Positioning for an Uncertain Future
During the COVID-19 crisis, most printing companies find themselves in a difficult situation. Many are operational, perhaps running split shifts, doing what they can to distance their teams. But among those who are open and running, few would say they’re as busy as they once were. Uncertainty and worry are at high levels, and the true end-point of the crisis is not known. Many companies are focusing on holding on until normalcy returns.
Wouldn’t it be great to simply find ourselves back where were on, say, March 1st, unscathed as businesses and ready to reach back out to the same clients and start writing orders again? But the truth is that our world has changed, as has the playing field upon which we operate our businesses. Some of our key customers may not be in business when this ends. If they are, they may emerge with different priorities and tighter marketing budgets.
So, where does that leave your company? Hopefully, it leaves you in a mode of evaluation and discovery, because now – literally today – is the time for you to evaluate your business, its processes, customers, products, and priorities, to effectively position it for the changed business (whatever it may be) of a recovery economy. This is done, of course, with the understanding that the best view of our uncertain future is an educated guess.
Your processes should focus, as much as possible, on efficiency. Industry consultant Pat McGrew says you should seek to eliminate lost time and unnecessary labor or process steps from what you do. She says you should seek ways to automate what currently requires people and hands. I recommend taking what you’ve learned from the recent periods of shutdown and the ongoing requirements for physical distancing of employees and do what you can to make those changes more-or-less permanent. With the potential for multiple waves of the COVID-19 virus, its better to view these changes as a part of your new normal until certainty exists
In evaluating your customers, ask what they want from you now, print-wise, and what your company can do to really meet their needs. Andy Paparozzi, chief economist for PRINTING United Alliance, recently told me that printing companies of all types will be essential in helping their customers effectively communicate with clients during and after the crisis. He is right. Whatever segments your company serves, your expertise in that area can provide them with an essential service. While it may not be the work you were doing for your customers before the crisis, it is certainly the work you can do now.
As an example, many wide-format graphics producers are busily producing directional floor graphics for retail settings, grocery stores and public buildings. These graphics are a direct response to the need for people to move safely through spaces. Is this the same work they were doing two months ago? Absolutely not. Is it work that keeps the presses running and generates revenue? Absolutely, yes, which makes it even more essential.
Finally, what are the new priorities for your business, both in the next quarter, and in the next couple of years? How will you differently define the services you offer? What will you do to research and understand the new needs of your current and future clients, perhaps even before they know what their needs are? One of the key strategies of solution selling is to meet your customers where their greatest needs exist. In this time when businesses worldwide are struggling for new understanding, a company like yours can position itself to provide at least a few concrete answers, reduce confusion, increase communication, and facilitate safety.
Most of all, prepare for the long haul. Even when COVID-19 is in our rear-view mirror, the work of recovering the economy and our businesses will still loom large.