An American Printer Commentary
By Andy & Julie Plata
Last month we endured days of subfreezing Texas weather without electricity and water. From that experience, we decided to insert this new chapter in our “4 Keys to Thriving Beyond 2021” article series.
As we sat in our dark, cold home, we realized that our state’s power infrastructure implosion provided a lesson for print companies. Here is how we came to that realization.
Texas Power Infrastructure
When most people think of Texas, they think HOT. But Texas has been paralyzed several times in the past years with prolonged freezing weather episodes.
The state’s weather patterns have changed and will continue changing. Meanwhile, those charged with managing Texas’ power infrastructure, failed to pay attention to the changing conditions. To provide an idea of how unprepared for the cold weather south Texas is, the military had to fly in snowplows to clear the highway to allow essential workers to drive to work at the US airbase in San Antonio.
That 2011 incident should have provided power grid authorities with the big hint to prepare for more extreme cold spells. That’s because that year Texans had to endure days of power and water outages due to extremely cold weather. But rather than heeding detailed recommendations to winterize the power grid infrastructure, power officials ignored or filed them away for “later action”. It is easier to do little tweaks and hope for the best than to invest resources to upgrade to prevent future losses.
Print Company Infrastructure
From our business interests, we meet with and assist many leaders of print companies. Some of the most interesting discussions are related to changes in the print industry. Decreasing volumes, shorter run lengths, smaller profit margins, and the accelerating move to digital are the most pressing items.
As in Texas, many print professionals prefer to ignore or delay responding to the changing business and technology climate. With the demands of the day – both in time and money – many decide to put needed updates, upgrades, and replacements on the back burner.
For sure, Texas has been patching power grid problems that have arisen since the 2011 storm. But patching does not solve the underlying problem.
Printers are adept at confronting and fixing problems, such as an incomplete order or lack of inventory. The fix may require discounting an invoice or rushing out for needed supplies.
Fixing is transactional. A problem occurs and we fix it. But fixes seldom prevent future problems. Solving problem causes requires strategic, versus transactional, actions.
Texas could have prevented last month’s power meltdown. Many parts of North America maintain electricity during extremely cold weather. The difference was that Texas did not act strategically. Why? Because strategic actions are often thought to require too much investment in time and money. But what if the investment was measured against the cost of fixing last month’s loss of life, shelter, business revenue, and tax revenue?
Much the same happens in print companies. A serious problem occurs, and everyone scrambles for ways to fix the problem and save the job and client relationship. Reprimanding someone or fixing a machine or adding one more chalkboard on the production floor to keep track of workflow is quick, easy, and inexpensive. But a good oddsmaker would bet that the problem will reoccur multiple times in the future.
The owner of a mid-size print company responded to an article about our Software Assistance division with a call for help. His company had recently experienced a serious problem with a client’s job. He expressed strong frustration with the firm’s software, workflow, and MIS options. In our initial call, he was seeking a strategic solution. However, when we reconnected a few weeks later, the problem had been patched, his immediate pain had subsided and so had his goal for a strategic solution.
Most of us are quick to recognize needed infrastructure solutions when a problem occurs. But as soon as the problem is patched, we forget the value to be gained by investing in a true solution.
Texas power grid was patched up many times since 2011, but those fixes were of little use in 2021. Had they invested the time and money on infrastructure upgrades, Texans would have been warmer and wealthier.
Let’s face it, the print world has changed over the last few years. And it’s not going back any time soon to the good old days when print was king. So, it’s time to begin changing to keep up with the changes.
Not keeping up is an option, but, that is how we ended up sitting in a dark, cold house for days. Our suggestion is not to let that happen to your company, clients, and employees.
We recommend paying close attention to the signs of change in the print business. And then use insights gained to move ahead of those who choose to delay upgrading their business infrastructure.
We trust our article series titled “4 Keys to Thriving Beyond 2021” provides usable go-forward strategies for success well beyond 2021. If not let us know.
4 Keys to Thriving Beyond 2021
- Accelerate digital and automation transformations
- Wholeheartedly embrace new strategies and practices
- Establish “Green” as a competitive advantage
- Aggressively market your business to a much broader audience
Change can be difficult but resisting changing can be worse. Make those resource investments as soon as possible. If we or our Software Assistance associates can be of help, please let us know.
We believe new opportunities can develop from challenging situations. Therefore, we will continue offering insights on driving efficiencies to keep your business profitable.
Empowering the print message for the digital age,
Andy & Julie Plata
Co-CEOs, American Printer, and the OutputLinks Communications Group