My last two articles have been focused on ideas for how to optimize your print business during this COVID-19-enforced “pause” in capitalism. I realize many print business owners aren’t able to even think about optimization because they are trying to figure out how they will survive. Because it’s April 1st, I really wanted to give everyone something to laugh about without being insensitive to those really getting hit hard by the global pandemic.

After discussion with the WhatTheyThink team, I suggested we simply give my readers a rerun of a timeless April 1st video we made in 2015. This video represents the funniest 15 minutes of my work life. I hope you are able to give yourself a chance to laugh.

Many of us are working from home during the COVID-19 crisis. I’ve been working from home for a lot of my career so this isn’t new to me and I’m not one of those people trying to set up a home office during a global pandemic. Many of our customers who are used to working in busy print production plants are getting a taste of uninterrupted work periods. When you work remotely, you schedule times to connect with people. When you’re in a busy office environment, you develop habits of interrupting people by simply calling their name if they are in range or dropping by their desk on your way back from the bathroom.

In Silicon Valley, there was this “open-office” trend where businesses thought it would be great to put everyone together so they could collaborate more effectively. I think that idea has been a miserable failure (hence everyone working with noise cancelling earphones in these fully collaborative environments). We don’t need to collaborate all the time. We need to gather together and collaborate sometimes (conference rooms/conference calls), then we need to go back to a quiet place to get work done. So you first-time “working from home” people are getting a taste of uninterrupted time—unless you have kids, dogs, cats, noisy neighbors, working with you ;-).

Uninterrupted time is a precious resource. When your best people have uninterrupted time, that is like a “differentiating machine” that you can feed. There are talented people at every print business I’ve ever been in. The difference really comes down to how the print business uses the time of their best people. Do you have your best people on 100% fire-fighting duty, putting out the daily fires of your print business? This is taking your talent and using it in the least strategic possible way. Jane Mugford and I were sitting with a print MIS administrator at a user conference earlier this year. He is a very talented resource. Being print MIS administrator was just one of his jobs. He was also managing all IT responsibilities for the entire print organization. So here’s a top talent that is being asked to troubleshoot Windows upgrades and virus protection. He was listing all the ways he wanted to optimize the print MIS (only if he found the time). How are you using your top talent? 

During this COVID-19 crisis; you could carve out some uninterrupted time for your top talent to get things done that simply aren’t likely to get “air time” when the economy comes out of this “pause.” All printers have areas where they want to improve their business processes; too often the first thing printers do is shop for new software technology. Shopping should not be the first thing you do. New software can provide improvement in your business process, but it is nearly impossible to do that if your best talent hasn’t assessed the current business process and documented the challenges, so that when it is time to shop you have a clear definition and prioritization of the challenges you’re trying to solve. Too much print software shopping happens with very little understanding of the exact challenges you’re intending to solve.