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Our Changing Workforce

Posted Tuesday, February 17, 2015 by Joe Polanco.

alt textIf you were to walk into the production areas of several printers anywhere in North America, you would undoubtedly observe something they all have in common. No, it’s not the equipment. Nor is it the facility design. It’s the average age of their employees. Look at the press operators. The skilled bindery technicians, and yes, even the prepress techs. Odds are you won’t see many under 30, or for that matter under 45.

How did this happen – and more importantly – what does this mean for our future? Regardless of what the “tekkies” are saying, digital print is not going to replace all of our offset presses, and inline finishing isn’t going to replace our needs to bind and finish offline.

The printing industry has always been a craft industry. One learned through a formal apprenticeship (when there were trade unions) or on‐the‐job (OJT) under the tutelage of someone more knowledgeable. Many would begin in small job shops operating single color duplicators/presses or simple bindery equipment and then make job hops for the opportunities to operate more complex equipment and hone the skills necessary to be called a Craftsman.

The apprenticeship programs, as well as many of the high school and trade programs, which fed the industry are long gone. The duplicator press, which was the genesis of their journey as a press operator, is hardly ever found in print shops. The job shop has been replaced with a broad range of print providers – all running digital equipment.

Another complication was that the industry workforce took a dramatic hit in the Big Recession, which was acerbated by the move to digital‐based communications. There was no reason to hire new people and anyone with sub‐standard skills was let go. We went through nearly 5 years of limited hiring in the pressroom and bindery. Anyone who had been laid off in 2007 or 2008 quickly determined that their future no longer existed in our industry. The result being we no longer had the “reserve” labor pool thatin prior business cycles was always available.

To confound matters, many outside of the industry, and for that matter too many inside the industry, were forecasting the death of everything print. Anyone who understood the craft of print and was employed was not too excited about leaving their present job, especially in light of a rapidly shrinking industry where closures and consolidations were occurring at historical rates. AND young people had no interest to get into a “dying” industry.

That’s how we got here.

The major challenge facing the industry over the next 10 years is not technology and marketing, but finding and training people. A recent study conducted by several Printing Industries of America Affiliates asked the question: What percentage of your skilled workforce (Production Personnel) do you estimate will retire in the next 5‐10 years? Over 50% of the respondents indicated that a significant amount (30‐50%) of their workforce would retire in that period. The same survey showed that the median age in the offset pressroom was over 45 in nearly 2/3 of the companies surveyed.

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A crucial question is where will we find people with the right skills (attitude, ability, and work habits) to replace our existing workforce? More importantly ‐‐ how will we train them? The industry predominately uses OJT to train (85% per the PIA Affiliate survey); consequently the industry’s “trainers” will very quickly be departing the industry. By the way, our industry is not the only one facing this challenge. Many firms in the manufacturing sector are seeing identical issues. The baby‐boomer who comprise a large sub‐set of skilled employees are beginning to leave and changes in technology and workflow are making them look beyond their competitors for personnel. We’re not alone.

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What’s the answer? It’s a recommitment to training.

In the past management relied on labor unions and trade schools to develop a core of trained individuals. That is no longer an option. Equipment manufacturers no longer have the depth in their organizations to provide training as they did in the past, and the trade associations don’t have resources to create print schools, which historically were supported by public dollars.

Yet, if all of these groups work together there is hope. Industry organizations can be the fulcrum that can leverage spreading the word to educational institutions that the industry still needs young people.Employers need to recommit their efforts (and $$) to create OJT programs that can quickly develop the skill sets needed in today’s world of print and technology. A variety of tools already exist to support training in the pressroom and bindery (Printing Industries of America’s Training Curriculums) and there are vehicles which measure and benchmark an individual’s skills (National Council of Print IndustryCertification). Industry manufacturers and industry associations can partner to find ways to recruit “graying” industry trainers who don’t want to retire at the golf course but find ways to give‐back to an industry many dearly love.

All it takes is a bit of creativity, a few dollars, and a commitment that print is still a viable industry.

Joe Polanco is a product of industry trade schools and developed a passion for all things print decades ago. He began his career as a press operator, earned a printing management degree, and has held various management positions within the industry. He presently serves as the president of the Printing & Imaging Association of MidAmerica, a regional trade association affiliated with Printing Industries of America.

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The Top 10 Productivity Killers

Posted Tuesday, February 10, 2015 by Jules VanSant.

alt textLet’s face it - ha! It’s true that the amount of distractions we face today are far greater than any generation prior. We’re expected to respond quickly when addressed, be at the meeting and stay focused, engage electronically as well as personally - it sometimes feels like being on a roller coaster that never ends. It’s important to honor people’s ability to manage their time, respect they will follow through and perform as expected for the position they hold, yet….

It’s NOT always that easy…sometimes it feels like a puppy must - TREAT * BALL * PLAY * WALK * RUB MY BELLY … where where where where?!?!?!?! It’s hard to get away from it all and yet perform as expected.

Us humans take tangents and get caught up in non-productive distractions when searching, chatting, or interacting LIVE (yes, it’s not all about the internet). Try searching “Selfie” on the internet… ok don’t. What people will post up?!?! OMG.

Sorry, I got distracted…

Here’s a list of the latest & greatest TOP 10 Productivity Killers to keep an eye on and make your employees aware of from a recent CareerBuilder.com survey. Harris Poll, on behalf of CareerBuilder.com, surveyed 2,138 hiring managers and human resource professionals in a number of industries. They found behaviors of co-workers, meetings and a number of other factors are also creating obstacles to maximizing performance.

  1. Cell phone / texting: One in four workers admitted that during the typical workday they will spend one hour on personal calls, emails and/or sending text messages.
  2. Gossip: That chattering the office may not always be about work.
  3. The internet: 20% of workers said they spend an hour or more at work searching the NET for non-work-related information.
  4. Social Media: Studies have found that Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram are significant drains on employee time.
  5. Snack breaks / Smoke breaks.
  6. Noisy co-workers: these are people who have conversations that are too loud while on the phone, or who make outbursts when they get annoyed or upset.
  7. Meetings: Some firms just have too many meetings, and a lot of time is wasted if they are not succinct and to the point.
  8. E-Mail: Employees are sometimes busy sending personal e-mails to friends.
  9. Co-workers dropping by: These are those little chat sessions when a colleague stops by another’s desk for me chit chat.
  10. Putting calls on speaker phone.

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SIX WAYS TO CONFRONT CUSTOMER INDIFFERENCE

Posted Friday, February 6, 2015 by Joe Rickard.

Thoughts from the PPI ED formally known as a print buyer :)

Having been a buyer for many years, I completely agree with Joe Rickard’s assessment of indifference in seeking new suppliers. Once I found a few that fit the niches I was regularly purchasing, I would politely address sales reps calling on me from other providers, but the reality… rarely was there a compelling argument or differentiator which would truly make me think twice about moving my business.

Those who were aware of this, patient, not pushy yet able to create a connection often were the ones down the road I would entertain quotes and collaborate on future projects with. How do you handle indifference?

Cheers! Jules

from Joe Rickard’s Printing Sales Training Blog

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SIX WAYS TO CONFRONT CUSTOMER INDIFFERENCE

February 2, 2015

When selling print, a customer who lacks any interest in looking at new printing providers, print products, solutions or services can be the toughest barrier that any salesperson can face. For many salespeople, customer indifference is their greatest competitor.

The reason indifference is so frustrating to print salespeople is because it is based on customer perception about print. They view print as a commodity and are not interested in looking at any new ideas.

Common responses from customers are:

“We are happy with our current print supplier.”

“We are not using direct mail anymore.”

“We are moving to digital marketing.”

“Talk to our purchasing department.”

Customer Indifference Can Be a Salesperson’s Toughest Competitor

Selling to the indifferent customer has been the basis of sales training courses for many decades.

The buying process has changed. Current research tells us that customers are 60% of the way through their buying process before they even talk to a salesperson. This is because of readily available information on the Web and within Social Media. As a result, it is even more difficult for a printing salesperson to attract attention and present their print solution.

Reasons for Customer Indifference to Print

Here are some more reasons why customers are indifferent to print:

*· Print has been a victim of the success of digital and social media. Some customers have completely “tuned out” print. They view print as a relic of the past that is being overwhelmed by digital and social media. The result is that print will become even more commoditized in the eyes of the customer and will be pushed to the purchasing department for price management.

· Customers are not responding to traditional print sales and marketing approaches. Buyers of print are getting their information from other sources outside of printing salespeople. Print providers and salespeople have been hesitant to adjust to changing buying habits of customers.

· Print is not viewed as positively as it has been in the past. There is a relentless push by opponents of print to create the perception that print is too expensive, bad for the environment and overall not effective.*

These reasons for customer indifference do not mean all is hopeless. Below are six proactive actions that printing salespeople and print providers can use to combat indifference.

Six Ways to Confront Customer Indifference

1. Bring Value to the Conversation

Forrester Research states that only 15 percent of customers see value in conversations with salespeople. Salespeople must bring insights and ideas that address customer problems. Case studies, examples and best practices that are tailored to each customer are good ways to create interest. Focusing on the business problem or opportunity should be the foundation of any sales approach.

2. Dominate a Market Segment

We have always been a fan of vertical marketing. Knowing an industry well with its specific jargon, work processes and issues brings instant credibility to indifferent customers. There are an enormous amount of examples of industry-focused innovative and creative print solutions that have delivered outstanding return on investment.

3. Be an Expert

Customers are less interested in hearing why one printing company is better than another. Research consistently confirms customers are looking for experts in communications and printing. Being an expert in print is a given; customers also expect salespeople to know how digital and social media integrates with print.

4. Reinvent Print

If indifferent customers have entrenched opinions about print, then print providers and salespeople need to position print in a new way. We are already seeing print providers reposition cross media and data-driven print in a creative way. Don’t waste time on customers who are stubborn. Look for influencers and champions who value new ideas. There are many users and creatives who will embrace the beauty and effectiveness of print if given the chance.

5.Put Yourself in the Position of the Customer

Spending time with customers and simply listening to them is a great way to move indifferent customers. We recently observed an indifferent customer become interested because of the way a print company simplified the print process. The customer’s perception was that commercial printers were much more difficult to work with than digital and social media agencies. The printer offers virtual and rapid customer service, immediate status of jobs is provided, and samples of substrates are sent overnight to creatives and end users.

6.Focus on the Vital Few

80% of our business comes from 20% of accounts. Don’t confuse sales activity with sales effectiveness. Existing customers with problems or opportunities that can directly be addressed by print solutions are the place to start. Those customers that can improve sales or profits by an innovative direct mail campaign or a cross media product launch or implementing a web to print system are places to focus.

Addressing the indifferent print customer has never been more important. The change has occurred gradually. In most cases, indifference is not due to unhappiness with their current printing company. It is because the customers have so many alternative communication choices available to them.

Great salespeople recognize indifference when they see it. The key, as always, is to know the customer and their business. Listening, building a customized strategy and creating new insights is the best way of gaining their attention and interest.


Joe Rickard is a training leader and consultant dedicated to the graphic communications Industry. He is a printing industry expert and works with printing and technology organizations to improve their sales and operational effectiveness. Joe founded Intellective Solutions LLC (www.intellectives.com) to serve the printing market. Intellective Solutions Inc. provides consulting and training material and services. He can be reached at 845 753 6156. Follow him on Twitter @joerickardIS. This article was published December 1, 2014 in Quick Printing Magazine and MyPrintResource.com

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What's your Password? Avoid a SONY!

Posted Tuesday, January 20, 2015 by Jules VanSant.

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As I often do as various points during the day, I checked out my twitter feed @ppiassociation to see what was going on in the world. There are lots of great tidbits that get lost in the sea of over information we live in these days, but this one popped out 1) because it’s relevant to all of us 2) because the post had a graphic 3) because a word on there made me think TWICE about some of my log ons!!!

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Consider the stats from 2011 - 2014 thanks to the Wall Street Journal and password security service SplashData. Are you keeping your information safe? Ensuring your website, your email, your social media, your financial data isn’t being hijacked by others without your knowledge. Take a moment & consider your password practices!

alt text Do you keep a log? Where? Do you use an app? Is your phone or other device password protected? Are you using data-points that a 9th grade computer techie would be able to figure out? DON’T GET STUNG!

Here’s an article from Google delving in deeper as we consider our own vulnerabilities as individuals and businesses… don’t be sorry like Sony!

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Taxes….Phew! Depreciation Extenders for 2014

Posted Tuesday, January 20, 2015 by Stuart W. Margolis, CPA, MT, Margolis Partners LLC.

Extension of Bonus Depreciation and Code Sec. 179 Expense: 2014 Tax Prevention Act

alt textBy Stuart W. Margolis, CPA, MT, Margolis Partners LLC

Congress has enacted the Tax Increase Prevention Act of 2014 (2014 Tax Prevention Act), which provides a one year extension of popular incentives for business investment in capital and equipment. These incentives include an extension of bonus depreciation provisions and temporary increases in the deductible amount and investment limitation under Code Sec. 179. Also added, Corporations may continue to accelerate the AMT credit by forgoing bonus depreciation on certain property placed in service in 2014 if you have AMT credits available and the election is made not to take bonus depreciation.

Bonus depreciation. The 2014 Tax Prevention Act extends the 50-percent first-year bonus depreciation allowance for one year to apply to qualifying property acquired after December 31, 2007 and placed in service before January 1, 2015 (or before January 1, 2016, for certain longer-lived and transportation property). There is no limit on the total amount of bonus depreciation that may be claimed in any given tax year, and the bonus depreciation allowance rate of 50 percent remains unchanged.

Although the placed-in-service deadline for 50-percent bonus depreciation property with a longer production period is extended one year through December 31, 2015, only pre-January 1, 2015 progress expenditures are taken into account in computing the bonus depreciation allowance.

As a reminder, the 50% depreciation is taken first, then regular MACRS or accelerated depreciation on the remaining 50%. By example, a 5 year asset worth $10,000 received $6,000 in depreciation in 2014; $5,000 in bonus depreciation and another $1,000 (20%) on the remaining $5,000 using the regular MACRS depreciation method.

Code Sec. 179 expense deduction. In addition to the bonus depreciation changes, the 2014 Tax Prevention Act retroactively extends the increased deduction and investment limits under Code Sec. 179. Generally, Code Sec. 179 permits a business that satisfies limitations on annual investment in fixed asset to elect to deduct (or “expense”) the cost of qualifying property rather than depreciate the cost over time.

For tax years beginning after 2009 and before 2015, taxpayers are permitted to expense up to $500,000 of the cost of qualifying property under Code Sec. 179, reduced by the amount by which the qualified investment in fixed assets exceeds $2,000,000. Qualifying property includes depreciable tangible personal property purchased for use in the active conduct of a trade or business. Off-the-shelf computer software placed in service in tax years beginning after 2002 and before 2015 is treated as qualifying property.

By example, a 7 year asset with a cost of $2,000,000 is the only asset purchased in 2014. You may take a 179 expense deduction of $500,000 (the maximum amount). With the remaining $1.5 million you can take bonus depreciation of $750,000. Then with the remaining $750,000 in asset cost basis, another $107,143 (1/7 or 14.286%) in regular MACRS depreciation is added. This totals $1,357,143 or 67.86% of the asset cost on a 7 year asset.

The incentives for investing in business property in 2014 were significant. It’s a shame congress did not act sooner as the ability to plan on equipment investment was lost due to the late extension of both the bonus depreciation and 179 expense deduction provisions. Once again, we enter 2015 with no bonus depreciation and greatly reduced 179 expense deduction and investment limitation. As always, planning for your capital and equipment acquisitions and retirements is essential. If you have any questions call us, Margolis Partners, 610.667.4310. We’d be glad to help walk you through it.

*About Margolis Partners

Margolis Partners has long been recognized as the financial expert for family-owned businesses with a specialty in the printing, packaging and allied graphic communications industries, assisting thousands of companies with strategic and financial management, valuation, mergers/acquisitions, accounting, audit and tax services. The firm is noted for its expertise in enabling companies to optimize profits. Proudly, it is the purveyor of the industry’s Value-Added Principles of Management, and compiles the annual Printing Industries of America Ratios, the printing industry’s premier financial benchmarking tool.*.

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