What Now?

That’s the question many are asking themselves two days after one of the most contentious elections in recent history.  I was going to stay away from any commentary, but after the barrage of news and discussions with friends and associates, I once again became a moth drawn to the flame.

If you are a Trump backer, you’re excited about the possibilities to “Make America Great Again.”  If you were a Hillary supporter, you’re still in shock of how this could have happened.  And then there’s a whole bunch of folks (and I include myself in that group) who want to see a different Donald Trump.  One who is willing to move his agenda forward, and yet remember that a 50/50 split in the electorate is not a mandate.

As many have said, “the people have spoken,” but it’s the 535 individuals in Congress plus the President’s cabinet and administration who govern, and that group is not very homogeneous.  Odds are that the majority of those folks are not in Mr. Trump’s camp; thus, how he approaches Congress (and all the other power brokers) over the next few months and into 2017 will be critical to OUR country’s future.

We’ll see a different nominee for the Supreme Court, and we will see different paths taken by the regulatory agencies (EPA, OSHA, etc.), but those are not as crucial as how this new Administration will respond to healthcare, immigration, and more importantly, foreign affairs. Yes, I know what’s been said by President-elect Trump, but saying and doing are very different as every President of the United States has discovered.

How will this play out for the printing/graphics/mailing/visual imaging industry and the thousands of firms and millions of employees?  Difficult to say since so many of those firms are small businesses, and no one was really talking about small business during the campaign. Read Mark Michelson’s article on the subject and the comments made by Michael Makin and Mark Nuzzaco, neither of whom are strangers to Washington D.C.

Yet, let us not forget that every one of those businesses will be affected since they are comprised of individuals.  Those employees and their families will see changes to their personal well-being because of the new administration.  For the good.  For the worse.  I remain cautiously optimistic for the first option.

It’s All About Selling

I just finished reading two articles of interest.  The first by Robert Byrne who is Mimeo’s CMM (Content Marketing Manager) titled “How The Printing Industry is Ripe for Disruption Through On-demand Digital Printing Adoption.” The second by Dr. Joe Webb titled “Traditional Publishing Ebbs, and Oh, Those CMOs.”

What I find of interest is there perspective.  Byrne is an individual who cut his teeth on the fast-moving world of digital content and marketing.  Webb is the grizzled industry veteran who is known for his economic discussions, but is a marketer at heart.

In Webb’s article, my takeaway is the need for a print provider’s sales team to focus on helping customers define their needs and provide solutions with a positive ROI – because marketers are struggling with all the varying channels to create more sales.  In Byrne’s article, my takeaway is the need to embrace the technological solutions.  It’s what Paul Reilly (New Direction Partners) calls “Proprietary Customer Interface.”  The ability to create customer solutions which are supported by online technology.

If you were to read the articles separately – or just viewed the world from those single perspectives, I feel you would miss opportunities.  Technology has always been the core of the industry, it just looks different today than 30 years ago.  For the vast majority of the industry (and their clients), online solutions have to be supported by knowledgeable and competent sales individuals.  Technology alone is not the solution.   If one is to look back at the print providers (or whatever you want to call them) who have succeeded over the past 30 years, there success is built on being able to sell solutions — and merge the right technology.  It’s always been that way — just ask Johannes Gutenberg, who ended up in bankruptcy.

Missouri Fire Storm

Several weeks ago the University of Central Missouri (UCM) made it known it was closing its Graphic Technologies program.  Needless to say this has created consternation for the instructors who have worked hard to make the program viable in our constantly changing industry.  It has also shocked alums who were recently made aware of this announcement.  Here’s a sample response from one of the program’s graduates, “This is unbelievable. What are they basing their decision to cancel the program on? Why would our program be deemed useless? With the successful digital industry we are experiencing today, I would have thought that technology would be a very popular area of study and one that would pull potential students. I will absolutely show my support any way I can.”

Yet, the reality is that over the past 10 years, dozens of four-year programs with a focus on “print” have closed around the United States.  The reason, in my opinion, is the lack of industry support.  The UCM program had support of suppliers (Fuji was one of those), but it lacked an “overwhelming” support of print providers who were committed to hiring students and becoming involved with the program.  It’s that type of interest and support which is important to college administrators, who sad to say are more focused on “bodies” in programs rather than how successful the graduates may be in their chosen industry, and I’ve met many UCM grads – who are bright and extremely passionate about our industry.

Although the door has not quite closed, if you would like to support the efforts being led by Dr. Mark Rankin (rankin@ucmo.edu) to keep this Missouri program operating – give him a shout and support his efforts to make the university’s management aware that the industry does care; otherwise another program will find its way to the ash can.

Journalism — It’s All About Content

Thanks to one of my web trolling buddies (Thanks Scott), I had the chance to see John Oliver’s 20-minute rant about journalism in a recent HBO “Last Week Tonight.”  Love or hate Oliver’s style (I find it interesting), there’s a lot of meat in this video.  I also found the “AdAge” editor’s approach to the story interesting – there was just as much focus on the last 90 seconds of “fluff” as there was to the heart of Oliver’s argument of the changing world of “journalism.”

Politics Are Local

OK, the fat lady is singing and the parties are over — so to speak.  We now have two candidates running for president which create heartburn for many “centrist” like myself.  For all the hate Hillary gets, I could have “accepted” her as president until the Democratic Party’s Platform made a big shift to the left.  In my opinion the Trumpster is totally unacceptable as an individual who has the chops to lead this country – and don’t give me that cr*p that he’s a business guy and understands how to lead.  Mr. Trump is a wealthy entrepreneur and they don’t do well in organizations.  Trust me.  Plus, his economic ravings concern me as much as the Democrat’s Platform.

So, what does that leave us?  Your local elected leaders.

There are 535 individuals (100 senators; 435 congressman) who ARE the folks who create laws – not the president.  They’re the folks we need to be electing — and more importantly – making sure they hear our opinions.  And don’t fall for that “they’re bought and paid for” by special interest groups (on both sides).  Yes, they’re being lobbied on a regular basis – but it’s the voters who keep our representatives employed.  So, it behooves us to make sure we have the right kind of folks representing us – not just folks who are listening to a vocal minority.

I have been fortunate over the years to be in the “belly of the beast” (Washington D.C.) working on behalf of the printing industry, and it’s a messy business. Yet, when it gets all set and done, it’s about that representative getting re-elected. So, if you don’t like the choices for president, make sure that your congressman or senator (and their staff, who really get the job done) hear your concerns and more importantly remind them that you’re a voter.  So, come November, let them her your voice!

 

Really?

This morning (Tuesday, July 12, 2016) Bloomberg reported that Xerox is in talks to acquire R.R. Donnelley.  Really??? Xerox has always had a hate/love relationship with many in the commercial and quick print industry.  Some  print providers saw Xerox as a direct competitor in managing “in-house” document centers which would move business out of the commercial space, and others did not like the fact that Xerox was selling equipment to both the commercial/print-for-pay firms while also selling to corporate end-users.  Many print providers saw, and continue to see, Xerox as a valued supplier.  Yet, this announcement may indicate that Xerox has decided to cross the Rubicon and position itself as a print provider rather than a manufacturer of equipment.  I’m perplexed by this announcement and will be curious to see how this all plays out.

All Lives Matter

This past week has clearly shown that we are dealing with biases in our society that are deeply rooted and cannot be ignored. Yet, when we state (by actions or words) that one part of society is more important than an another, we set ourselves up for failure – as we’ve just seen in a city that I consider home.

There’s a naiveté on the part of many activists that their actions – although well-meant – can set things right. Too often there are un-intended consequences which create a hothouse for the dis-enfranchised or bigots (of ALL colors). On the other side, there’s a feeling that lawlessness needs to be answered with aggressive tactics.

I for one, would like to see the powers that be representing both the “establishment” and the “disenfranchised” to walk in each other’s shoes, not just mouth platitudes.  There are real reasons why a minority might feel the way they do about the police, or why a police officer feels that no one appreciates the work they do – and the threats they deal with on a daily basis.

I’ve experienced both sides personally, as well as through the eyes of friends and family.  When one realizes that there are two sides to each story – and remains open to the idea that their perceptions could be incorrect – then we have the opportunity to improve our social well-being.  If one just wants to have a quick fix through legislation, or anarchy, the path becomes impossible.

The discussions we are presently having across the US and are hearing on a daily basis cannot be discounted.  It’s a dialogue of inclusion which has been slowly moving forward through my lifetime and needs to be continued, because ALL lives matter.

FedEx Is A Player

If anyone needs a reminder of the role print still plays, just take a look at FedEx/Office’s recently announced purchase –  1,800 Canon imagePRESS C700 color devices along with 1,400 HP DesignJet T3500 wide format printers. Although FedEx is not seen as a “commercial” printer by many in the industry, and their sales don’t show up in Department of Commerce data for the printing industry, they are a significant player.

As a company press release stated, “Our customers rely on us to provide the tools and technology they need to be successful and differentiate themselves from their competitors,” says Kim Dixon, executive VP and COO, FedEx Office. “The early feedback from our customers has been fantastic. They are thrilled with the vibrancy and quality of their color prints and large-format documents.”

Although this information may not portend well for many of the smaller firms in our industry, it reminds us that print is still an important channel of communications and there continues to be business opportunities.

Does Bernie Have It Right?

Over the years, I have become more and more cynical about our financial system – not that it’s a bad one, but one that tends to be too self-serving.  The Boys of Wall Street have a win-win game they play.  If you’re in the banking/investment industry, too often there is no downside.  Markets go up – you make money.  Markets go down – you still make money.  Try that in business – small business.  It doesn’t work that way.  Thus, the folks on the Street become insulated from the real world of people and basic economics, and I for one feel that’s not good for us.  If you want to look at a similar situation, look no further to the Fantasyland on The Potomac (Washington D.C.).  Too insular. And too much in control of our destinies.

Do I sound like one of Bernie’s followers?  Nope, his solutions aren’t the right ones – but he definitely brings up issues which should concern all of us.  Is there a simple solution?  NO, and that’s where the electorate (on the Trump and Sanders side) don’t get it. I hope that people can look at this complex web we have weaved over decades of regulatory and societal changes and realize that a “quick” fix, if possible, would be disastrous.   Any changes that will come from this next election will be slow to occur – and as much as I don’t like what I see from any of the candidates, I’m looking forward to slow. Let’s hear it for the turtles!

Right Hook

OK, now that the suspensions were handed out, it’s time to weigh into the Odor/Batista “incident.”  As much as I don’t believe the right hook (as good as it was) was probably the “answer” to the Joey Bats issue for the Rangers, it reminds us how much emotions make up what many consider a boring game.

The whole incident was reminiscent of some of the “old-school” baseball that I grew up watching.  You crowded the plate – and you got a 90 mph missile at your head.  Slides into second base which precluded the “incident” were the norm – they didn’t end up in fines and suspensions.  With today’s “investments” in players and the dollars involved with careers, MLB is much more concerned about safety than in the past.

Yet, we can’t forget that as in the past, many players play for the love and excitement of the game.  This is where I give Roogie (Odor) a pass.  He’s an excitable, passionate, young man – and that’s all right by me.  He has talent and if he’s able to steer that passion in the right way, he could very well be a real gem for the Rangers.  He has a pretty good mentor sitting at third base (Beltre), who could be very good for him. So, I give him a pass on this “incident,” and look forward to the next time the Rangers play Toronto (playoffs?).  It could be interesting.