Tell someone in our industry that you are a print broker, and for many that’s tantamount to saying you’re a sociopath with a contagious disease. Yet, InnerWorkings, a print management firm (broker on steroids) was just listed by Forbes as one o the top 100 trustworthy firms. What does this tell us about the our industry’s sales model?
Whether we like it or not, or whether there’s a question if it’s ethical or not; engaging and informing our elected officials involves money. And with all the “reform” we’ve had over the past 15 years, the methods of influence are not as transparent as we would like to think. And if we refuse to play; our voice will NEVER be heard; thus the dilemma for many.
Printing Industries of America has always played in this arena – and per many of its members, it’s one of the most valued roles of the Association. Over the many decades of advocacy, Printing Industries of America has been very influential in either modifying or changing laws detrimental to the industry. Although the Association can only be successful if its message is heard – and that means there has to be a way to help elect/re-elect representatives in Congress who understand and are willing to listen to small business issues. And that means money.
Trade associations (and other similar organizations) are constrained in using “corporate” dollars to engage legislators. Thus, if an organization wants to help a legislator who is friendly to the industry, it requires PAC (political action committee) money. Our industry has a PAC. It’s called PrintPAC.
PrintPAC’s role is to help ensure that legislators who understand small business issues are supported – regardless of which side of the political fence they sit upon. And these funds are strictly used (and governed) for that use only. Funding for the Association’s legislative team comes from the Association’s operating budget.
Thus, nationwide a campaign has begun to help fund PrintPAC. We’re not asking for much. $50.00; $100; and if someone is generous, we’ll take $500. That’s not a lot of money when one considers the importance of having our voice heard in Washington.
If each owner or manager of a company could provide a minimum of $1.00 per employee for PrintPAC on an annual basis, the result would be legendary. Since the average size of a company is 28 employees, we’re not talking big dollars – but we need more than just a handful of companies (less than 200 individuals support PrintPAC) to support PrintPAC.
With the many issues Congress is facing – from health care issues to USPS issues, our industry will be affected; thus, it’s critically important that have a say in the legislation, not just hope things will go our way. It’s important to remember the old adage – if you’re not at the dinner table, you become dinner.
I’m sure he won’t mind be referred to as the “other” Joe, since he’s so extremely well known in the industry. I’m speaking about Dr. Joe Webb, and I want to share this tidbit from some of his recent commentary in WhatTheyThink.
“Speaking of living beings, the Pew Internet Survey reported a near doubling of U.S. tablet computer owners in about a 4-6 week period: “The share of adults in the United States who own tablet computers nearly doubled from 10% to 19% between mid-December and early January and the same surge in growth also applied to e-book readers, which also jumped from 10% to 19% over the same time period.” Pew also stated that 36% of households earning more than $75,000 now have tablet computers, and almost one-third of those with college educations had them. There was a big leap in ownership for consumers under 50 years old. “
According to an analyst interviewed on Bloomberg, Apple’s profits in calendar Q4-2011 were $13.1 billion, which exceeded average analyst projections by 36%, and revenue beat their forecasts by $7.3 billion, with sales in the quarter of $46 billion. Great, Apple had an excellent quarter, and there’s good reason why the stock broke the $500/share level. Except that’s not the interesting story.
Apple is in the S&P 500 index, which had a gain in profits for calendar Q4-2011 of +4.4%. But if you drop Apple out of the calculation, the remaining “S&P 499” shows a decline of -4.2%. Now that’s a story. So Apple’s $13 billion in profits, more than 25% of its revenues, is distorting the rest of the stock market. The disparity in performance is so large that investors are worried about diversification in exchange traded funds (ETFs); Apple’s value now represents 16% of the value of the NASDAQ 100 index.”
What I find of interest — and what Joe calls to our attention — is that Apple is the 800# gorilla of the digital and financial world. And this commentary was written nearly a month ago — prior to Apple announcing what they were going to do with the $100 billion in cash they were sitting on and before the introduction of the iPad3.
For many of us who have a 401K plan as our primary retirement vehicle, it’s time to wake up and realize that our plan’s performance has not been as good as what our financial advisor was telling us. You might not be a fan of this administration, but they got it right by requiring the financial community to be more forthcoming on fees. This is an area that has been hidden behind smoke screens for years and even savvy administrators have not been able to get the whole story.
Why is this new rule important? Because over 15-20 years, these fees add up and given the lackluster performance over the past 10 years of many money managers, it could be the difference between making money or losing it. If you’re serious about maximizing your 401K return, here’s a great article from SmartMoney that’s worth reading.
I’m often surprised by how many people have never heard of this annual event held in Austin Texas, which started over the past weekend. One of the reasons may be because its historical focus has been on leading-edge music and film. With thousands of young hipsters visiting over 1,500 live acts and moving screenings over nine days, it doesn’t seem like a place for most folks in our industry. Yet, ignore this event at your own peril.
Since its creation, SXSW (short hand for the event) has included dozens of seminars on interactive topics and has grown to the point that last year over 20,000 attended the interactive portion of the conference. I spoke to PIA’s Julie Shaffer last year right after she had attended the conference for the first time. She was ecstatic about the topics being discussed and the discussions of interactive technology. The only downside was that she admitted that the average age of the attendee was a bit closer to her children than many of her peers.
If you are serious about becoming a provider of interactive/mobile services, or wish to better understand how they will affect the world of print, you should attend SXSW. It’s too late this year, because you probably won’t find an open hotel room anywhere within a 60 mile radius of Austin, but put it on your calendar for next year – it will be worth the experience.
With the advent of digital files, automation, and corporate down-sizing, one of the most interesting phenomena of the past few years is the rise of the print broker, or sometimes known as a print management provider. Firms such as InnerWorkings and One Source are relatively new, while more established firms such as Standard Register and Safeguard Business Systems offer a mix of production and “brokered” sales.
We have always had “independent” representatives in our industry. I’ve found comments about brokers in PIA newsletters going back over 100 years, and they were considered persona non grata by many then and now. Yet, we need to accept that this business model is not going away. Put yourself in a buyer’s shoes.
This is an individual who is responsible for a broad variety of purchases – not just print. They have a very full plate and don’t have the time to become an expert in the world of print; thus, why not go with a print procurement group (another name for a brokerage firm)? These organizations work extremely hard to provide unique services and support that many “traditional” firms are not equipped to offer. It’s one-stop shopping – and in our hectic world of the 21st century it’s the way most of us like to do business.
Here are some quotes from several firms who provide print management services (from their websites):
“Printing Services are an essential component of most business’s day to day operations, especially when it comes to marketing and business growth. Print Brokers are a proven approach to sourcing the correct quantity and quality of printing services which have become more accessible, complex and powerful with the development of modern technology and communications.”
“While we at Sophizo know that printing-related cost savings and global sustainability can go hand in hand, many Fortune 500 companies may not. With over 30 years of printing and marketing experience, we recognize the importance of a corporate brand’s printed marketing materials as well as the need to minimize their cost. Sophizio’s print procurement strategies embrace global corporate sustainability initiatives that protect people, planet and profit.
We are not a print-buying company; we are print procurement strategy consultants who enthusiastically choose to use our craft in making a difference for our corporate clients and our world.”
Thus the closing question – what is your company doing to 1.) embrace this model or 2.) combat it?