When print service providers first launch their businesses, they often cobble together makeshift systems and processes just to get up and running. This patchwork approach works for a while, usually until there’s an unexpected increase or decrease in demand. This results in wasted time, money, and energy down the road. Even franchise companies, which typically come with systems in place, may face unexpected demand pressures as they grow.
As a printing business looks to scale up, the owner needs to establish a solid operational foundation today on which to grow the company efficiently in the coming years.
In a previous article, 5 Ways to Scale Your Printing Business Starting Today, we provided an overview of five areas to review for scaling up a business. This article will focus on how business owners can build a strong base for growth by optimizing key internal operations and systems.
The goal of scaling is to maximize productivity, eliminate waste, increase efficiency, and optimize workflows. Before rapid growth occurs, business leaders should review existing processes to prepare operations for expansion. When demand fluctuates, businesses want their internal systems to be able to absorb and adapt to changes seamlessly, without losing hard-won customers or causing burnout among the staff (or owner!)
Every business has core processes related to finances, customers, supplies, and equipment/technology. It's the owner's responsibility to ensure these critical operations run smoothly.
Common areas to review include:
✔️ Financial management - accounts payable, sales, personnel payments, negotiating terms.
✔️ Customer management and support - CRM, customer service, content and social media marketing, educational materials.
✔️ Supply chain management - ordering, price negotiation, inventory, fulfillment.
✔️ Maintenance of systems, technology, equipment - onboarding new systems and equipment, retro-fitting old equipment, increasing automation, improving data collection.
After analyzing current processes, owners can identify solutions to boost efficiency. These solutions fall into 4 categories:
1. Eliminating unnecessary steps
2. Changing duplicated work and time-consuming tasks, or delegating these tasks
3. Automating repetitive, low-value activities through software, scripts, or AI
4. Outsourcing work to vendors with specialized expertise
A review of internal processes might reveal a duplication of work, or it might show that some tasks are taking far too long.
For instance, implementing a customer relationship management (CRM) system can help streamline customer interactions as a business scales up. While CRM software options like HubSpot, Zoho, and Salesforce differ, any tool that centralizes customer data can eliminate unnecessary steps and automate routine, repetitive processes.
Similarly, outsourcing repetitive tasks allows owners and high-value employees to focus on higher-value work. Automating mundane processes through technology cuts costs and lightens workloads.
Print service providers might find that outsourcing certain tasks can free up production time to work with more high-value clients every month. For example, it’s not uncommon to find many companies doing manual stitching and trimming of short-run books.
Yet it’s likely that by partnering with a company like Western Trade Printing, they could produce the same short-run booklet job for less than it costs them to do internally. Not only can they save money on the job and increase profit margins, they can now use that freed-up time to produce more higher-profit jobs in-house each month.
The Insidious Problem with Outsourcing Decisions
A frequent problem with the decision to outsource is this – decision makers think they know with certainty the point at which it makes sense to outsource. Yet what they think is often far off the mark.
The reason for these mistaken preconceived notions is that market prices and technology are rapidly changing. What used to be a good “crossover point” for outsourcing might be based on 10-year-old pricing. Or maybe “it’s the way it’s always been done” because that’s how a manager was trained by someone who retired years ago. And it's human nature to go with what we "know," with what feels comfortable.
The ONLY way to be sure about the outsourcing decision, that you're getting the best printing quote possible, is to frequently get current quotes from vendors like Western Trade Printing. We encourage frequent requests for quotes for this very reason.
Rest assured that unlike many trade vendors, we never complain about getting too many quotes and not enough work. Instead, we simply ask for feedback on our pricing compared to other vendors or to doing the work yourself in-house. We learn from every quote we don’t win, which in turn helps us to be a better trade printing vendor.
Optimizing Print Operations for Future Growth
The key to scaling is to optimize current printing operations for the future target size, not just the current size. By reviewing and refining systems, implementing scalable solutions, and proactively upgrading equipment and working with vendors, businesses can build a solid foundation for seamless growth. The goal is to scale up smoothly and in control, without reacting to chaotic fire drills down the road.
To talk about how Western Trade Printing can help you scale your business, give us a call at (559) 251-8595.
Or go here to get an instant quote on your current job.
For more tips on how to grow and run a printing business, go here.