A Printer’s Guide to Surviving the Quarantine Period

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“Cats and dogs, living together, mass hysteria!”

Peter Venkman really knew how to sum up a situation. Corona isn’t on the same level as a supernatural takeover of a major city. It’s way worse. Every single square inch of human habitation on this planet has been affected in some way. Most of us have either shut shop, scaled back or are struggling to continue by working remotely. It is a global tragedy on a completely unprecedented scale, for most of us – when was the last time the whole world was self-quarantining? Certainly not in my lifetime…

After the initial surprise, we have probably all reacted the same way. Time spent reeling backwards in shock has now been replaced with more critical thought, such as, “This cannot last forever. What happens when we all go back to work..?”

When things do return to normal, it will likely be within only a short moment’s notice. Rather than panic and scramble to try to get things back to normal, here are some suggestions to help you maintain the status quo and make life easier for yourself through this lockdown period, ensuring that when all of this is over and done with, picking back up will be a doddle!

1.  Sponsorship Application Maestro

During the current pandemic, a large number of governments have announced unprecedented levels of help being offered to businesses. Organisations should appoint an executive sponsor to co-ordinate their applications for such schemes.

For instance, in the UK, and subject to certain conditions, the government is offering to supplement 80% of each employee wage packet to avoid a nationwide dismissal and giant leap in unemployment. The planning process can, however, feel like applying to astronaut training at NASA, so you are better off finding a dedicated soul to be responsible for this, or you will have no time for any of my other fabulous suggestions, below.

Check your local government’s website for information about government loan schemes and payment deferral schemes, such as for your local equivalent of VAT. You may not feel like you need such assistance presently, but remember – no one has any real idea of how long this situation will persist. There is no harm in making the application. Having a dedicated person taking care of this will ensure these application processes are completed properly, meaning you will be better-prepared, in the long run.

Remember the old adage: it’s better to have it and not need it, than need it and not have it.

2.   Workforce Reassurance

During the current pandemic, a large number of governments have announced unprecedented levels of help being offered to businesses. Organisations should appoint an executive sponsor to co-ordinate their applications for such schemes.

For instance, in the UK, and subject to certain conditions, the government is offering to supplement 80% of each employee wage packet to avoid a nationwide dismissal and giant leap in unemployment. The planning process can, however, feel like applying to astronaut training at NASA, so you are better off finding a dedicated soul to be responsible for this, or you will have no time for any of my other fabulous suggestions, below.

Check your local government’s website for information about government loan schemes and payment deferral schemes, such as for your local equivalent of VAT. You may not feel like you need such assistance presently, but remember – no one has any real idea of how long this situation will persist. There is no harm in making the application. Having a dedicated person taking care of this will ensure these application processes are completed properly, meaning you will be better-prepared, in the long run.

Remember the old adage: it’s better to have it and not need it, than need it and not have it.

3.   Still Alive…

You may know you’re still open, but do your customers? Have you emailed them, reassuring them that all your people are safe, but it’s still business as usual?

Don’t assume they are aware of your status, given that everyone is in the same boat and dealing with the same things!

Even if you are no longer printing because you’ve implemented quarantine conditions, you still have services you can offer to people – design and advertising work, marketing services and so on – or, you can take the opportunity to set up an outsourced-print network amongst those companies are able to still continue operating their presses. 

4.   Outstanding Debt

Stay on top of your Aged Debtors list. I know, this is a hard one to pick up right now, but it is a practical use of your time. Customers will invariably delay payment during this pandemic, while many businesses are freezing all activities. You need to subtly prompt and encourage repayment of any outstanding monies.

As always, be flexible and responsive – but also responsible. At worst, you have reconnected with the accounts team of one of your customers, but at best, you could be highlighting any problem debts and avoiding future surprises.

5.   The Planniest Plans

Right now, your sales teams are likely to be twiddling their thumbs. These are not, after all, normal circumstances. Encourage them to get their plans ready, to examine missed opportunities and reconnect with customers they may have been overlooking.

Personally, I have asked my sales personnel to go through their accounts while asking themselves the following, for each:

  • Could the company use a mailing service?
  • Could we offer the company a new website?
  • Is this actually a Web2Print customer in disguise?
  • Does the company require design work?
  • Could we automate the ordering for this customer?
  • What is their spend? What items do they print? Are there repeat orders?
  • Am I dealing with the marketing contact? Does one exist? Who are they?
  • Could this company benefit from our software design and development?
  • Are we winning all the print work from this client? How could we do so?

Not only are they familiarising themselves with their customers and what they do, but they can also take this time to dust off their knowledge of Web2Print, if they’ve been neglecting those opportunities.

6.   Train

Start training yourself and your workforce. All of those courses you have seen and thought, “hey, that might be useful…” – now is the time to start doing them! There are a plethora of online courses available from masses of academies – Udemy, Open University, Khan Academy, etc.

Traditional print sales team can be turned into marketing gurus, while self-isolating, by taking appropriate courses, which will help pivot a business from being solely a provider of print, to a marketing services consultancy.

Moreover, key decision makers who would ordinarily be unavailable due to their usual schedules are now likely to be available. Sales teams must take advantage of these business development opportunities.

More importantly, during this time, learning can be a therapeutic and encouraging activity, which has the added benefit of increasing value to your business. Take advantage of what’s out there and engage your workforce, while reassuring them that they are still valued members of the team that aren’t going anywhere.

7.   Technological Investments

Do not cancel those high-investment technological projects. You may, however, wish to delay their start date. My advice to Web2Print suppliers is to be flexible during this time. Work with your customer to make the investment a viable one, during this turbulent period.

During times like this, I’ve noticed a number of my peers do cancel investments – ones that they have spent literal years planning! It’s all OPEX they think they can recoup – an obvious target for accountant wrath! Is it really, though? Did that planning time cost nothing?

Consider these decisions carefully, because more often than not, cancelling them won’t actually make a difference to the overall trajectory of the business and will only serve to derail future progress – Web2Print being the obvious example. This current situation is the ideal time to strategize, future-proof your business and evaluate your offerings. Make the most of it, by effectively planning your Web2Print strategy, especially deployment concerns, internal training – everything! – with minimal disruption to your other activities.

Don’t abandon a Web2Print strategy, especially if you have already spent ages planning it all out – and if you must delay, have a clear plan for re-implementing your strategy. If you don’t, you will put yourself in a position where you will have to tread old ground, rebuilding and repositioning, meaning you are just giving yourself future delays, once things return to normal. You will also lose this valuable deployment and training time, which should not be disregarded in your considerations, either.

I can help you here, directly.

Reach out to me, here or on LinkedIn, if you would like a free consultation which will include help on how to successfully pivot your business during this time.

You can even invite your sales team in for a brief training session. I can give them some ideas, directly, about alternative activities that they could be doing, during this period, helping them up their game.

Let me know how I can help. We are all in this together and it would be the least I could do. 

Reach out now:

8.   Modernise

Use this time to modernise – software, processes and people. Implement Web2Print, video calling, full remote working. They are all concepts that may seem alien at first, but you should really take the time to embrace change and explore these new technologies. You will be amazed at what you can accomplish! Most especially, make a point of having video calls with your clients to keep them engaged with you and your business.

9.   Negotiate

The key to ensuring you have something to return to, once all of this is over, is cash flow. Without it, you can’t. It’s that simple. Time to up those haggling skills. Banks. Landlords. The tax man. All of them are going to need some United Nations mediation-levels of negotiation. If you leave it too late, it won’t go away – it will only get worse.

Why should your business go bankrupt when you could simply ask your bank about a renegotiation of your business loans? Right now, banks will offer payment holidays, loan deferrals and so on, but you have to ask for them.

Be proactive, push the boundaries for which government schemes you may be able to qualify, which payments you may be able to defer and so on. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. You never know until you ask.

10.   Reposition

Some of your teams may find it easy to get on with life, finding essential and productive things to do. Others may have to look harder, not because they are lazy or anything like that, but simply because of the nature of their role.

People want to work and earn their keep. Some parts of your business may require more manpower than others. Try people out in new roles. You may discover some new talent you did not know existed. You will also engage your workforce, educating them as to the challenges faced by departments that were previously faceless monoliths, bringing your company closer together.

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“We came, we saw, we kicked its ass!”

I know that Peter Venkman might not be the first character from a movie who comes to mind when you think about coping under extreme pressures, but he was on the winning team in Ghostbusters, regardless. When the going got tough, the tough – wait, wrong movie.

The point is, while it may not be entirely business-as-usual right now, there are still actions and activities that can be completed that will not only set you in better stead for the future, but also serve to encourage your workforce that not all is doom and gloom, that you have a plan and in a year’s time, all of this will be just another speedbump in your organisation’s business journey. These are suggestions to help you stay busy and to keep your teams together, ticking over so that when this is all over, you can all hit the ground running.

Stay well, stay isolated and stay safe.

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