Commentary & Analysis
What to Strive For in 2015 (And a Plea for Help)
Build your business in 2015 by exploring new opportunities, developing a clear vision for success, and stretching the boundaries of what your shop and your shop’s equipment can produce.
By Dan Marx
Published: January 21, 2015
Happy New Year! Here’s a belated toast to 2015:
“May your year be filled with opportunity, success, and a willingness to stretch the boundaries. And awesomeness!”
While you finish your imaginary champagne, allow me the opportunity to share with you a handful of concepts that may help you build your wide-format business during 2015. The concepts are very easy to understand, and honestly a lot of work to implement. But if you want to reach for the brass ring, it’s good to at least understand which way to reach.
Is your business doing all it can to grasp opportunities that exist within your current capabilities? In an article I authored for the SGIA Journal a year or so ago, I invited readers to create a simple grid. Along one axis, they were told to list all of the vertical markets they served. Some common examples might be “retail stores,” or “transit graphics.” Along the other axis, they were told to list all of the wide-format end products currently produced by their businesses. Some common examples of these might be “banners” or “window graphics.” The basic result: Within each cell of this grid is an opportunity to be considered, all of them corralled within the current capabilities of your business. Consider each possibility carefully, and chart a path for those untapped opportunities that make sense. You can earn bonus points (and potential business) by also considering verticals and product areas that you could easily serve, but currently don’t.
How do you define success? Making a profit? Meeting payroll? Growing your business by x amount each year? World domination? How you define success is your choice, but, for your consideration, I’d like to submit my own. In my definition, success is your business as a well-oiled machine. It is the elimination of process bottlenecks, full control of color, control of your complete production process as a way to maximize quality, eliminate waste, and control labor costs. It is a two-pronged approach to both sales and customer service, where what is promised is also what is delivered. You get the drift: It’s about successfully running your business—doing your absolute best with the tools and resources you have. It is by doing this that we can open the door to success’s financial definitions. Profit? Yes! Growth? Yes! World domination? Not so much.
Stretching the Boundaries
The first two strategies outlined above are about doing the best with what you currently have. This next strategy is about how you expand from there. One of the things that made wide-format producers successful—and kept them that way—is the ability for the technology, along with its related materials and finishing processes to be morphed into a continually-evolving array of end products, and from there, myriad niche opportunities. And this is where a culture of innovation is paramount. Innovation comes to you two ways: The first is innovation that’s delivered to you via wide-format equipment and materials manufacturers. Each new product introduced or iteration addressed is an opportunity for your company to say, “how can we use this to do what we do differently, or to do something we’ve not done before?” The second type of innovation is internal to your company, and is best described by asking yourself, “what if?” Think of it: The printed, full vehicle wrap didn’t exist until one enterprising person thought, “what if I print on this and put it on that?” The result: A new, massive opportunity.
Go ahead, roll your eyes at the concept of awesomeness. But I sincerely think it’s a concept that should be considered for your business. In my many years working with sign and graphics shops, I’ve seen that while most are competent, reliable, well-run businesses, only some have something that sets them apart, even in an increasingly crowded industry. You’ve seen these companies: They’re the ones who can sell their services, skills, and customer management in a way that makes them seem better, more qualified, more responsive. They’re the ones who present an image of innovative thinking and groundbreaking approaches, presented in a visual package (online and otherwise) that makes them seem so much more than a printer. Is this your company? If not, what can you do in the year ahead to bolster your business with a strong dose of awesomeness—that certain je ne sais quoi?
Help Us Help You
One of the most beneficial elements any company can have in order to make the best possible decisions for their businesses is good data. What equipment are companies using? Which vertical markets and end product areas are they serving? How are they working to increase their competitive advantage? Each year, SGIA conducts its Specialty Imaging Industry Survey, the report of which provides a wealth of industry information. Our 2015 survey is currently open (and will be through the end of February). If your company currently serves wide-format market/product areas, I would like to invite you to take our survey. Simply put, the more responses we get, the better our data is. So, please, help us out by following this link:
Everyone who completes our survey will receive a free copy of the full survey report as soon as it is available. Thanks in advance!