I speak to my teams in the Dunwoody – Sandy Springs and Tri-Cities – Atlanta Airport Centers with some frequency about what we will do when we make a mistake in fulfilling a Client’s order. I would like to think we would be perfect every time, but we are human beings. Perfection will elude us. As I see it, it’s not the mistake itself that will define us in the eyes of our Clients and Prospects, it’s what we do to make it right. The corollary to this perspective is that we need to learn from such mistakes tpoavoid them in the future.
We recently had a fairly simple order for four training manuals. There were several modules and different numbers of copies and binding choices for each manual. Overall, however, this level of complexity should not have tested our systems, but it did. Our production team printed too many of one production manual, and none of another. Our Quality Control process should have caught this error, but we miss it there, too.
The Client picked up the Order the afternoon before the training sessions for which the materials were intended. He immediately raised the alarm after reviewing the printed items. He added that his sessions would start the following morning at 8 AM. I understood the challenge we faced, and we had to make it right.
Ella, our Production Coordinator in Sandy Springs stayed past the end of her day to print the missing item, which was the biggest one (90 pages) with the most copies (25). I picked up the finished product after dinner that evening around 8:30 PM. My husband agreed to deliver the materials to our Client’s training location the next morning, then drove and met the Client at 7 AM. We made it right for the Client.
When I started down the road to opening our Dunwoody-Sandy Springs Center, we were building something completely new. That meant generally following the script laid out by the franchiser, from the products and services we would sell to the equipment and processes we would purchase and adopt, even to the recommended staffing levels. When I decided to purchase ATW/Advertising That Works, I, along with my colleagues in AlphaGraphics’ corporate offices, faced the challenge of something different.
Of course, AlphaGraphics has a history of incorporating independent sign and print shops into their extensive network of franchises. The had faced the task of supporting the decisions of those shops to offer products and services that did not quite align with the network’s suite of offerings. Regardless, the surprise and confusion that the sale of blank banners has posed for the experts at AlphaGraphics speaks to the unique nature of these products.
ATW, over the last few years, built a growing business from the sale of blank banners principally to distributors and other sign shops. The former owner of ATW had toyed with this product for years, and decisions by former competitors to exit the market had increased his commitment to it. Developing a supply chain, specialized equipment, dedicated staff, and pricing, he successfully built a burgeoning line. Nevertheless, it puzzled AlphaGraphics.
Now, we are going full steam ahead to rebrand ATW into AlphaGraphics Tri-Cities – Atlanta Airport. My team faces a challenge to “fit” something so different into the AlphaGraphics systems and processes so we can continue to run blank banners and grow the line into a profitable business. Fortunately, the corporate AlphaGraphics team has been supportive of this journey. While they have admitted confusion on the product, they have nevertheless devoted resources to help us bring the product into the franchiser’s umbrella.
Much work remains to get to the point where we are selling blank banners as an AlphaGraphics Center as efficiently or even more so, than ATW did. I am confident we will get there with the support of my team and the great folks at AlphaGraphics in Denver.
I have several ongoing discussions with my teams at both my Tri-Cities – Atlanta Airport and Dunwoody – Sandy Springs Centers. I will cover those in this space from time to time. Today, I want to share the debate around a transactional vs. a consultative business. And how one model leads to point a misspelling on a sign, and the other doesn’t.
There are many successful transactional businesses out there. They provide their customers with the products or services they seek. Rarely do they need to engage in a dialogue with those customers. Frankly, many customers do not want the dialogue. I know that when I am at a big-box store looking for the item I want, I am disinclined to welcome a salesperson’s intrusion.
Since we are all consumers in one form or another, we probably have a shared set of expectations around our decisions to buy something. We may want help available, should we need it, though finding that expert in the right-color jacket responsible for the area of the big-box store can be a challenge.
Consultative businesses are different. They welcome interactions with their customers, knowing that their principal value lies in listening to the customers’ needs and coming up with the best solution based on their expertise. In fact, they count on these connections to drive the value of their products or services.
AlphaGraphics is part of an industry that straddles both of these types of businesses. Yes, we offer execution to our Clients who know what they want. And we consult with those looking for ways to reach their intended audience using visual communications. Our internal debate is about which of these two models is more like us.
Our tendency is to gravitate to the transactional model, since we live in that space as individual consumers just about every day. My push with the teams is that for many small and medium-sized businesses, it is in the consultation that we prove our worth. There is risk, yes, but it is a great feeling when our Clients adopt our recommended solution, and it works. Also, our Clients will appreciate when we catch and point our an obvious misspelling in their signs, instead of wasting time and money on a bad solution they designed.