Monday, September 29, 2008

BoSacks Speaks Out: How to Benchmark the Top Magazine Printers

BoSacks Speaks Out: How to Benchmark the Top Magazine Printers
I was rummaging in the basement of my computer today, and stumbled upon an article that I wrote several years ago for PrintMedia Magazine now called Publishing Executive. I just finished re-reading it and liked enough to send out to you tonight. There is no need to change a single word of it, and I agree with it completely several years later. What do you think?

So much of what we call management consists in making it difficult for people to work.
Peter Drucker (1909 - 2005)

New Benchmark for the Top Magazine Printers
By BoSacks

In the January/February issue of PrintMedia, there was an article listing the "Top 25 Magazine Printers." The criterion for determining who was at the top of the list was revenue. That is all fine and good, but what if the criteria we looked at was something else?

How about a common, secret concept that we all have and hold? Common, yet something that nobody really talks about. This thought process is as of yet an unregistered and untested new kind of industry criteria or benchmark. But, if we could identify it, I wonder who would be at the top? Using this benchmark, dollars do not count.

So what is this secret criterion we all keep buried? Our "favorite" printer. Not the one that makes the most money, but a real favorite. All industry people have a printer they love. And I'll bet the reasons for that love are very different.

What Woos You?

What makes a printer your favorite printer? Is it the print quality? The people in the customer service department? Or is it the ease and method of doing business with them? You know what I mean-do they run the shop like the Marines, with everything done exactly by the book, or more like the TV cartoon "South Park," where it's a little loosey-goosey, and you never know quite what to expect on a regular basis?

Perhaps it's the terrific contract you signed, or the amazing boondoggles you get to go on? Could it be the expensive lunches? (Does anyone have time for that anymore?) And how about the printer's sales force? Could the sales team be the reason that your favorite printer is your favorite printer? The coffee they serve in the customer lounge? And, for that matter, what about the customer lounges? I have been in cinder block bunkers buried in the earth and in plush, multi-roomed, leather-upholstered suites. Does that make the printer your favorite?

I will tell you why my favorite printer is my favorite. Management! Yep, that is right. I seek a printer with enthusiastic and extremely attentive management. I love great management. Most plants have good management. Some have very good management. And every now and then there is a plant with terrific management.

The sad thing is terrific management is a highly movable target. For whatever reason, as times change, so does management. And as that happens, so does my favorite printing plant.

5 Criteria for Great Management

What is it that I look for in great management?

1) I expect great management to be totally involved and understand the process, not from an ivory tower, but from the perspective of the pressroom floor.

2) I expect a commitment and readiness for ongoing reinvestment in the information-distribution process, sometimes referred to as printing and publishing.

3) I expect a dedication and willingness to change thoughts, processes and, with that, a headset for rapid deployment of the same.

4) I expect great management to have the proper respect and support of their customer service representatives (CSRs). A great CSR team with proper management support is like manna from Heaven. Conversely, poor management support of the CSR process is like dealing with the devil. Both the good and the bad come directly from management and management style.

5) The last is an intangible. The closest I can get to describe this "thing" would be chemistry. There is, at times, a unique and wonderful chemistry between the publisher's representatives and the printer's personnel. I attribute this chemical reaction to management. If all the players are positioned properly, then all it takes to ignite it is the catalyst of great management. It is an exhilarating experience when that happens.

So, with all that said, do you have a favorite printer? How do you feel about your printer's management? If you could, would you like to replace it? And while we are on the subject, how do you feel about your publication's management team? If you could, would you replace it as well?

It is also an interesting exercise to look up and down your internal business food chain, and see which parts of the process you would like to replace or outsource, if you could.

Hold that thought and ask yourself: Are the other departments in your company thinking the same thing about you and your department? If they could outsource you, would they want to? In these times that is worth pondering.

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