Editor's note: This article originally appeared in Larry Hunt's High Speed Copy News, and is reprinted here with permission. To subscribe to any of Larry Hunt's family of printing newsletters, visit www.larryhunt.com.
By Paula Fargo
What’s your “guilty little secret?” Come on, everyone has one. Ok, I’ll go first. As a printing company owner, I know that my “job one” needs to be working “on” my business. You know, writing mission statements, business plans, succession schemes, banking proposals, etc. Guess what? I like to fold. And collate. And occasionally even staple. There, I’ve bared my soul. Don’t judge.
Does this make me a “bad” owner? It depends on which expert you ask. Certainly many in and associated with our printing industry would look on my behavior with scorn and derision, instructing me that stapling is certainly not the best and highest use of my time. That my brainpower, perspective and, yes, even duty to my company is to quietly and loftily cogitate on “big picture” plans, ideas and paths to future success.
My response to that accusation: Well, not so fast, Sparky. My contrarian view: It depends. “On what?” you may ask. On several factors:
- Scale. Is very large top-line sales growth a huge priority for you as an owner? If so, then certainly a great deal of your time should be spent considering mergers and acquisitions, big marketing plays, lots of networking events with “see and be seen” types of businesspeople, large and new equipment purchases, moving into a more capacious industrial building, and basically steering your company toward the titanic size that will make you happy and satisfied. If, however, you are more concerned with your bottom line and its health, feeding and caring, then maybe working “in” your business (e.g., stapling) can be just the ticket to discovering new efficiencies, potential or actual bottlenecks—and levels of employee engagement that in turn will assist you in nurturing that bottom-line profitability. How are you going to discover that a particular procedure is causing unnecessary delays to delivery, and ultimately to losing your clients, if you’re not out there on the floor to see it for yourself?
- Goals. Are you out to be on the Quick Printing Top 100 list of largest printers in America, not caring if you can sleep peacefully at night without worrying about meeting that massive payroll tomorrow or that huge rent or mortgage payment for your big new building? Or are you satisfied with marginal year-over-year improvements in the top and bottom lines, with happy and loyal employees and clients and vendors? If the former, then by all means rise above the day-to-day grind of being a printer and pursue that magazine headline. If the latter, then perhaps it’s ok to answer the phone, talk to a prospect or customer or vendor, take the pulse of what’s happening in your shop, and basically be a working owner.
- Skill sets. Maybe you’re not comfortable working among the commoners and would rather lunch with the big boys at the club. Maybe you don’t know how to operate a single piece of equipment in your shop or how to relate to your employees. That’s ok. We all have our competitive advantages and must make the most of our skill sets.
- Joys. In the category of “life’s too short to do what you don’t want to do,” some self- examination may be in order, asking yourself what you really like to do each day. I’m not talking about being 100 percent self-indulgent, only doing exactly what you “want” to do and nothing that you “have” to do or should do. But, people, there’s a reason we all went into business for ourselves. Let’s leverage that a little bit, shall we? The universe won’t come to a screeching halt if we indulge in some of our work-related “joys,” allowing some of the big-picture items to wait or, yes, even fall by the wayside.
- Allocating scarce resources. Yes, I’m talking about time, our scarcest resource. Every day we are tasked with determining how we will use this most precious asset. I propose doing so with purpose, allowing ourselves time to work both “in” and “on” the business.
I’ve been the owner and operator of my printing companies since 1989. I’ve never had an unprofitable year. I’ve had some years when sales were lower than in previous years, but in most years, sales were higher. I’ve never grown my companies with mergers. I don’t have any partners to answer to or to get assistance from. I have a stable and loyal staff. I have been exceedingly lucky and have worked exceedingly hard.
Although PMS 200 runs through my veins as a third-generation printer, I also have an MBA in economics and understand big-picture planning and working “on” my business. Do I work “on” my business? Sometimes. Not every day, and sometimes, if we’re really busy, not even every week. Do I feel bad about that? Eh, maybe a little. But I feel that I spend most days doing the right things for me, my sanity, my pleasure and my companies.
Now please don’t get me wrong. I’m not advocating sitting in a corner all day and manipulating your A.B. Dick while your hypercritical corporate mission statement goes unwritten. But, just to present a contrarian view, why not check with your production crew to see whether an extra pair of hands might be helpful to them? Engage with them, ask them questions, confirm in their minds that you care about the company, about them, and about your clients and that everyone is on the same team. Maybe it’s just a myth that you have to be all one way or all the other.
Paula Fargo is the owner of Curry Printing & Copy Center and also Copy Cat Printing, both in Baltimore, Maryland. Raised in Baltimore, she got her bachelor's degree in Economics and her MBA in economics from Loyola University Baltimore. In addition to successfully operating her two printing companies, she enjoys reading, going to live music concerts and being a Sherpa for her triathlete husband, Lance Fargo.
Copyright 2017 by Larry Hunt Publications. No part of this report may be copied or reproduced in any form without the express written consent of Larry Hunt Publications. Material presented in this publication is based on the best information available but cannot be guaranteed for completeness or accuracy. To subscribe, contact Larry Hunt Publications, P.O. Box 1269, Berryville, VA 22611 - (540) 336-3360, fax - (888) 345-3860, email: firstname.lastname@example.org, website: www.larryhunt.com. Dirck Holscher, editor.