I read once that the most dangerous job in terms of sudden death from a heart attack was that of basketball coach. The second most dangerous job was editor. (Gives a new meaning to editors’ “drop-dead dates.”)
While they may seem dissimilar occupations, basketball coach and editor share the same basic characteristic: working to beat the clock (or calendar, in the case of editors, whichI suppose is why they’re in second place on the danger list).
Basketball coaches see success or failure determined by the minute, second, or fraction of a second, and editors see it in terms of days or hours, but both are up against the same unrelenting terror: the unforgiving deadline.
Printers, too, know what it’s like to work under deadline stress―a bit ironic that they share this condition with editors who are often the cause of printer anxiety. And printers are all too familiar with the customer deadline dance: We’ll have the files to you Friday, need it printed in two days; no, files there next Monday, need it overnight; we have some last-minute changes, still need it overnight; we’re changing the press run, still need it delivered by tomorrow―oh, wait, now we need it by the end of today!
Just as editors know which writers never make a deadline, printers know which customers are habitually late. But they also know which jobs they run for them at fairly regular intervals. Why not help take some of the time tyranny out of the equation by contacting these perennially tardy customers a few weeks before their next job is expected and offering them a small discount if they can get their predictably late files to you early (or at least on schedule).
(Maybe you could even feature an “on-time” bonus by encouraging customers to schedule work several weeks in advance and giving them a small credit ($100? $50?) toward their next job if they meet the date.)
Whatever you lose through a discount or credit will probably be more than offset by not having to pay your staff overtime or turn your entire shop upside down to get rush jobs done. (Especially when you don’t charge a rush premium because the customer is too important or you don’t want to risk losing future work.)
And think of the good will you can generate (and key customer relationships deepen) by letting your contacts know you are actively looking out for them, trying to help them take some pressure off themselves by thinking about a project a little earlier―and making them “budget heroes” by avoiding extra third-party shipping fees and gaining a discount or credit.
It may be the first time some project editors or print buyers ever finished a job without the usual fear and trembling about missing deadlines. They might even start getting other work to you on time. And that could do everyone’s heart some good.