Implementing change

In the last issue I discussed the process of planning for change when looking at your business in the future. The thing with change is that it frightens people – many prefer to look back fondly in time wearing their rose tinted spectacles, and reminisce about how much better it was before. But one thing is definite – print is changing. Business is changing. And to imagine the printing industry can somehow bypass this process is merely wishful thinking. “I’m all for progress. It’s change I don’t like.” (Mark Twain) How and why are things changing? As ever there is no one simple answer: •Customers want more and different things from your business – they don’t just want printed items any more – very often they want ideas and help developing those ideas into reality – they need to be inspired •They want their collateral more quickly – usually yesterday! •There is more choice available to them in terms of how they communicate with their customers – technology moves on and as more channels become available to them, print is in danger of being overlooked as a medium •More and more you need to prove both your value as a business, and the value of print in the communications mix But how to manage this change without damaging the core business activity? Well, first of all comes the acceptance that you need to change. And this acceptance should come from the top down and be embraced by every employee – driving through change requires buy in from every level, otherwise you run the risk of being sabotaged along the way. Sell the idea to your team – explain the benefits of why the change is good for the business, and therefore, good for them. Remember – they will all be thinking ‘what’s in it for me?’ so be sure to have those answers ready before you start. However, in the process of accepting the idea of change, it’s important to recognise that you don’t necessarily need to change everything. It isn’t about change for change sake. Step 1 – Establish and recognise what you do well Where business is successful, running smoothly and profitable be prepared to embellish and improve what you have, and aim for smaller increments. Watch carefully however, aim to recognise the first signs of any decline and be ready to react the moment that it sets in. Don’t stick your head in the sand and hope things will get better – they rarely do once they start to drift away from you. Have a plan in place that is ready to implement when the time is right. Step 2 – Find out what your customers want I’ve written about this previously. Key to running a successful business is the recognition of what your customer base needs from you now, and what they might need in a year or two years time. Be active with your best customers – finding out how their business is adapting and developing – know what their future business strategy is and, if you wish to continue doing business with them, invest in the technology that will help them get to where they want to be. Ask questions of them, listen to the answers and plan with them and around them. Step 3 – Open your mind to new ideas and processes Don’t be a ‘no’ person. Many production people especially, can fall into the habit of saying no to new requests. Equally it isn’t about being a ‘yes’ person either – it’s about striking a balance between thinking through any new requests, working out the pros and cons, and deciding honestly ‘can it be done?’. Don’t make snap judgements – instead research the market, work out how things fit into your current structure, then make a business decision as to whether the request can be fulfilled. Step 4 – Make a plan This is what my article in the last issue was all about – writing a business plan – which will almost inevitably involve some change. And remember – the price of doing the same old thing far outweighs the price of change. A simple project chart, outlining the processes you are planning, the allocation of tasks, the timescale allowed and the desired outcome of each action will benefit the whole team, and keep you on track. Look at creating a Gantt chart to help you, or investing in some project management software. Without something documented and adhered to, any plans you have will fail to come to fruition. Equally don’t be too ambitious – plan only what you really think you can achieve – failure is not a motivator, and setting the bar too high won’t help. Good luck in 2015 – wishing you all a successful and profitable year.