On Tuesday, May 17, Charles A. Pesko, managing director of InfoTrends/CAP Ventures, stood before the audience in the Philadelphia Conference Center ballroom and stated what every savvy commercial printing business owner should already know and have acted upon by now:

New business models, consultative selling techniques, and workflows and applications driven by digital technologies are no longer just the fodder for trade publication rumination and industry pundit prognostication. These are trends that took hold a long — long — time ago. So if you’re still sitting on the sidelines, deciding what your next move will be, you’d better make it before the train leaves the station without you in it.

Okay, there is a little editorial and creative license in there, but it is a colorful way to get across his point.

“Minding the Gap”

Pesko called it “minding the gap,” a phrase taken from the gap between the crossing space in the London subway system (“the Tube”) between the platform and the subway car. “The time to act is now,” Pesko said. “We are reaching a critical point in our industry’s formation. It is time to cross the gap. Otherwise, it will be impossible to catch up.”

While most of Pesko’s message should have been familiar to his audience (key word here — should; it’s not, you’re in trouble), he made some key takeaway points for printers who might still be in the process of making this transition:

Key Takeaways

  • In 2002, for the first time, the U.S. Department of Commerce recognized digital printers as a legitimate segment of the commercial printing industry by including them in the 2002 U.S. Economic Census. (And we all know how slow the government is.) Clearly, digital printing has gone mainstream. If we’re still waiting for it to “arrive,” we’re deluding ourselves.
  • If you are going to make the transition to the new business model, and do it successfully, you must re-engineer every aspect of your business. Not just your workflows, but internal business processes, as well. You have to be willing to tear down and rebuild from the ground up.
  • Be aware that the process of re-engineering your business may also involve new personnel. To cross over from one business model to another, you need the right people. These may (or may not) be the people you currently have on staff.
  • Printers must stop trying to sell what they can manufacture and start manufacturing what their customers want to buy. This means understanding their businesses from the inside out.
  • Document Process Outsourcing is one of the largest opportunities for commercial printers, a market that CAPV expects to grow at a CAGR of 11% in the U.S. between 2004–2009. In order to take advantage of DPO opportunities, printers must have an in-depth knowledge of their customers’ internal business processes, as well as vertical industry. This is a different way of thinking and relating to customers that printers will need to cultivate.
  • Printers who are most successful at transforming their businesses have prepared formal, and detailed, business plans. Printers wanting to be successful in their own business transitions should develop business plans, as well. Those plans must include specific metrics that you revisit and revise on a regular basis.

“Remember that technology is only one piece of your overall strategy,” Pesko concluded. “Printers who want to re-engineer their business must embrace technology, but also must develop new business models and put into place the internal business processes, staff, and customer engagement strategies to support it. No matter what that new business model entails, without a clear business plan, your probability of success is low.”