My first reaction after listening to Dr. Joe Webb’s economic webinar last week was to go out and slit my wrists. The forecast for the economy in general continues to be poor and for print there seems to be no hope.
- GDP is still sluggish
- 2012 unemployment to “improve” – for the wrong reasons
- CPI “moderating” – but prices too high when real wages keep falling
- 2011 Inflation Adjusted Print and Print Services Shipments continue to be at or below 2010 and lowest in 5 years
- Forecast for US Commercial Print Shipments from 2011 to 2017 by WTT ERC drops from $85 B to $ 52 B
However, when I thought about many of the companies I know in the industry, they continue to actually thrive and not just survive, so what is their secret and how do we increase the number of companies being successful in the industry?
We all need to realize that continuous change is going to be a part of the way we do business for the near term, and will be required for long term survival. We depend on technology, and the equipment and software rate of change continues to increase. Channels and methods of communicating are expanding, and customers’ preferences evolving, and after all, we are really in the communication business.
Think about the conservative banking industry, which took a long time to move from personal banking to ATM’s and online services, and now have gone mobile, allowing checks to be deposited from a smart phone by taking a picture. Balances can be checked, and even transfers from account to account take place any time and from anywhere. The successful companies I know and read about are listening to their customers and are open to modifying their business models to accommodate customer demands. This is not a surefire solution and certainly not easy, as it means moving from our areas of comfort and experience.
What I think the industry needs more than anything now is to find ways to help each other make the industry strong, and to establish networks and resources to accelerate change. Companies should focus on customer service, putting the customer needs first, and find ways to diversify and differentiate themselves as partners in selective service areas complementing their core offerings. Companies and owners need to choose an area of expertise, and then utilize all the resources available including supplier expertise, associations, and consultants to fill in gaps and build upon their own expertise. Organizations need to resist the temptation to do everything themselves and build partnership relationships with other service providers in providing a complete solution set.
As we end this year we should not view the position as hopeless but rather recommit ourselves to working together and to embracing the change around us. Let us each and every one commit ourselves to staying relevant to the changing needs of our customer base. As General Eric Shinseki, Chief of Staff, U. S. Army said “If you don’t like change, you’re going to like irrelevance even less.”
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