Print shop Confessional

Discussion in 'Printing Business Practices' started by chris Mosier, Jun 24, 2019.

  1. chris Mosier

    chris Mosier Member

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    Greetings all,
    I am a quasi manager at a really small print shop in the american south west. the shop is not failing, but its far from thriving. I am a designer NOT a manager so I am learning on the fly. Im pretty discouraged at this point...

    I was wondering what experience you all have had with turning a shop around? or if you have been awesome form the get go what are your best practices that you operate by. If you don't mind sharing.

    I will continue to read these forums, and thank you in advance for sharing.
     
  2. OkiTech

    OkiTech Senior Member

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    For me in Brooklyn NY, turning point was BluePrint drawings copy/scan/print. I bought a used working machine at a good price just for the hell of it and very soon we got very busy with this service. Also you have learn and keep track of what your customers want and what kind of service is not offered around, if you figure it out, people will come for something nobody else does and bring the rest of their business just because one stop shop is very convenient for them.
     
  3. chris Mosier

    chris Mosier Member

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    OkiTech,
    First, thank you for the reply. I see what you mean. I will think on my community and see what I come up with. As far as keeping track of what your customers want do you have a system or a workflow that helps with organization?
    thanks again for the insightful suggestion.

    Laterz
     
  4. OkiTech

    OkiTech Senior Member

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    At the time there was no system or workflow. My wife and I just stood at the counter talking to every customer, askin them what else do they currently or possibly need that requires laying ink on any kind of media, all while having $12-20-30-50 a day in the register. At some point it grew and printing shop+copier/printer sales, service company was grossing 700-800k, but thats years later after moving 3 times due to premises outgrow, taking on a partner, 6 employees and so on.
     
  5. jwheeler

    jwheeler Member

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    Chris, I went through this same scenario. My degree is in graphic design and therefore I was a graphic designer/digital press operator at a small print shop. When the owner's house burned down in a fire, I was suddenly put in charge of managing the place so he could work on rebuilding his house/life. The shop was doing around $800k/yr when I took over, and ended up doing $1.2mil/yr when I left. I have lots of areas I can give advice on...what area are you specifically looking for help in? Scheduling? Workflow? Marketing? It would also help to know the current status of your shop...such as how many employees, types of equipment/work, do you have an MIS, do you have a web-to-print, etc.
     
  6. chris Mosier

    chris Mosier Member

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    Hi jwheeler

    Thank you for your response. Literal trial by fire. thats nuts. well done on the turn around.
    What was the structure like when you got there? how did you improve on it?

    So here is the shop in a nutshell.
    The owner and his wife took the shop over from another shady guy.
    Now they are in over their head.
    all the orders go through the owners head so there is a lot of lost detail.
    the wife is an artist turned graphic designer. talented but overwhelmed
    Myself I am a aspiring comic book artist / wage slave sign maker
    also a talented young man who keeps the computers up and runs the front.
    we have two leased digital printers,
    one challenge cutter from the 70s
    way old printleader software that is running on a virtual machine
    and a mish mash of functional to semi functional computers.

    our community is small only a few thousand people. if it were not for the food processing plant and the school district we would not be able to make it.
    So i want to expand services, but make the service better for our big accounts.

    Obviously I am missing out on a lot of opportunities, but i need to flush bad habits and install a work flow.
    I have been here a year and am not making the progress i would have like to so i am up for suggestions in a big way

    Thanks again.

    Laterz
     
  7. chris Mosier

    chris Mosier Member

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    So you put it together brick by brick then. thats awesome. This is sort of an inherited gig. see the boss took the shop over from his boss and that guy was a knucklehead so he stuck it too em a little of the sale price. my point being the "process" we have now is really just a lot of bad habits strung together.
    I would like to go digital. I looked at google products for a while but found the whole thing overwhelming. then i have to get everybody in the office on board.
    do use software to keep track of your jobs?

    thanks

    Laterz
     
  8. jwheeler

    jwheeler Member

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    I pulled out the key points from your response and will respond accordingly:

    1. What was the structure like when you got there? how did you improve on it?

    All quotes/work orders went through the owner and his wife. She did the book keeping too. They were the face of the shop, and they attended local chamber meetings and networking events to help get new customers. They used an antiquated DOS command-prompt MIS software that was lacking in so many ways. There was myself and one other pre-press/graphics guy. We both ran the digital presses as well. We had one bindery guy and 2 offset pressman who helped in bindery when not running the presses. We had no website. We didn't have our own email domain, just used AOL.

    I slowly changed lots of things over time. Here are a few of the ones that made a really big impact...

    For starters, I upgraded to a new MIS system. This was a time consuming but very worthwhile process. The new software tracked everything which was part of other future plans. I wanted to know how much we were outsourcing of specific items to know if there was a justifiable ROI to bring certain things in house. We quickly realized we were outsourcing so much wide format work that we could quickly justify our own equipment. This expanded to bringing in our own mailing services/equipment and so on (this was probably the biggest money maker for the shop). It was also important to me that the software not only produced a quote, but showed me how much profit was in a job. Up to this point, the owner was sort of winging it. He knew his general costs like plates or clicks, but didn't take all things into account like waste, setup time, etc.

    I also developed a website for us and got our own email domain. This is essential in today's market for any business. I also created our business profile on several review sites such as Yelp, Google reviews, Insider Pages, etc. I then put a link to those pages on our website and at the bottom of our email signature. I made it a point to ask satisfied customers to leave us a review.

    I eventually turned the website into a web-to-print solution so our biggest customers had their own log ins, could typeset their own business cards, place reorders, etc.

    The software also allowed me to print out a WIP (work in progress report) and create schedules for the different departments. This way, I could organize the jobs in the order I needed them done for the different employees, rather than just letting them work through the pile on whichever jobs they picked.

    I signed us up for Constant Contact and emailed out monthly e-newsletters to our customer base with coupons/specials and I made sure to include ads for services many of our customer's may have not known we did such as printing on promotional items like pens, cups, etc. (we outsourced this, but it was a great added service)

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    2. All the orders go through the owners head so there is a lot of lost detail/Way old printleader software that is running on a virtual machine

    This has to stop immediately. All orders should be entered into your MIS (PrintLeader). If it doesn't meet the shops needs, then get a new one. There's lots to choose from out there. There will come a day or week when the owner is off and you will not know how he priced the job last time, or what paper it was done on, etc. Also, having a good functioning MIS will allow you to do the things I mentioned above.

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    3. If it were not for the food processing plant and the school district we would not be able to make it.

    You need to invest alot of energy and attention into keeping these customers. They sound big enough that if you lost either one, your print shop could crumble quickly. Setup a Web-to-Print site with log-ins for each of them. Put their most commonly ordered items on there for easy re-order, make it so they can typeset their own business cards, place new orders, and so on. Then go and present it to the right people. They will see the investment you made in time and money and it will go a long way. Be aware that the same copier sales guy who sold you your machines, is also approaching them to setup their own in-plant. I know because I used to sell printing equipment and software. Make sure in your presentation that you let them know you can also make their promotional items, t-shirts, posters, banners, doing their mailings, or any other services you offer.

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    4. So i want to expand services, but make the service better for our big accounts.

    I think I answered this with different ideas above. But you can easily expand services by finding good partners that you can outsource to...then as that part of the business grows, see if it's worth it to invest in your own equipment to do it in-house. There were certain things we were on the fence about bringing in-house such as UV coating. When I was working there, UV was a newer thing and everyone wanted it, so we almost got our own machine. But then companies like 4Over started opening up and it was easier to to just outsource. Slowly over time, we saw that people were getting away from UV since you couldn't write on it and we sold the idea of how matte looked more professional.

    ---
    Another thing that brought in lots of new business was regular attendance at networking groups and chamber meetings. Don't just go to your city's chamber meeting, go to the surrounding cities as well (or get your owner and his wife to do this). We also made sure to attend grand openings of new businesses, or even tried to stay ahead of the game by keeping in contact with the city chamber to find out who will be having a grand opening so we could contact them ahead of time to make their banners, etc.
     
  9. chris Mosier

    chris Mosier Member

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    WOW, thank you for you thoughts. this is great.
    I am going to process all this and probably have more questions, but in the mean time. should I be looking for MIS software that is print shop specific or something customizable?
    Also how much should i be looking to spend on MIS software? There is not a budget for getting fleeced.

    Thank you again i really appreciate you taking time to talk with me.

    Later
     
  10. jwheeler

    jwheeler Member

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    Definitely specific to printing. And there are lots of choices. Your PrintLeader software got bought out by EFI back in 2013. EFI has an MIS called PrintSmith. It's a great option to consider if you have Fiery's on your engines because the software will have 2-way communication with the Fiery servers. I have not personally used it, only seen demo's on it. I have read in other forums that it can be buggy and they are not always quick to fix. It has different modules you can purchase so the pricing can range from ~$4k to $12k+. Another low cost option is Printer's Plan. It's a simple, clean interface...and I like that it's locally hosted where as all the rest have gone to cloud hosted only. Again, all of these have modules so the price can range. I have also heard good things about Avanti Slingshot. There are many out there and I'm not going to say you should get one over the other...just reach out and ask to see a demo to verify it meets the needs of your shop. The shop I worked at was a franchise, and we used the proprietary MIS they offered. I worked at another print shop after that and implemented an MIS called "Printers Software". I did not like that one. They showed a really good demo which is why we purchased it, but once it got to the installation process, we uncovered that the software was missing alot of features. One very important thing that was missing was the ability to enter our costs. I made the terrible assumption that it had this because the last 2 MIS systems I worked with did have it. It only had the ability to enter what we wanted to charge. This does not help you run a business when you want to run profitability reports, or when a customer is asking for a discount and you don't know how much margin you have. They did add this after I asked for it.

    Another thing to ask is if the software integrates with a web-to-print site/ online ordering system so you are planning ahead... EFI has a W2P (web to print) called Digital Storefront for example.

    As I said above, setting up an MIS is a VERY time consuming process, but it will be so worth it once it's all done. You need to determine all of your costs, do a time study on your finishing processes, determine how much you want to charge, if you will offer quantity discounts, etc. To speed things up, you should ask your paper supplier if they can provide an Excel or CSV file of their price book so you can import it rather than manually entering everything.
     

  11. PackagingExpert

    PackagingExpert New Member

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    I think you can offer something special that others do not have or seldom offer. We are also a printing and packaging manufacturer, in our domestic in China, we have very sharp competition, so our markering team think of to offer something special, for example in the finishing processing, you may see what we have here https://www.imcolorprint.com/finishing-the-decorative-process-after-printing/ Crystal UV and Reverse UV is a processing that not all factories can do, but we set up this equipment, and offer this kind of service, so get those clients. BTW, Chinese people like Cyrstal UV very much, I don't why, but this may not be appealing in your area, just an idea of showing you.
     
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