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Companies in Transition: How to Get from Here to There

July 18, 2013

Printing CEOs are facing an extraordinary set of challenges. Virtually every company must make a major transition – selling quite different services to quite different markets in quite different ways.

It’s easy to describe what you need to do:

For your company to make a safe and healthy transition, you need to generate profits from your existing business, while you’re also building a new business model at the same time.

It’s simple to describe, but not so simple to do.

Most companies fail to recognize the amount of time it will require to fundamentally change their business model, and the amount of money as well.

It’s a long journey from here to there. Be sure you bring enough food to arrive intact at your destination.

HOLD ON… NOT SO FAST!

Many industries must transform themselves in response to market shifts and technological breakthroughs. Printers aren’t unique.

Most strategists strongly advise you to make the transformation quickly – leaving your past business model behind, so you can focus on making your firm into something entirely new. It sounds brave and forward-looking, but in industry after industry, companies that are built for traditional business rarely pull off a quick transformation by dropping one business model and picking up another one.

TALES OF THE PIONEERS…

The printing industry is filled with sad stories of companies that have committed completely to new business models only to learn how long it takes to make the transition.

Many companies have a visionary view of a digital future, but they’ve been so focused on building a model for the long term that they’ve run out of money in the short term.

It’s exciting to build an entirely new business model, and it’s easy to overlook the burdens of bringing in enough work to cover daily costs. That’s why managing the process of profitable change isn’t a simple matter of choosing between being heroic or timid.

Remember the story of the owl and the centipede: One day, a centipede was complaining to the wise old owl. “My feet are killing me. Every day.  All the time.”

 

The owl thought for a moment, blinked, and said: “Well, if you were a sparrow, you’d have only two feet. Just think how much better you’d feel.” The centipede was thrilled. “Great! How do I become a sparrow?”

The owl blinked again, turned his head and said: “Don’t ask ME. I just deal in concepts…”

TRANSFORMATION IS A LONG, SLOW PROCESS

It’s easy for commentators and journalists to tell printers how much better they’ll feel when they’ve become marketing solutions providers. But becoming a sparrow is no easy feat for a centipede and becoming a marketing solutions provider is not much easier for a printer. 

Being successful in selling entirely new added-value services requires much more than calling yourself a “marketing solutions provider.” It requires an entirely new skill-set, a new way of thinking, and entirely new kinds of people who probably know very little (and care even less) about printing.

 

Bob Rosen is president of R.H. Rosen Associates, a New York-area consulting firm that specializes solely in the graphic arts.

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