We asked participants in a recent AMSP/NAPL survey to describe the state of our industry. No response was more insightful than this: “Confusion seems to reign—so we need to capitalize on the confusion.”
During periods of great uncertainty the tendency is to wait for clarity. The opportunity, however, is to create clarity—for clients, for employees, and for ourselves.
We create clarity for clients by showing how we will help them save time, save money, increase the response to their direct-mail campaign, increase traffic to their website, etc. We have to be specific, spelling out, in the words of one company owner we surveyed, “the positive results we [will] bring to their businesses.” And we have to be disciplined enough to talk less about our technical expertise in printing, mailing, and fulfilling and more about exactly how the client will benefit from that expertise.
We create clarity for our employees and ourselves by creating a “Success Manifesto,” or a concise statement of what we are going to do as a team to excel. Posting the manifesto in lunchrooms and common areas will help keep everyone focused on what’s most important. Our manifesto might state, for example, that we will:
• Improve continuously because in our increasingly competitive, complex industry, we’re either getting better or we’re falling behind.
• Aggressively correct problems, never assuming they will self correct or “use being busy as an excuse for not getting better.”
• Challenge our success, never accepting an “if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it” mentality anywhere in our organization.
• Focus on what’s most important to our clients, ensuring that “we never let customers perceive us as focusing on meeting our goals instead of theirs” and documenting our contributions to their success.
• Communicate effectively both the company plan and vision and, by drawing on the “knowledge of the shop floor,” how close we are coming to realizing the plan and vision.
• Understand that the biggest threat to our success is not the economy or print alternatives but rather complacency, the status quo, and assuming that what worked yesterday will work tomorrow.
• Take nothing for granted, recognizing that “each day is new and will be different” and that just getting better at what we’ve always done isn’t enough anymore.
How are you creating clarity? Get your key people together and think it over. With so much confusion about our industry, economy, and nation, it will be time well spent.