Eight Practices for Effectiveness to Reach Your Business Goals in 2020

Now that January is almost history, it’s time for a quick reflection. The first month of the year can be a little overwhelming. You’re recovering from holiday break, looking back on the prior year, and thinking of the million goals you have for the current year . . .  all while you’re in quicksand!

As we prepare to celebrate 33 years of Stafford Printing, I know how time can become a blur. I don’t know exactly where I picked up these “eight practices for effectiveness,” but I want to share them here because I think they can be helpful when you’re trying to get organized and move forward on your plans for the year.

  1. Ask yourself, what needs to be done now? Choose just one big task, or two maximum. Most people don’t have the capacity to focus on multiple major projects simultaneously, so it’s better to work on one thing at a time and give it your full attention.
  2. Another question: what is right for your business? Be brutally honest with yourself about this one. Chasing silver objects is great in fiction, but not so much in real life.
  3. Develop an action plan for each project, or what some call a “statement of intent.”  This should be a written plan detailing exactly what steps you intend to take to accomplish your goal, and in what time frame.
  4. Take personal responsibility for decisions. Don’t just raise the flag – make sure there is buy-in, direction, accountability, and follow-up.
  5. You also need to take responsibility for communicating. Though technology has taken us to outer space and back, it hasn’t come up with a way to transmit the information in our brains and hearts to interested parties.
  6. Focus on opportunities rather than problems. This goes back to accountability – problem-solving does not produce results. Exploiting opportunities does.
  7. Run productive meetings. Kill the PowerPoint. The end.
  8. That old saying “there is no I in team” may be trite and overused, but it’s also true. You have to think in terms of “we,” and make decisions through that lens.

The first two practices give you knowledge; the next four convert knowledge into effective action; the last two ensure that the organization feels responsible and accountable. This is a great recipe not only for getting projects done, but also for staying true to your company values and taking care of your team in the process.

Finally, I’ll leave you with a bonus tip that comes from personal experience: listen first, speak last.

Does Everything Need to Be New in the New Year?

It’s amazing how quickly the holiday season is flying by. New Year’s Day will be here before we know it! With 2020 closing in, so is all the advice from experts, overflowing with recommendations for everything that you need to do and change to make your business more successful. They’ll tell you that you “should” overhaul your marketing strategy, that you “have to” start preparing for changes in search engine optimization, or that you “absolutely must” learn to navigate new developments in social media. The suggestions are endless, and they all follow a common theme: throw out everything you did in 2019 to make room for 2020.

Is it necessary to take such a drastic approach, though? Is running a successful business in 2020 really going to be that much different from 2019? Does it make any sense to wipe the slate clean and start from scratch?

The truth is, how much you need to change your business in the new year depends on how well things have been going for you up to this point. It’s certainly important to identify problem areas, and if your system for doing things is not helping you connect with and serve your clients in the best possible way, then of course that needs to be addressed. There is no one-size-fits-all solution; you simply have to look at what is working and what isn’t, and make your adjustments accordingly. Throwing everything out and starting over is rarely necessary, but occasionally certain aspects of your business will need a more major overhaul.

There’s one thing that definitely doesn’t change from year to year, though, and that’s the importance of keeping your clients at the center of your business strategy. The whole point of being in business is to provide services and products that make life easier for the people you’re serving. Without that as your number one priority, all the marketing advice in the world won’t matter.

In reality, when we’re back at work in January, how we bring value to our clients won’t change all that much. It will still be about relationships, service, innovation, and erasing friction so that interactions are as seamless as possible. Sure, there will be adjustments to the process along the way. There may be some new tools that come in handy, or a new type of software that helps streamline the work. But at the end of the day . . . your fingers will still have to do the walking, your mouth the talking, and your actions delivering on your promises!

Navigating the Changing Landscape of Print

Change is everywhere. From how we order groceries, to how we get around, to how we access information . . . our entire lives are saturated in change. I think of these as structural changes in our day-to-day living.

But there’s also the human aspect – changes in culture, or how we live our lives, or what is acceptable today that was taboo even ten years ago.

Shifts happen when new generations come along, due to different levels of life experience and the perpetual evolution of culture. At my age, I have a long history of experiences – both successes and failures – to draw from. A recent college graduate or student out of high school, however, would have a completely different perspective on what change is and what it means to people of their generation.

In the printing industry, there’s a lot of bellyaching about how things are changing. Printers complain that customers aren’t buying envelopes and letterheads anymore. People are printing business cards on a home printer, or ordering online for next to nothing. We even had a request come in the other day from a customer, saying that they didn’t care what the cards looked like as long as they were cheap!

My point is that no matter what business you’re in, you not only have to accept change, you also have to be prepared to embrace it. Whether it’s in the realm of employees, technology, demand for products, or customer expectations, if you want to survive you have to be able to adapt and evolve. Otherwise, you and your business will become a memory.

That said, adapting and evolving doesn’t necessarily mean throwing out all the old ways – it’s being smart enough to know what works best in any given context. We can fulfill orders the same day, because we have the technology that makes it possible. We tackle difficult jobs, because unlike an online printer, we don’t have narrow guardrails that every job has to stay within. Any order, no matter how small or specific, is appreciated.

There is no substitute for good old-fashioned human interaction, though. Although we have the ability for customers to order online, we also have a live person answering the phone. We like to talk to customers, get a feel for their needs and requirements, and have real conversations. Customers notice this, too. We got an email this week from a graphic artist who is a frequent customer. One of their clients insisted on using another printer for a particular job, and the printer did not even acknowledge that the art had been received. The job was delivered to the client without any communication at all with the graphic artist. The client, needless to say, was not impressed.

Too many businesses equate efficiency with simply getting things done quickly, but customers expect and deserve more than that.

Change is a good thing, and nothing to be afraid of . . . but you have to be smart about it. We aim to stay on the edge of technological changes in our industry, while retaining the traditional values of service that let customers know we care. It’s a balance that we strive for with every order that comes in.

Is Your Process Driving Customers Away?

We opened Stafford Printing just over 32 years ago.  At that time, a black-on-white thermographic business card – meaning it had raised print – would take about three weeks to produce from start to finish. As the fax machine became commonplace, an order could be faxed to the manufacturer, and we would in turn receive a proof back in a few days, which we would then fax to the customer.

Everyone was happy with this back-and-forth process. Three weeks was considered a reasonable time frame from order to delivery. A rush order – where a frantic client might say that they needed the cards within a week – would be produced in-house for delivery just in the nick of time!

Of course, times and technology have changed over the years, and so have our expectations about ease of production and turnaround.  Some industries and companies have kept up with these developments; others have remained mired in the old, more labored ways of doing things.

I thought about this today as I filled out forms in the doctor’s office. Even though there have been no changes to my personal information, I was handed three sheets of paper, two of them printed front-to-back, and I was instructed to re-fill out the forms.  I couldn’t imagine why this was necessary, since they already have all my information. It was frustrating, and it made me want to hand over a copy of Shep Hyken’s Convenience Revolution.

In his book, Hyken writes about how to deliver a customer service experience that disrupts the competition and creates fierce loyalty. The secret sauce: reduce friction between you and the customer; be convenient. Answer the phone when a client calls instead of having them navigate a phone tree. Make the ordering process efficient and easy to understand. Communicate clearly regarding job completion and delivery.  In short, make things as easy and frictionless for your customer as possible. Don’t make them do unnecessary work.

I believe Stafford Printing is a good company. Our goal is to be great. Making it easier to do business with us is a goal we work toward every day. Thank you for being on the journey with us. We appreciate your business, support and loyalty.