For many in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, the news of Williamson Printing Corporation being acquired by Quad was met with mixed feelings. The Williamson family was a major force in Dallas – and the United States for many years. Regardless it’s good news that the Williamson name, and much of what the Williamson boys did to create their company’s unique foot print in the market, will still be around. Jerry Williamson will continue as QuadWilliamson’s president and Jesse Williamson will be involved with business development.
In various discussions with printing company owners and managers, they have shared that the 4th quarter of 2011 showed vast improvements in sales and profitability in comparison to 2010. January and February have started slowly, but there seems to be an air of positive vibes for many sheetfed/digital printers. Note – I did not say web printing. The web printing community still seems to be in turmoil and the market continues to be soft.
Is strategic planning essential to one’s success over the next 5 years? Many think that our industry is in need of serious planning to develop the business tactics which will garner success. Yet, I think this aspect of management is a serious hurdle for many who grew up in an industry when strategic planning was focused on what type of press we were going to purchase. Today’s planning has to entail potential shifts in one’s business which could take a company away from its core focus of print. It’s a scary proposition, but one which truly needs serious consideration.
Speaking of making changes, the recent announcement from PIA and NAPL was a bit of surprise to many. Yet, this topic has been discussed by various industry leaders for years. Over the past two days, I’ve been asked by a variety of folks on my thoughts of whether this is good or bad, and my answer is an unqualified, it’s good!
The question I have, along with many who are involved with the organizations, is how do we put the organizations together so that it makes sense for the future. PIA and NAPL have very different cultures and focuses. NAPL is a direct member organization while PIA garners all of its members through 20 affiliates who operate independently of Pittsburgh. The easy part of the consolidation is the economic one. Get rid of the redundancies and focus on the organizations’ core strengths. The tough question is what should a trade association for a very mature and fragmented industry look like? Those decisions can not be made by looking into the rear-view mirror, but will take individuals who are willing to look to the future and do what’s necessary.
If you have strong feelings about the consolidation, please make your thoughts known. As a member of PIA and/or NAPL it’s critical that you let our volunteer leaders know of the needs of the industry, not just what is best for the organizations. Laura Lawton-Forsythe with Lawton Printing in Spokane is PIA’s Chairman and leading the efforts for PIA. Darren Loken with Telepress located in Kent, Washington is NAPL’s chairman and working with Laura to make this effort come to fruition. Reach out to them and let them know how you feel.
Well, my crystal ball is a bit hazy this morning; so, I’ll share some ideas from some of my readings/webinars, etc. Let’s start with an article Barb Pellow posted on WhatTheyThink.com regarding 2012 and what to expect. Pellow covered many of the topics we’ve heard about over the past few years: 1.) We’re going to see more digital; 2.) There will be less offset; 3.) Mixed-media messaging will have a big play; 4.) Operational efficiencies will be critical; 5.) SAS (software-as-a-service) will be a solution for printers; and 5.) An ROI approach when purchasing capital equipment is more important than ever.
In an online NAPL webinar in February, Andy Paparozzi and Michael Graff (CEO Sandy Alexander) had a moderated discussion led by Howie Fenton. There were several key take-aways, which I though were crucial as we begin to look at 2012. 1.) The attitude of not knowing what’s to come is common place in small business. It could be technology, health care, legislative, or the economy; 2.) We’re seeing cost creep occurring across the industry – no surges; 3.) Hunkering down and riding these hard times is not an option; and 4.) We must listen to our customers and determine what they truly need.
The last item should be no surprise to firms who have a marketing focus. They find out what their customer really needs and develop a solution. This is VERY different than the approach we’ve historically used in our industry, and which we called “listening to our customer.” The customer would tell us that we needed a new “high-speed wiz-bang wachamacallit” like our competitors, and if we bought one, they would send us all their business. The result is over-capacity in the marketplace, while our competitors engage us in a defensive price war to keep the work from leaving their house. The customer gets an immediate solution in cheaper prices and in the long-term everyone loses.
All though I may not have the silver bullet, tune in for my next blog, when I’ll share some discussions I’ve had with printing (for lack of a better word) company owners who are re-thinking how we position our selves to be successful.
It’s been a little over 30 days since I’ve had my iPad, but I’m truly beginning to realize how much of a game changer this product is/will be. I have a high speed connection at home and 3G on the road and the ability to connect while mobile is as good if not better than my 4G Android. And there is no comparing a screen that measures 8 square inches vs. 48. But here’s the real difference, the apps that mimic a magazine or a book along with a move to influence the world of education.
With Apple’s aggressive move in January to whole-heartedly enter the education world, this is going to reverberate in many sectors. Granted expense is a big issue as Dr. Jerry Waite, University of Houston, stated at a recent meeting. He observed that he sees very few iPads on campus because of the expense. Yet, 10 years ago that was the identical comment we heard about laptops, and they are now everywhere on campus (secondary and post-secondary).
I can readily see the ubiquitous use of this device to compliment (maybe supplant with younger people) printed information (magazines/newspapers). I presently subscribe to print versions of the Wall Street Journal, Business Week, The Dallas Morning News, and Golf Digest. I also have the online versions. Although I gravitate to my printed versions (could be my roots – and age), I find the digital versions extremely easy to use when I’m short on time, and in some instances (Golf Digest) preferable.