Innovation isn’t easy. In fact, it’s typically accompanied by some pretty heavy fear. That’s why innovation tends to be put off until “the busy season is over,” “we’re back on our feet,” or “things return to normal after COVID.”
Sound a little too familiar?
Sure, your knees might wobble when you think about stepping out of your comfort zone, but that idea you have floating around in your head… the world needs to hear it! It doesn’t benefit anyone (including you) if it remains stuck inside your head.
“As part of being innovative, you have to be willing to fail. It’s not always easy. The last year has been challenging. But all I have is today. Sure, I have to plan for tomorrow, but I also have to trust that the Lord has it figured it out, and that’s enough for me.”
Those are the words of Joe Gass, president and co-owner of Heritage Printing, Signs & Displays, where innovation began by merely following a set-forth purpose, a purpose of striving “to be a valued resource that honors God by serving others.”
But let’s back up a little.
Brothers Joe and Steve Gass purchased Gass Printing Service in 1988 from their parents, following Joe’s six years of service in the United States Navy.
The last six months of Joe’s time in the United States Navy was spent on the USS Hermitage, so in honor, they rebranded their small quick printing company as Heritage Printing & Graphics in September of 1988. Thirty-two years later, this veteran-owned business has become an award-winning, full-service commercial printing and custom signs and display company with production facilities in Charlotte, North Carolina, and the Washington, D.C., area.
“In 2008, when we opened the office in Charlotte, we didn’t want to replicate what we were already doing, so we got into signage. It ended up being a great segue for us, a sort of hybrid, and helped us not just be another printer. It helped us be more relevant and innovative, and today, it represents two-thirds of our growing business,” says Joe.
Helping clients who are moving into a new space brand their environment has helped build on a stellar reputation established in the printing industry. Joe continues, “We help clients imagine what it would be like to transform their space visually, creating an environment that is exciting, inspiring, and engaging. That environment can make all the difference for a business by encouraging others to want to be there. We even call our production space our playground because it is truly a visual playground, where the magic happens! From the ceilings to the floors, there’s lots of texture, dimension, and shape.”
Heritage Printing’s pursuit of excellence and stellar reputation has led to a wealth of online reviews, earning them a 5-star rating on Google. They receive the kind of testimonials many companies only dream of:
This social proof is essential in the world of business today. When you don’t have reviews or testimonials throughout your website and marketing, consumers will move on to a vendor that does. Social proof is vital for building relationships and trust in a world where you might not ever meet an online client face to face.
Many companies don’t have the social proof they need simply because they don’t know how to get started. Take a lesson from Heritage Printing with these tips.
“If you leave a favorable impression, it’s a pretty easy ask. You can ask verbally or by email. But however you ask, you want to consider it a great privilege and honor for them to leave you a review, so make sure you’re worth it. And, always thank them for their business and tell them you’re grateful for them sharing their experience. Use your business to bless and serve others,” Joe says.
“Getting reviews and building a good online reputation won’t happen without being intentional. Remind your staff to look over client opportunities, send out a statement asking about their experience, do some follow-up, you know, have them get on the phone and ask if the completed project is working well for them. Sometimes it helps if there’s a little friendly competition in the office between team members, maybe a gift they could receive for the most reviews that month or quarter,” offers Joe.
“There will be moments when you’re not at your best. This is why follow-up after the job is so important. Follow up with the review giver. Even if we get a 4-star review, we follow up with the client and ask how we can make it a five. How do we go over the top for you? If you’re seeking 5-star performance, you need to learn from everything and go after it,” Joe explains.
The world is changing. You need to be ready for it, and it starts with your mindset.
As Joe explains, “If I tell people I’m a printer, they already have an idea in their mind of what I do and think Ben Franklin is going to walk out of our back room to greet them. That’s why I tell people I’m in the visual transformation business – because it leads to questions. You’ve got to balance what you’re doing in the printing realm with something else. Find an industry or niche and become an expert. For us, it’s been signage. Consider the needs of the community you serve and think of a sidebar from printing. Be collateral to what your clients are already needing.”
“You don’t need to do this all on your own either,” Joe continues. “Hire creative people that can exist in the creative space but also have strong skills in executing. I’m a dreamer and a big-picture guy. Let your people take your vision and make it happen. Execute opportunities. Cast your vision, but remember, a dreamer without an implementer is useless.”
When asked what advice Joe would give to other printers, he offers some words of wisdom.
“Think how much has changed in the last three to five years. Now, think how much it’ll change in the next three to five years. You can’t afford to fail to innovate. You must meet the changing needs of your clients and remain valuable. Don’t be happy with average. Do your best. Stop thinking you’re just another small printer and do things world-class. Recruit the best. Stop asking yourself, ‘Why would people want to leave us a review?’ and start asking, ‘Why would they not?’”
This article originally appeared in the May 2021 issue of NPSOA magazine. For more information on how you can become an NPSOA member and enjoy the many benefits offered there, contact Member Services at email@example.com or head to their website at NPSOA.org.