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Why has your business changed and why this must continue – or perish?

Firstly let’s look at the word change:

Verb:  1. make or become different.  “a proposal to change the work we do” or

2. take or use another instead of. “The equipment we have may have to change its original output to produce another product”

Noun: 1. an act or process through which something becomes different. “The change from a sign manufacturer to a graphic solutions provider.”

The origin point for business failure can be defined by the organization’s inability to change. Why is change so difficult? Realistically, there is almost infinite number of reasons why people struggle with change.

Without delving too deeply here are a few ideas about change for you to tackle:

1.  People – are you ready to change

Considering people are key to your operation, it is prudent to recognise they also need to be developed and assisted to understand the change, especially considering they make up a large percentage of your costs. Your ability to work with your team is paramount is the survival of your business.

• We have always done it this way – old habits die hard; your challenge is to develop those who want change.

• People resist losing control – many can work between being in control and following the pack; review your team.

• What’s in it for me? WIITFM – understand the process of change relative to the people involved and take time to educate the benefits and features for them.

• Exhaustion – businesses that continually change without balance often leave the team behind or just wear them out.

• Insecurity – stress often results from the unknown – keep your team informed appropriately.

• Reduction in power or loss or prestige – many fear change will reduce their skills, leave them feeling silly or inadequate or lower their self-esteem.

2. Equipment – output increases that will take your breath away

Over the last three decades, we have seen a rate of change that I would like to propose is at least a 3000 percent increase from the starting point in signage, including wide format, while in small format print, it’s many times more! 

Let’s look at the game changers over the last few decades:

• Sign writing to vinyl lettering – Sign manufacturing for decades was performed using traditional techniques. From the early 80’s, we observed traditional hand sign-making skills that would normally take 1 1/2 hours for say 1m2 of normal lettering reduce to around 10 minutes. That is a change – an increase in output of 900%.

• Vinyl letters to digital print – In the late 90s, we witnessed the development of wide format digital printing equipment, initially with an output of approximately 1m2 per hour and rapidly increase to around 80 m² per hour for what are now termed commercial low volume printers, just like most small sign shops. Double that for mid-range to high-volume printers – let’s just say it’s a 200% increase.

• Offset print to small format print – Even a casual observer has to conclude this area has been in parallel to the revolution that has taken place in sign and wide format. The operators have been immersed in introducing totally new technologies. It’s fair to say most of those who have embraced change are the market leaders. While those who haven’t are languishing, merging, gone out of business or still have a niche market for them to survive. Yes, it’s obvious the technologies have merged the print industry and the sign industry.

• What next – hang on to your hat: I put to you it is not just about vinyl letters or wide format digitally printed signs at a per m2 rate as if you peek wider afield – with emerging printer head technologies like waterfall or other patented technologies its highly likely to break through the 500m2 -to 1000+ m2 rate over the next few years.

You can rest assured the many heavyweight international and local equipment suppliers will continue to dazzle us with further leaps forward in speed and quality – but what about other applications? Trust me, they are already on the drawing board or in prototype.

Ok, now we have a new ever merging industry dubbed “the Print, Sign and Graphic industry” I suggest it is not the end point but the acknowledgement of the start of a new beginning. – Are you ready? You can console and justify yourself with this comment – Well, you made it so far, so forearmed is the very start of enjoying the road ahead.

3. Market areas – which sector can deliver profit and growth to your business?

I suggest it’s safe to say many existing business models are under threat – that is an accepted fact. Your accrued business knowledge has witnessed many changes, increased business collapses, people struggling with what they once produce and assessing its current relevancy. Many are taking the easy route – just spend their days complaining!  – Hmm, maybe the dinosaurs complained about their changing circumstances too?

This is a great thing for those who love change!

Answer these questions:

1. Is your business ready to find new markets and develop customers in this brave new world?

2. If your business model is a proven and tested ask yourself: “will my methods work for 2020 – that’s only five years away? “

Refer below to a recent USA survey by SGIAA. There is much you can take home from these figures – however for me the standout is the continuance of a 10% swing to entirely digital – therefore what is the next phase of digital?

That is The Big Question!

Therefore your challenge is to understand the growing markets and capitalize on them. The full evolution of disruptive technology is increasing it hold more rapidly.

Therefore your challenge is – which of the rapidity evolving markets in digital technology are for you and your clients?

• 3D or additive printing – imagine a wide format 3D printer printing out an illuminated sign cabinet, showcase or sign. I was at a customer premise last week and they needed a bracket to wall hang a sign – Yes, they 3D printed it!

• Soft signage – This has been evolving and the future is unlimited.

• Digital advertising – Sure, it’s been around for a while, however, largely at the top end of town.

• Emerging digital printer trends – The ‘sign and graphics markets’ are a fraction of areas like the décor market place or packaging.

My glimpse into the future – the market needs agile, innovative and market focused entrepreneurs who will immerse themselves in the client’s problem and become their ultimate graphic solutions provider.

4. How can your management style tackle the increasing challenges that technology and compliance is pushing you to accept?

Yes, I will show a bias in this simple statement –“If you are not using computer software to develop your quotes, manage your job sheets, balance your production, integrate your marketing, produce your accounts and virtually every area of your work flow – why not? Simply put, if you can find a job for a banner in seconds, with the artwork linked and customer, well, you are burning money.

Likewise, compliance in all western countries is the new conundrum people in the sign and print business have pretended to ignore. Let me offer you a reality check – in light of recent Work, Health, and Safety (WHS) prosecutions in Melbourne and other high profile sign business being fined a large sum of money, its time to understand this high profile case will impact on you directly.

The simple reality is this case, with fines around $250,000, will more than likely lead to criminal charges and potentially prison time. Ignorance is not an excuse. WHS has been around for decades, and you need to act comprehensively – right now.

There are simple, effective methods to deliver compliance across the broader areas of your business. You need to become a part of the solution and see this very clearly. WHS systems are not a burden they are the law; therefore, isn’t it the most intelligent option is to integrate WHS just like your business management software into a daily routine and see it as a productivity tool. If you think that you can continue to avoid compliance, and you can offer a million reasons why, then more than likely you are acknowledging you are breaking the law.

5. Where in your future plans are pathways that develop the real benefits for you, your business and your clients

Perhaps the key to the entire article, and if I may be so bold, is your future business?  Once again, I challenge you to consider this simple statement – “the business which has the best relationship with the customer will triumph.”

This area is all about you understanding and listening to your customer’s needs. Well, you say that’s nothing new, and yes I agree. However, in the coming years, we will see massive changes in technologies, speed of production, and increase in range of opportunities. Are these for you, or will you let them slide by?

I offer just a few glimpses into the range of choices you need to make. These are just a few:

• Have a clear vision for the business output you will make, as without this you won’t know what kind of services and products to identify and develop for your customers.

• Decide what you want out of your business, define your products and requirements. Then, develop your customer base around that vision.

• What role does your business play in adding value to your customers business?

• Is your business just a supplier or should your forge a logistics partnership – your products, services and quality actually become part of your customer’s vital lifeline?

• Perhaps your future lies in ecommerce – you offer personalised e-ordering whereby the ordering portal you have developed once again is a part of your customer’s vital lifeline?

• Define the potential to increase the economic value of the business, and decide whether you need to pull or push, by way of a simple explanation: a customer wants to buy a product (pull), and your business (push) will satisfy the customer’s needs. Is this a sustainable model for the future for you? Or should your pull?

• Define any potential barriers which could arise to hinder a successful outcome – make a list

• Do you have any fears and/or doubts? Make a list

• Is there a transition phase, to change your marketing direction?

Put plans in place for managing the marketing and sales process; create policies that build trust, respect and connection to the right people within your customers business. The smart and easy path is to bring in an expert! Why? One of the most emotionally charged business environments you will ever find yourself in is being unstoppable and committed to reinvent a process you are comfortable with.

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