So where do I take my business next?

A question I’m often asked – what should I do next? Where is the big opportunity? Lacking a crystal ball, I can’t always answer for everyone, but there are a few sure things you can consider…… We are all well aware that running a business is both complicated and time consuming, and often leaves us little time to reflect and plan. It’s common to get so caught up in the daily trials that you start to live month-to-month – getting to the end of a trading year and barely knowing where it has gone. This can be a dangerous position, as you can miss new opportunities and technologies, through simply not having the time to look around you. It’s important create some thinking and researching time, and to do this outside help can be invaluable – for example working with a coach/mentor can help you start to view situations in subtly different ways. Think of it as a New Years resolution – but one that you are going to keep. With any resolution there comes some discipline. Some can be quite easy and simple to stick to and are an easy way to get yourself into the swing of things. For example – start reading the trade press – and I don’t just mean your local print media – instead subscribe to the trade press your customers are reading. Find out what’s happening in their markets – this way you can stay with them as their businesses adapt to change. It is useful to encourage your sales team to adopt this habit as well – knowing what’s happening in different market sectors can not only help them identify new areas and prospects to approach, but also help them be more knowledgeable and current in front of customers. It’s well worth reading the quality daily business papers. Seeing what’s going on in the wider world outside print can help you introduce new practices and ideas into the business. How often do you try and get out to exhibitions, events and seminars? Making the effort to attend trade shows regularly and study new technologies can bring a breath of fresh air into the daily routine. The benefits are many and useful. It is not beyond the realms of possibility that an important part of your potential business future will start life on an exhibition stand at shows such as DRUPA or FESPA. The major manufacturers use shows such as these to launch new technologies and advancements to existing ideas. If you don’t see them in the flesh and your competitors do, you are handing over an opportunity to get ahead. FESPA Africa is looming – July 22-24 at the Gallagher Convention Centre in Johannesburg – put it in your diary and keep it there. You should never be so busy that you can’t attend local trade shows. Also while at the event listen in to conference speeches that fit your interests – study the seminar programme in advance, register – and then get there. Printing SA is running a two day conference this year for the first time – attend!! Don’t let a production issue that morning get in the way – almost always it will simply be an excuse not to go – don’t let apathy rule the day. As a shameless plug I will be talking about the future direction of the industry on one of the days – I’d love to meet some of you. If you don’t find me at the conference I’ll be on the Canon stand for the entire event – please come and say hello. Try to think laterally when planning your event attendance – look for shows covering allied markets such as cross channel marketing or photo merchandise – you can pick up ideas for new directions for the business by looking around with an open mind. Events are also an invaluable opportunity to network. Catch up with your peers as often as you can – your competitors can be allies as well as enemies – spending time discussing the market and the investments being made will often help you to refine your ideas, and remind you that you aren’t alone in some of the challenges you face. Sometimes it helps you realise that you’re doing pretty well! Consider joining the relevant industry federations – not just the print based ones such as the aforementioned Printing SA. For example if you are in the variable data field join the Direct Marketing Association (DMA) – it can be a huge assistance with legal matters, and industry knowledge – keeping you up-to-date with data protection laws – not just a nice to have – more an essential aspect of being a transactional/dm printer. Also keep an eye out for any Interest Groups run by these federations – they will often run member only webinars, open days and networking events – get involved whenever you can. Get senior staff involved as well where relevant – activities such as these can be really motivational for people. Try to attend open days run by suppliers – you can learn about trends as well as equipment if you choose wisely – plus it’s another networking opportunity. Don’t see dealing with suppliers as being a necessary evil. As much as 87 percent of printing companies look to their suppliers for help according to a Canon sponsored Romano report Digital Printing Directions. Account Managers aren’t just someone to be endured – instead pick their brains for information and opportunity. Use them to introduce you to business mentors and industry contacts and information. The manufacturers will subscribe to the latest industry figures and reports – they can help you learn what’s coming next and help you position yourself to take advantage of industry change, not be negatively affected by it. And finally, take some advice from one of the worlds most successful entrepreneurs, Richard Branson who once said – ‘business opportunities are like buses – there’s always another one coming’ Just be sure to stick your hand out in time! Article written by: Jo Lloyd