6-12 Blog: Spread The Word About The Grad In Your Fam!

Being in school has certainly been different for this year’s graduating class than when I went to school. During 8th grade in Cuba in 1980, all I had to worry about was whether I had the GPA to move forward into “pre-universitario.” Fortunately, I did.

As a senior at Alhambra High School in Southern California in 1984, my focus was principally on learning English. My goal was to get high-enough SAT scores to be admitted to the University of California-Los Angeles, and the University of Southern California. Both institutions accepted me.

In 1988, I navigated my last year at USC to complete my degree in electrical engineering and find a job that would enable me to start paying off my student loans. After graduation, I became a civil servant when I started my professional career at the California Public Utilities Commission in San Francisco.

I met challenges leading to each of those milestones, but they seem quaint compared to those faced by today’s graduates. I admire their resilience tremendously. They have had to pivot and adjust to get to the end of 8th grade, 12th grade or university while the facilities they had attended, their teachers and professors, and their fellow students struggled with the impact of the pandemic.

There are very hopeful signs that the situation in our country is improving, but the graduates’ time is now. So, I want to make it a little easier for families to celebrate the tremendous accomplishments of the graduating class. If you have a Grad In Your Fam, reach out to us and ask about the Grad In Your Fam Package. The package discounts announcement cards and yard signs 20%, which you can use to spread the word of your pride in them among your family, friends and neighbors!

6-12 Blog: Getting It Right From The Start

I spoke to a Prospect today who seemed surprised with one of the basic operational tenets of our Center. He is trying to get a small business off the ground and wants printed materials for advertising and operations. He wanted five different items and specified the quantities and quality for each. He then asked whether we offer mailing services (yep). That’s when I shared our tenet: we will get it right from the start by providing a firm Estimate from which we will not deviate unless our Client seeks a change.

We have adhered to this operating principle regardless of the challenges we have faced. This has been particularly the case at our Dunwoody – Sandy Springs Center. In that team, some had experience in the visual-communications industry. Regardless, we were all new to AlphaGraphics’s systems and some of us (myself included) had come from other professions. Of course, there were several quotes that significantly underpriced our services and products. A certain project involving menus comes to mind. No matter what, we never went back to the Clients with revised quotes.

I told our Client today that I would send him a firm Estimate for the printed items. However, depending on the direction in which he wanted to go with the mailing services (e.g., targeted, personalized list vs. generic neighborhood), this item’s quote would not be final right away. I explained that the rest of the Estimate would be firm. He thanked me for letting him know about our policy on quotes. As a small business trying to get off the ground, few things are certain. A firm quote from us provides a small amount of confidence, allowing him to budget for other expenses necessary to open and be successful.

6-12 Blog – Importance of Trust

There are myriad business books in the market providing advice on every element of running a successful business. I have read a few of them, and only a handful has had the impact on my thinking more than The Speed of Trust. I had to read that book as part of a training for my former corporate employer. It was an easy read, and I fully bought into its overarching message:

“There is one thing that is common to every individual, relationship, team, family, organization, nation, economy, and civilization throughout the world – one thing which, if removed, will destroy the most powerful government, the most successful business, the most thriving economy, the most influential leadership, the greatest friendship, the strongest character, the deepest love.

“On the other hand, if developed and leveraged, that one thing has the potential to create unparalleled success and prosperity in every dimension of life.  Yet, it is the least understood, most neglected, and most underestimated possibility of our time.

“That one thing is trust.”

Our Clients, employees, and vendors at AlphaGraphics Tri-Cities – Atlanta Airport all make choices every day to trust and engage with my businesses. I want them to feel that making such a choice is the right thing to do for their own self-interests. To do so, here is what I strive to do:

Clients:

  • Follow up and follow through
  • Be transparent on pricing
  • Demonstrate expertise on products and services
  • Deliver what we agreed to produce by when we agreed to do so
  • Do the right thing when we fumble

Employees:

  • Understand where they are personally and professionally
  • Empower them to make decisions and take risks
  • Enable them to learn and grow
  • Help them achieve their goals

Vendors:

  • Be crystal on what we need from them
  • Respect their perspective and listen to their suggestions
  • Pay their invoices in a timely fashion

I believe that being consistent in these actions will help build trust in my leadership within these critical stakeholders to my businesses’ success. I also know that slipping on one of these items could create problems that would have a direct impact on my bottom line.

So how do I know I am doing all the right things? Trust will manifest itself in repeat business from satisfied Clients, buy-in from my amazing teams, and responsiveness from vendor partners. I plan to track each of these markers to see how I am doing against my own driving principles.

6-12 Blog – You Will Begin To Notice

One of the most memorable experiences from my initial training as a new AlphaGraphics owner involved the discussion of “substrates.” My trainer had prop to demonstrate at a high level the variety of papers my business would be handling. He also talked about the types of materials we would use to print signs while sharing that there would be additional education regarding that side of my new AlphaGraphics business.

During this discussion, I realized silently that I had just entered a new industry with new vernacular I would have to learn quickly. It was both a little daunting and exciting, as I really like to learn. I chuckled when the trainer said that there would come a time when I would begin to notice in as I went about every day what substrate and printing technique had been used to produce a printed piece of paper or sign.

That seemed so far away from reality given the number of choices of materials and techniques we would make available to our Clients. I admit today that the trainer was right, as I have begun assessing the quality of printed items I run across in real life, such as restaurant menus or yard signs!

My experience along the steep learning curve showed me that one of the most critical functions we perform is to help our Clients by understanding what they are want to accomplish and using that knowledge to narrow the options available and help them arrive at the most efficient, economical decision. Yes, some of our Clients know exactly what they need, but most look to us to provide the best solution.

I have a long way to catch up with the expertise of the great people who work in my Centers. Just a couple of days ago, I showed Ella, the Production Coordinator at our Dunwoody – Sandy Springs Center a tri-fold pamphlet we had received from a vendor. I had been impressed by the nice, heavy paper stock; she looked it over and told me that the pamphlet had an “obvious” flaw from when it has been produced. I looked at the item again closely, trying to figure out to what she was referring and could not see anything. Ella then pointed to the very edge of the item (think the width of a strand of hair), where a different color could be seen, betraying a mistake when the pieces were cut after being printed. This incident emphasized the need for quality control and pointed to how much remains for me to learn about this industry. But I have begun to notice!