Look Beyond the Recession
It is tempting these days for printers to accept the status quo and just hope for better days. Just riding out economic turbulence is an easy option because nothing is required, according to Deborah Snider, senior vice president of e-LYNXX Corporation and division president of the firm's Government Print Management Division.
"By not doing anything, though, you risk becoming a sinking ship," she said. "The greatest hurdle for many is simply confronting change and embracing it. These are troubling times for printers who long for the days when only solid commercial accounts would make for a profitable business. Those days are gone, and any printer seeking to stay in business needs to have well-defined secondary markets."
Developing secondary markets may be new to some, but basically what that means is finding work to fill downtime or those production gaps that occur when projects are not being run for key commercial customers. The average printer has at least 30 percent of its production time that is not scheduled for regular client work. That is time that needs to be filled.
One excellent source for predictably winning work to fill downtime is the U.S. Government Printing Office (GPO). GPO awards more than $425 million a year to private sector printers of all sizes. Most jobs are in the $2,000 to $5,000 range, but there are many that can go for tens of thousands of dollars.
In addition to knowing how to navigate government red tape and knowing how to successfully deliver work on time per GPO's precise requirements, the printer that wants to win GPO print jobs must be willing to produce work during downtimes for less than what it would charge for the same work being done during busy periods. That is how GPO bids are won, Snider explained. Printers that use this approach strategically and consistently increase their bottom line annual profitability from a national average of less than 3 percent to more than 14 percent.
GPO print suppliers must be flexible and know exactly how to schedule GPO work during windows of opportunity. Snider said this takes experience, persistence, precision and patience. Having a track record of success with GPO helps. Starting out on the wrong foot with GPO may be a setback that is difficult to overcome. GPO does not train suppliers. GPO expects flawless performance and the delivery of quality work on time. The most successful suppliers find historical data on how past GPO jobs have been completed invaluable when preparing bids.
Fundamental to the success of any GPO supplier is being certified at the correct GPO print quality level. There are four, and every GPO supplier must be approved by GPO to conduct work in one of these categories before it can bid on a job:
• Level 1 51; best quality, highest quality, tightest tolerances (examples: art books, medical journals and meat grading charts) Onsite inspection is required for this level.
• Level 2 51; better quality, prestige quality, library quality (examples: yearbooks, recruiting materials and illustrated professional papers)
• Level 3 51; good quality, above average quality (examples: annual reports, general process color work, court decisions, budget reports, catalogs and textbooks)
• Level 4 51; basic quality, informational quality, utility quality (examples: telephone directories, indexes, project reports and technical manuals without process color and with only occasional halftones)
Equipment analysis is part of the initial GPO quality review, but this type of analysis should be on-going so GPO knows the full equipment capabilities of each of its print suppliers at all times. Both new and replacement equipment should be reported so GPO will have updated records. If the equipment adds new capabilities for the GPO print supplier's business, its production categories may change, and this too needs to be reported to GPO so the supplier could possibly qualify for additional GPO work. "Remember, with GPO, you can only bid on jobs at the quality levels for which you have been approved," Snider emphasized.
Before investing in new equipment, it is wise to check to determine what, where and how much work is available through GPO for the equipment being considered for purchase. If the work isn't there, the supplier may want to reconsider. The supplier may even want to purchase equipment that will handle the types of GPO jobs that are becoming more plentiful. This can be determined by checking GPO historical data.
"Before analyzing equipment, quality levels, downtime or your overall capabilities for doing GPO work, you have to first adopt a business strategy that allows for the creation of secondary markets. Then, you need to determine whether doing government work is right for your firm," Snider concluded. "Your very first step, though, is to start looking to the future rather than staying stuck in the present. You must embrace change."
For more information, visit www.governmentprintmanagement.com.