How to Run Your Print Business on Purpose: The Experts Weigh In!

Albert Einstein once said, “The only mistake in life is the lesson not learned.”

Owning and operating an impactful and successful printing company doesn’t happen overnight or by accident. It takes years of passion, integrity, grit, and above all, intentionality.

The Oxford Dictionary defines intentionality as: “The fact of being deliberate or purposive.” So, here’s the million-dollar question:

Are you running your print company with purpose? 

When your purpose is clear, you can keep your print business on the straight and narrow and leave the legacy you’re dreaming of for your company.

Keep reading to learn from the valuable lessons of others who are striving to run their print companies on purpose.

Don’t Be Naive

Jacqueline Maher, Owner of A-Link Printing and Marketing Solutions in Pittsburgh, Pennslyvania

At the age of 22, I was full of confidence. Armed with my finance degree, a summer internship at a franchise headquarters, and two weeks of owner training, I thought I knew everything, or was at least ready for it. But looking back 33 years later, I realize there was MUCH to learn, and sometimes, we learned it the hard way.

Simply being naive cost us time, money, and, sometimes, literally even the clothes off of our backs.

For example, I once lost the white suit I was wearing when I  put my arm into the tanks to avoid calling a repairman for our platemaker.

On the flipside, the positive effect of confidence and trusting others is the guts to take chances. It is what makes us add new services, learn new technology, take on jobs that challenge our abilities, reinvent ourselves, stay in business, and thrive in an evolving industry.

Grow Slowly

Derek Brooks, Owner of Brandywine Printing in Cumming, Georgia

One of the greatest lessons I’ve learned in the printing business is to grow slowly and don’t borrow money.

In 2006, we invested in a Heidelberg SupraSetter. It increased our throughput dramatically, but it was much more than we needed in a CTP system. It worked great for the first couple of years, and would have continued to work great if the market hadn’t changed so dramatically in 2008.

As a result of the “economic downturn,” we had to change or die. Long story short, after 30 years in the offset business, we became a digital printshop over a two-year span. The final 12 months of the loan on the SupraSetter consisted of a $3,000 payment every month, and we never even turned it on. We ended up selling it for a huge loss, and it was all very painful.

The lesson that we learned was that borrowing money was not wise. Since then, we became a debt-free company. It’s pretty amazing how you can accumulate cash when you’re not giving it to the bank! Now, we just save money, pay cash for equipment, and sleep really well!

Focus on Your Service

Patrick Ryan, Owner of Modern Press in Albany, New York

As the third-generation owner of a commercial printing company in Albany, New York, I’ve had the honor of working with my father for the last 26 years. How and what my father (and grandfather) printed is much different than today, but their wisdom still holds true. These are some of the lessons he passed along to me:

Smile and say “no problem.”
Never express anxiety to the customer about getting their job done when they want it. You can stress all you want after they walk out the door, but customers don’t want to hear about your problems. They just want to take their problem (getting something printed) and hand it off to you.

Get the job done. If you don’t get the job done, there is no shortage of competition that will.

Be nice! Alienating even the most obnoxious person can have damaging effects. They have nothing to lose. We have everything to lose (our livelihood).

Hire the best and treat them well. That goes for vendors too. We have the best CPA, the best attorney, and the very best marketer for our website and Printer’s Press Newsletter (Marketing Ideas For Printers).

Be Your Biggest Advocate

Dick Olenych, Owner of Spectrum Printing, Home of the Happy Printers, in Virginia Beach, Virginia

Dick the Happy Printer

I think all of us would like to be busier. I like it when my shop is busy.

I also like it when we get new customers.

As small business owners, we should be our biggest advocates. We should be our own best salespeople. We need to be.

But if your revenues are falling, for whatever reason, the best thing you can do is to ask yourself what you should be doing differently.

The reality is, every day should be a new sales and marketing challenge for your company that helps determine what’s working and what’s not.

You should be the best salesperson for your company. Never forget that.

I don’t mind when people complain that they’re not as busy as they used to be. That’s normal. But if that’s your mantra, then you have to change. You have to do something differently.

Will today be different for you?  It should be.