organization itself is the foundation. Don't look at re-energizing as a whole mountain to climb in one go. Just tackle it a few steps at a time. The place to start, insists Mike, is at your own desk. The five basic steps of re-energizing are: organization, vision, communication, execution, controls and follow up "Over time, he found the real value-- is that it began to organize and clarify his thoughts, not just his desk. In the past, he would dart from one pile to another trying to decide what to tackle first and which fire needed to be put out first. It seemed he never got anything accomplished and the piles just continued to grow." "Break it down into something simple. Lead by example and actually begin by cleaning up your desk. If your desk is clean, you will start to think more clearly," says Mike. It can actually be a fun process that helps organize your ideas, and possibly kick starts some new ones. Something as simple as an orderly desk helps organize your priorities, and from that you can end up with more time for the real priorities, like kids, family, and maybe even yourself.