Better Business

Nurture both personal and professional growth

James Heskett, highly respected professor emeritus at Harvard Business School, once memorably claimed that employees and managers alike look forward to performance appraisals in the same manner as they anticipate root canal dentistry. With dread, to put it bluntly.


It doesn’t need me to point out that such a state of affairs is a long way from ideal. Appraisals should actually be positive events, helpful for those sitting on either side of the desk. But enough companies have botched appraisals for many employees to feel the same kind of trepidation suffered by those with a drill phobia as they sit anxiously in the dentist’s waiting room. And sometimes the managers conducting the appraisals don’t feel much better about it all

Why Lord Sugar needs to sweeten his behaviour

Someone is not performing to an acceptable standard. They are for the chop and it’s down to you to administer the coup de grâce. Is this your Lord Sugar moment? Do you point the finger of doom with a theatrical flourish and, without compunction, utter the famous words, “you’re fired”?


Of course not. Taking this sort of action isn’t something any of us relish. The very idea may fill you with dread and in your anxiety to move on to more positive matters you may find yourself eager to get

Dates for your diary: why tech TLC goes a long way

Okay, so it’s honesty time: can you truthfully say that you have completed every scheduled maintenance process on every machine in your print business on the day and at the time it was scheduled? Do you even have a schedule?

And how many times have you put off a maintenance check until the next day to get an order out, but never actually got around to it?
Most people would probably respond positively to the first questions and negatively to the last, suggesting they’re veritable maintenance

Set your pay schemes to suit your sales strategy

For years the tried and trusted method print bosses used to motivate their sales staff was the ‘carrot and stick’ approach: the promise of cold hard cash if certain performance-related targets were hit during a set period of time was a great motivational tool for sales animals, who also knew they would be out the door if they failed.



ut times change and for some sales people this rather crude approach to performance-related pay can be incredibly demotivating. Some people don’t like

Staff perks can be mutually beneficial

While signs that the economy is beginning to demonstrate sustainable growth are clearly welcome, most printers are still too conscious of the need to control costs to welcome the idea of stumping up for additional employee benefits. Indeed, this was never an area the industry excelled in even before the economic downturn.



ani Novick, director of print and packaging recruitment specialist Mercury Search & Selection, says: “Historically, the print industry has not been particularly

Unshackle your speed from your slowest process

Alex Rogo is a harried plant manager working ever more desperately to try to improve performance. His factory is rapidly heading for disaster. So is his marriage. He has 90 days to save his plant or it will be closed by corporate HQ, with hundreds of job losses. It takes a chance meeting with a colleague from his student days, Jonah, to help him see what needs to be done.


The above paragraph is the marketing blurb for Eli Goldratt’s 1984 novel The Goal. The novel reads like any other

Brands benefit from quality content and print’s power

When customer magazines (or contract publishing titles as they’re sometimes known) first appeared in the 1980s they were rather bland tomes. Editorial standards were poor to non-existent and these magazines so overtly championed the brand owner’s products and services that many customers just cast them straight into the bin.However, at some point in the 1990s a sea-change occurred. Seemingly overnight there was a major shift, with products and services increasingly playing second fiddle to

Regular check-ups help keep you out of intensive care

When was the last time that you assessed the health of your business? When did you last take its pulse and check the vital signs? Recently? Six to 12 months ago? Never? If you fall into the last category then it may be some consolation to know that you’re not the only one.


According to some print finance experts an alarmingly large number of printers have never subjected their businesses to a health check, while those that do regularly perform some kind of health assessment often look at

How mobile makes print relevant to the app generation

For something that spends more time with us than almost anyone or anything else, the mobile phone can be rather overlooked. Especially by printers.
Less a phone, nowadays, and more of a personal computer, these small conduits to a plethora of possibilities are being utilised by everyone from corporate giants like John Lewis and Amazon to 15-year-old bedroom videogame designers as a way of making considerable sums of money. The developers are capitalising on the fact that the phone makes the

Quality vs cost-effective: spot the difference

When it comes to paper, the average print client is not necessarily the most educated of purchaser. It’s a difficult market to get your head around, with so many options and brands that even some printers struggle to understand it. Jon Severs


And yet, regardless of this knowledge gap, customers are beginning to demand things of their printer when it comes to paper. And the general push is for a higher quality product. 

“There is an acceptance from clients that if you are going to

Trying to measure the unmeasurable

It’s by far and away the most costly element of a print job, accounting for as much as 60% of the total, yet managing the amount of paper to be purchased and used remains one of the most difficult parts of a printer’s day-to-day role.
Sometimes the problem is self-inflicted, either by the printer or their customer. Take magazine printing, for example. One paper consultant, who prefers to remain nameless due to the sensitive nature of the subject, says that in the publishing industry at least

Brands strive to profit from the personal touch

To say last year’s Share a Coke campaign was a success would be something of an understatement. As teenagers and mums alike rummaged through chiller cabinets (and Wilhelminas and Wilfreds begrudgingly contented themselves with ‘Will’), volume sales for the brand grew 3.9%. And its YouGov Brand-Index Buzz ranking jumped from 25 to 7.

Jenny Roper



eople tweeted and Facebook-ed pictures of themselves posed with bottles. People printed their own names using kiosks at special Share a Coke

Getting the goods with a bit of give and take



Wining and dining clients may now be somewhat frowned upon, but customer relations are as important as ever in straitened times


When was the best time to be in print? It’s a question that’s bound to generate lively pub debate among those in the trade. Around the time movable type was invented would surely have to be up there, particularly for those who also fancy themselves as history buffs. But so too would around 10 years or so ago.


For this was a golden age for print, not only

Promise of a digital future proves difficult to deliver



More than two years have passed since Drupa 2012 saw the announcement of a whole raft of digital carton printing presses, but so far we have not seen any real signs of an impact on the packaging sector.

Simon Eccles



Only a handful of that crop of dedicated carton presses have been delivered in Europe, with just one that we know of in the UK. High time, then, for a progress check.

The big German show saw prototypes or announcements of dedicated digital carton presses from Canon

Once the customer saw the sample, they had to have it


Taking a proactive approach to selling special finishes can open customers’ eyes to the great impact they can have – and help open their wallets too



At Drupa back in May, visitors to the Scodix booth took away an astonishing 250,000 samples of output from its range of ‘digital enhancement’ presses. I’ll just repeat that: 250,000 samples. This enormous figure is compelling evidence of the way a decorative finish can elevate a piece of print into something out of the ordinary, something

Arm yourself with stats to fight off the eco fallacies

How many times have you been making polite conversation in a taxi, paying in a shop or chatting with friends and heard those six, doomy little words: ‘print is bad for the environment’. Probably too many times to count.

Jenny Roper


And probably many many more times if you take into account all the occasions well-meaning, but not necessarily very clued-up, customers have voiced concerns. 

It can be difficult to know where to start in counteracting this, particularly when it’s such a

A sector cut from a different cloth


Breaking into textile print might seem to be just a case of buying a new press, but that’s the least of it. Nevertheless, the rewards can be big Words



Textile printing in 2012 is big business. A cursory visit to Fespa 2012 or May’s Drupa, not to mention the raft of other specialist events, such as last year’s ITMA, would have presented the humble visitor with a diverse, often startling, array of technology.




Manufacturers such as EFI, Mimaki and HP, to name a few, have

Retailers learn to tap into power of the subconscious


The Kunene is a remote, mountainous region of the southern African country Namibia, and home to the indigenous, semi-nomadic Himba people, distinctive for their reddish all-over body make-up. Jenny Roper


Further from the world of  packaging and POS printing you couldn’t get, you might think. And yet this is one of the more exotic locations Oxford University’s Charles Spence and his team have visited, contributing to findings that have the potential to radically alter packaging and

Treading lightly: Holistic logistics

Taking a interconnected view of the supply chain will enable printers –and their partners – to improve the overall sustainability of the medium



Whether it involves scrubbing out jam jars, turning off lights or investing in a new low-energy press, few people would deny that, when it comes to the environment, we should all be ‘doing our bit’.

But in the face of increasingly ominous environmental headlines, there may well be some questioning the reassuring simplicity and convenience of

Put your business into gear


In a world of highly successful business role models, it may seem odd to suggest printers look to a hapless character from a now-ended BBC comedy series for advice.  


And yet, according to a recent survey, Tony Robinson’s idiotic Baldrick from the Blackadder series has something to teach the print community: the value of having a “cunning plan”. 

“A recent survey of printers we carried out showed that just over 50% had no business plan at all,” says Neil Falconer, managing director of

Find the superhero to make your company soar

Creating a new job role can be just as stressful as applying for one. But your business could seriously boost its ROI by   focusing on people investment rather than equipment investment

In the early 1990s, a design consultant at what was then a computer company in trouble, impressed his temporary employers so much that they created a role and employed him permanently. Nearly 20 years later, that employee, Jonathan Ive, had transformed Apple into one of the world's biggest multifaceted technology

Going viral: using video to highlight your star quality


Dogs chasing deer, David after the dentist and sneezing baby pandas – it doesn’t take a digital genius to realise online video is now (with the latter alone garnering over 190m hits) just a bit popular. 


Of course cats dancing the Harlem Shake won’t have much relevance to your average business owner. But these viral videos do give an indication (we’re thinking especially of girl-twerks-upside-down-falls-down-and-garners-15m-hits, here), of just how accessible the medium is even to

Can your vehicles pull t heir weight but pollute less?

With petrol and diesel getting more expensive, and very little sign of the merciless price rises slowing down, it means that the cost of transporting goods is on a similarly unstoppable upwards curve - and greater costs potentially mean higher prices for customers.

Or do they? After all, necessity has always been the mother of invention and with margins being squeezed across the board, printers and other companies attached to the trade are having to come up with new ways to cut costs and get

Internships can deliver much more than just the tea


From Monica Lewinsky and that infamous cigar, to the ongoing debate around cheap or even unpaid labour, the subject of internships can be controversial. There have been plenty of headlines in recent months about companies exploiting interns by paying them a pittance or nothing at all. 

Rob Gray 



September 2013 survey by jobs website Monster found that four in 10 interns didn’t receive the minimum wage – despite the fact that 87% of employers felt interns made a positive

Grow the profit by sharing the costs

Selling print direct to a consumer can feel as if you have swapped a 10 note for a 5 note and that, for some reason, you're supposed to be pleased about it. You lay out substantial sums for customer acquisition, order processing and customer service tools to secure a sale, and in return you get a nominal sum from a consumer who is by no means guaranteed to offer repeat business.

While some printers can make those figures add up to profit, many are increasingly adopting an alternative route to

How to reap the rewards of awards

Entering industry awards helped Screaming Colour to stand out from its rivals.

What is the challenge? Googling ‘commercial printers’ plus a certain city or town is not for the faint-hearted print boss. What will greet them if they’ve entered their own postcode is of course an onslaught of competitor businesses. A probably quite a worthwhile, sobering reminder of how many other businesses potentially offer exactly the same as you, it can nonetheless be a terrifying insight into how