GROWING and maintaining a successful printing company in the world's exploding digital environment must rate as one of the most difficult business challenges any owner could imagine.
Add to that challenge being a family-owned printing company based at the bottom of the earth in South Australia and the ability of Openbook Howden to continually increased their market share and client base is downright impressive.
According to general manager Sarah Leo, the underlying element of their growth is quite simple in its approach.
"We don't look at ourselves as a printing company, we look at ourselves as a business,” she says. “We must apply successful business principles - not printing company principles.”
Sarah’s five of the key principles for success:
1. Help clients achieve their business goals as smoothly as possible
Openbook Howden invested in an inventory management system to ensure clients could afford their services. Sarah says that if a client produces 10,000 of each print item every year, paying the cost for 10,000 up front wasn't financially viable for them. What we developed was a sophisticated "pay as you go'' approach. The client was then able to ensure stock availability and pay only for the amount required each month. We manage their inventory levels and artwork files so we are able to quickly and simply print the next batch as it is required. It solved several client problems immediately: cash flow concerns, firm inventory pricing and stock assurance, so they didn’t run out of critical products. For us as a supplier, we have gained a solid client who is a strong advocate for our business.
2. Cash is king and without a positive cash flow your company will not be around for long
To create this positive cashflow you must understand and manage your cash flows, both debtors and creditors and value your offering, says Sarah. Openbook Howden is open in claiming “we are not the cheapest printer, nor do we want to be.” We provide valued and relevant quality solutions that remove client’s risk associated with quality, reliability and service. Our clients value our stability, progressiveness and trust us to provide value to their business.
3. Upgrade technology to meet new demands
It can be a daunting decision to outlay significant money for new machinery.
Companies can spend hundreds of thousands of dollars - even millions - for the latest technology, only to find out they don't have a market or clients who need that output. It's critical to "move with the times'' and keep up with client’s demand but it has to be based on sound business principles. Don’t upgrade just for the sake of upgrading, says Sarah.
4. Staff engagement is all important
From sound recruitment practices through to internal activities for collaboration and innovation, we are continually nurturing our culture, says Sarah. This includes regular upskilling and professional development to stay abreast of the current skills, thinking and trends. If your staff are encouraged, engaged and happy in the workplace, teamed with a strong skill base and up-to-date knowledge they will be an invaluable resource to engage in decision making for the business.
5. Target markets that relate to the company and its expertise
Your employees are at the coalface and have first hand knowledge of potential clients and specific markets. While niche markets by definition are small, they can be very profitable, says Sarah. By developing and maintaining relationships with clients the business should be able to develop solutions for their problems.