Alphagraphics blog

Time to Hire?

Times are good.  Business is up.  As an owner or manager of a business, you’re no longer worried about keeping the doors open.  Sometimes there aren’t enough hours in the day to manage all the business you have.  In fact, you’re wondering if it’s time to hire more help.  But how do you really know when it’s time to staff up?

Every business has guidelines specific to their industry.  Peak seasons in construction and retail determine when it’s time to add staff and whether that staff should be full time, part time or temporary.

In other industries, business owners often opt to pay existing employees overtime to manage the extra workload.  However, with new overtime laws going into effect in December of 2016, overtime may prove to be much more expensive than increasing headcount.  Beyond the financial impact of overtime, employee job satisfaction and performance can suffer if overtime becomes a job requirement. High turnover can also result from working your team too hard.

There are certain signs that it’s time to consider hiring new employees.  An astute business owner or manager will be able to spot these and determine when it’s time to staff up.

When to Hire

1.  Your business has sustained growth over more than one quarter in the last 12 months.  When sales are consistently increasing or when forecasts indicate continued growth, it may be time to hire.

2.  New business opportunities are on the horizon but you don’t have adequate human resources to seize them.  Any time you put off an expansion of services or products simply because you don’t have the people on staff to do the work, it’s time to hire.

3.  Your employees are experiencing burn out.  Stress, excessive complaints, mistakes, absenteeism, team dysfunction, and decline in customer satisfaction are all signs that you are asking too much of your current staff and it’s time to hire.

4.  Employees feel stuck in their current positions.  Every business needs a workforce that is capable, well-trained (preferably cross-trained) and primed to move up the ladder.  If you can’t offer opportunities for career growth because you don’t have new people ready to fill vacant slots, it’s time to hire.

5.  If owners and/or managers are handling day-to-day tasks because there’s no one else to do them, you’re understaffed.

Employees need their bosses to be leaders, not co-workers.  Your job is to lead and manage.  If you don’t have time to do that, then it’s definitely time to hire.

No responsible business owner or manager wants to add staff in peak times only to have layoffs if business falls short.  However, no business owner or manager can afford to lose business because of customer complaints or lack of manpower to service the needs of the client.  Often it makes good business sense to hire new employees so they can be trained and ready to handle new business.

Is it time for your business to hire?

 

-LG, AlphaGraphics Franklin | July 2016

July 18 / 2016

Circling

We’ll be honest.  Our business was stagnant when our boss bought the joint.  Things were comfortably routine.  We weren’t growing but the same could be said for a lot of small businesses in 2012.

Our boss came into this business as a novice.  Printing and marketing were industries about which he knew nothing.  He’d run businesses before, but this was completely alien to him.

Because it was all so new, he had an advantage.  He didn’t know what had always worked in the past or what had been tried unsuccessfully before.    He was learning an industry as he went, applying concepts from other business models.  Some worked, some didn’t.  But the mistakes were lessons learned and became building blocks for the next success.

In 4 years, he increased revenue by over 100%.  In what some commercial print companies would call a waning market, our boss tripled his staff, expanded his services, and turned a quiet little print shop into a thriving communications company.

By the end of June 2016, this guy will be the proud owner of a Gold Circle franchise.  In the AlphaGraphics world* becoming a Gold Circle center is a flippin’ big deal.  And to do it with only one brick and mortar location in a town the size of Franklin Tennessee in just over 4 years is almost unheard of.

He must be doing something right — something that could be applied to other entrepreneurial enterprises.  If we could pin him down, he might have some pearls of management wisdom to share.

But, here’s the thing, we can NEVER pin him down.  We call him the shark because he’s always moving, always circling through the shop to monitor the pulse of the business.  He’s always meeting with clients or potential clients.  He’s always making deliveries so he can touch base with customers.  He’s always visiting vendors building a rapport that pays off when we’re in a crunch a need a favor.  He never stops.

And that seems to be the secret of his success.  Don’t stop.  Something doesn’t work, try something else.  Some project is falling behind schedule, jump in and move it along.

He makes time for his employees but often that time comes during a road trip to see a customer or while hemming banners for an after-hours delivery.

There’s no time to rest on laurels if you’re always moving.

There’s no time to get complacent.  If you spend 100% of every work day moving forward, there’s no time to worry about what you might be doing wrong.

That kind of frenetic leadership may not work for everybody.  But for our boss, it got his team motivated to do more than we ever had.  It’s created a reputation for our business as one that can make things happen even under the tightest deadline.

Having the right experience, the right education, the right business in the right location can give anyone an edge.  But those are no guarantee you’ll be successful.  Our boss is proof that persistence and a refusal to stop moving forward can be the deciding factors in whether a business fails or thrives.

Our shark is still circling gold and we’re right behind him.

*AlphaGraphics is a multi-national franchise with almost 300 independently owned and operated marketing service providers with full-service print shops. Approximately 10% of the franchisees make it to the company’s Gold Circle level of sales.  AlphaGraphics Franklin is located in Cool Springs and has 15 full time employees.

 

 

June 17 / 2016

Comic Sans is NOT Funny

There have been volumes (literally) written about how typeface can impact everything from web posts to printed books.  The right font can increase legibility and credibility.  The wrong font can make a project look amateurish and render it almost impossible to read.

By now, almost everyone knows that Comic Sans is NOT the font to use for anything (except, on the rarest occasion, a child’s birthday invitation).  And, aside from its questionable use for the title of the film Avatar, the font Papyrus is best left for use in the most mundane church bulletin.

Almost every designer has a “hit” list of the fonts that prove to be consistently easy to read.  Others can rattle off a top 10 list of fonts that they would never, ever consider using.

There are rules, of course, for what fonts to use for titles, for text, for web use and for different kinds of printed pieces.  There are principles for the use of serif and san serif fonts, for when to use italics and when to use bold face.

There are also rules for when to break the rules.

We’ve curated our own list of sites that provide the best (and worst) information about the selection and use of typeface.  Some of these are useful.  Some of these are fun.  All of them provide great information that can help you avoid an unforgiveable font faux pas.

11 Fonts That Designers Love to Hate

Examples of How a Bad Typeface Can Run Your Brand

What Font Should I Use? Five Principles for Choosing and Using Typefaces

Sources for free fonts:

Best and Worst Fonts

May 20 / 2016
Author AG Franklin
Category Business, Printing
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Innovate or Die

For decades now, pundits have been declaring that “print is dead!” In this age of recycling and pre-cycling, printed materials are sometimes considered an unnecessary waste and expense.

Despite studies that consistently indicate consumers – including both baby boomers and millennials – prefer print to digital media*, commercial print providers are facing an ever changing business environment.

Gone are the days when business printing meant long offset runs producing tens of thousands of pieces which were warehoused until they could be consumed over the course of months or even years. Cost- and efficiency-conscious business owners now print their analog media on demand.  This move has challenged traditional offset print facilities but is proving to be a boon for quick turn digital print shops.

Commercial printers have learned that they must adapt to changing business trends or be forced out of the marketplace. For commercial print vendors, it’s innovate or die.

Forward thinking commercial print companies have embraced changes in their industry. It’s not uncommon now to find print shops providing other products and services.  Graphic design and marketing services, large format printing, and promotional product sourcing are now in the toolkit of many print companies.  And web-to-print solutions are rapidly becoming something consumers are requiring from their print vendors.

Vistaprint introduced online print purchasing to consumers in 1995. Since then, many other print companies (including AlphaGraphics) have starting offering their own online platforms.

Buying print online is a trend that continues to grow.  In 2001, roughly 3% of print orders were placed online.  By 2014, that number was up to 30% and is expected to rise to 50% by 2017**.  That’s a trend that commercial print companies cannot afford to ignore.

Not all web-to-print platforms are alike. Some can be branded for and tailored to suit the needs of specific customers.  Some can allow consumers to select templates and create their own designs.  Others allow companies to manage their sales and marketing collateral – becoming a library of up-to-date materials which their employees can access 24/7, 365 days a year.

The best platforms can do all those things and more. Some can be expensive to build out and maintain.  Others are offered as free services to business customers.  All can be beneficial for everyone involved – providing businesses with a low or no cost resource and giving print vendors a direct link to their consumers.

Innovation in the print industry has changed the way commercial printers sell print.

Print companies who can’t or won’t innovate are losing market share to those companies who have embraced these changes. Smart print companies have found a way to leverage digital tools to increase their sales of printed materials.

And smart consumers have found a way to leverage their purchasing power to convince commercial printers to provide digital platforms that make the buying process easier, quicker, and often less costly.

In commercial printing as in many other businesses, it’s innovate or die.  And the innovaters are flourishing.

-LG, AlphaGraphics Franklin | April 2016

 

https://www.jwt.com/en/worldwide/thinking/embracinganalog/ ** http://www.designnbuy.com/the-web-to-print-trends-defining-2016/

Do You Really Need a Business Card?

In this world of ever-increasing apps promising us greater connectivity, you may have asked yourself if you really need a business card.  We can connect with others in a variety of ways right from our smartphone.  Why, then, do we need something as archaic as a tiny piece of paper imprinted with our names?

Business cards seem a little old-fashioned.  With their roots in formal calling cards used by aristocrats in the 17th century, business cards morphed into trade cards with the dawn of the industrial age.  By the 20th century, cards touting a person’s line of work and contact information became the status quo.  In some parts of the world, business cards of today are very formal and are exchanged with a great deal of pomp and ceremony.

In the U.S., cards are often considered a necessary evil or an afterthought.  With cheap cards available online, many people put very little thought into what is actually printed on the card.  Business cards can seem an unnecessary expense and unimportant in today’s business landscape.

Dismissing business cards as a throwback to the mad men era of business is missing the point entirely.

Despite their diminutive size, business cards can have a big impact.  Your card may be the first impression you make with a potential client.  It’s a tangible representation of your brand and one that people can keep indefinitely.

Business cards are accessible anytime – there’s no downtime and they work even in those times when people are not connected online.  And there’s no need to worry that they’re compatible with someone’s software or device.

Swapping contact information via phone might be quick (or maybe not for those who find typing on a smartphone challenging and slow) yet it refocuses attention away from the person at hand and down to the digital device.  Placing a printed business card in someone’s hand doesn’t require a lapse in attention or eye contact during the process.   Instead, the swap reinforces the connection.

Technology can make information sharing impersonal.  Business cards allow us to connect to someone in the real world.

Even the nicest printed business cards are still relatively inexpensive and easy to carry (and distribute).  And that little piece of real estate can be made even more impactful by the addition of a head shot, a QR code to your LinkedIn page or even a map to your brick and mortar location.

Business cards are a great place to tack on a special offer, giving people even more incentive to hang onto your business card.

In our digital world where we remain constantly connected, a printed business card might seem a little antiquated.  Yet, that 3.5” x 2” piece of paper can still serve a useful purpose.  Do you really need a business card?  Absolutely.  Sometimes tradition can be of use well into the future.

-LG, AlphaGraphics Franklin | April 2016

April 05 / 2016
Author AG Franklin
Category Printing
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March Madness

March Madness is here.  Regardless of whether or not you follow college basketball, you’re probably aware that this time of year is a BIG DEAL for that sport.  The NCAA tournaments are starting and brackets are going up in office breakrooms all over the country.  It won’t be uncommon to spot office workers across the U.S. trying to watch games on the sly.

Employment experts have calculated that dips in worker productivity during March Madness could cost American businesses close to $2 billion.  The NCAA estimates that the 2015 tournament averaged 11.3 million total views – many of which occurred during normal ‘business’ hours.

So what’s an employer to do?  Old school managers might be tempted to decree a “No Madness during office hours” edict.  However, with the proliferation of smart phones, it has become extremely difficult to monitor just when and how employees are watching games.

Rather than issue March Madness bans, many managers are now allowing employees to watch key matchups in the office or, at the very least, not discouraging employees from watching privately on their phones.  Those same phones that make it easier for employees to goof off during the work day also give them the ability to receive and respond to work-related texts and emails after hours.

Instead of punishing employees who slack a little during March Madness, smart managers are realizing there is a trade-off.

Employees who feel empowered to divert a little work time to watching their favorite team in the tourney are more likely to find an after-hours work message less of an interruption.

And employees who gather to enjoy the excitement of a great match-up are actually doing a little team-building on their own.  Coming together to cheer for (or against) a team can actually unite co-workers.

So rather than force employees to watch games covertly on their phones, employers might consider hooking up a big screen, ordering a couple of pizzas, and letting them bond over the big game.

So, is there an NCAA bracket up in your break room?

-LG, AlphaGraphics Franklin | March 2016

March 16 / 2016

Emergency Preparedness for Businesses

How prepared is your business for an emergency?  Perhaps you’ve drilled your employees in the proper responses to things like fire and extreme weather, but do you have a plan in place in the event of an attack or armed gunman? Do your employees know what to do if faced with an active shooter?

Unfortunately, recent events have proven that this type of incident is occurring with more frequency and in the most unlikely places. It’s becoming more and more important for business owners to discuss these types of events with their employees and to develop action plans should they occur.

Emergency Preparedness Plans for businesses and public venues now must include procedures for dealing with the frightening possibility of an armed gunman whose only goal is to cause harm.

“Run, Hide, Fight” has become the mantra for active shooter training.

“Run, Hide, Fight” has become the mantra for active shooter training. It represents a 3-part response plan designed to keep the public as safe as possible.    It’s an easy-to-remember phrase that can help panicked employees react when there isn’t time to analyze a situation.

RUN – Experts from FEMA and law enforcement agencies agree that evacuating the area immediately around an active shooter is the best plan of action. Do your employees know the best exits from every part of your business? Do you have a rendezvous point established so you can make sure everyone has gotten out safely?

HIDE – If you can’t flee the scene without putting yourself or others in more danger, experts recommend you do your best to be as inconspicuous as possible. Have you reviewed potential safe zones and hiding places with your employees? Do you have a plan of action in place to account for customers and other visitors who might be on sight?

FIGHT – If there is absolutely NO possibility of escape or when no safe shelter is available, the last resort is to attempt to disrupt or incapacitate the shooter. Do your employees know the safest way to distract an active shooter?

The Department of Homeland Security has published a booklet entitled “Active Shooter: How to Respond” which contains useful information including what to expect when first responders arrive on the scene. Download it for free from their website.

http://www.dhs.gov/xlibrary/assets/active_shooter_booklet.pdf

No business should have to deal with active shooter situations. Unfortunately, those incidents continue to occur and responsible business owners need to plan accordingly.  Do you have your plan in place?

-LG, AlphaGraphics Franklin | March 2016

March 09 / 2016
Author AG Franklin
Category Business
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Print vs. Paperless

Tree FarmChances are you’ve never heard of digital deforestation.  It’s a relatively new way to look at the environmental impact caused by the switch from printed material to digital forms of communication.  Things like email, online magazines, newspapers, and even paperless billing have an environmental impact all their own.

Digital technology uses a tremendous amount of resources.  All our data has to be stored somewhere. The digital “cloud” is, in reality, a large data center somewhere.  Most likely, it’s a series of server farms in multiple locations.

The largest server farm is 1.1 million square feet in size — as large as 20 football fields.

Large data centers require vast resources to operate.  They consume resources when built and convert huge tracts of water-absorbing land into expanses of concrete and pavement.  The accompanying cellular towers that carry all this cloud technology are dotting the landscape with ever increasing frequency.  These claim their own share of land and environmental resources.   And at the tail end of the technology life cycle are ever-growing mountains of discarded computer equipment piling up in landfills, posing risks to wildlife and ground water.

As of 2014, there were over 250,000 cell towers located in the U.S.

As it turns out, paperless communication isn’t as green as once thought.  And printing on paper isn’t necessarily as bad as we’ve been made to believe.  In fact, printing – is actually a sustainable business practice that can make good environmental sense.

Paper is good.  Paper is made from trees which benefit the environment in a number of ways.  Trees reduce soil erosion.  Trees recycle carbon dioxide into oxygen.  Trees provide habitat for wildlife.  The responsible harvesting of mature trees makes room for new tree growth.  Flourishing woodlands are a sign of a healthy ecosystem.

Trees are the ultimate “green” product.  And the paper made from trees is recyclable.  In fact, paper is one of the easiest materials to recycle and reuse.

Roughly 67% of the paper discarded in 2014 was recycled.

Most trees used for paper production in the U.S. are now grown on sustainable tree farms.  Tree farming creates thousands of jobs for Americans and pumps millions of dollars back into our economy.   The forest products industry in the U.S. has pushed for industry-wide adoption of sustainable forestry practices that include environmental impact reviews and sustainability certifications.

That push to make the paper industry “greener” has filtered down to commercial consumers of paper products.  Most paper suppliers now provide products that that are manufactured using cleaner energy and using more ecologically sound processes than was the case 20 years ago.

Resource conversation is always a good idea and there are times when going paperless makes good sense.  However, before opting out of printing altogether, consumers may want to take another look at the environmental impact of their decision.  Sometimes, putting ink on paper may be the greener option.

-LG, AlphaGraphics Franklin | February 2016

February 10 / 2016
Author AG Franklin
Category Printing
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