Sunday, September 24, 2006

SHADES OF GRAY


Sometimes business ethics are not always black and white. As a printer, I've been asked to do many things that are I consider unethical and maybe illegal. For instance, a man came into my shop and asked me to produce passports from a certain Caribbean nation. When I told him that I couldn't do that, he said it's OK, he's from the government of that country. That was creative, but the answer is still no.
I often have people coming in with diplomas, asking me if I can make an official looking copy and change the name. The reasoning being that they lost their diploma, and either the school is no longer in existence, or does not issue duplicates. If you're going to be dishonest, at least tell me the truth. Do I look stupid?
Sometimes I'm asked to produce letterhead for a large corporation. I'm happy to take the order from the company, but not from an individual that only needs to know how much it will cost for ten copies. It's probably not illegal, but someone is up to no good.
When people hear about counterfeiting, they think it's about printing currency. However, documents, tickets and other forgeries are big business. There are businesses out there that are more than ready to produce these illegal documents. The payoff is huge, but is it worth it? Not only can you lose your business and your freedom, but many people can get hurt by these actions.
Sometimes I have to question the simple act of making copies; what are they using them for? Is it my job to monitor this? I can't always be resposible for every item that comes through my business, but I try to listen to my gut feelings.
Business ethics have come to the forefront in the past few years. We have to strive to do the right thing. It's not always black and white, but we have to distinguish between the different shades of gray.
I like the story about the people who forged pennies, so as to avoid suspicion. However, it cost them more to produce the pennies than they were worth. This was not only illegal, but downright stupid. A great example of business gone bad.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

BE CREATIVE

When you want to sell your products, you have to get people to your business, and get them in a buying mood. Putting this together is no easy task. However, when we were vacationing in North Carolina's Outer Banks, I saw a great example of creative marketing.
The Outer Banks is a dog friendly vacation haven. I've never seen so many dogs on the beach or anywhere else for that matter. A pet store in the town of Duck, aptly named the Outer Barks, has a "yappy" hour every week for dogs and their owners. The canines are treated to homemade ice cream, cakes and buscuits. There is a wading pool and paw print art for our four-legged friends. There is also wine and cheese for the adults, and juice for the kids.
My pug, Shana, really enjoyed the wading pool, and I sat there with her enjoying the great view of the sound. My wife went inside the store to buy some biscuits and get me a cup of wine. She informed me of the buying frenzy that was going on; not just biscuits and collars, but big ticket items like framed numbered prints.
They also have a weekly Barker Brunch that, I hear, is well attended. You can visit them when you're in Duck, or see them at http://www.outerbarks.com/. It's only business, but you have to know your customer, and doggedly market to them.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

BLENDING AC/DC AND AUDREY HEPBURN


The "Keep it Simple" campaign features original film footage of style icon Audrey Hepburn dancing in the movie "Funny Face," juxtaposed to the AC/DC song "Back in Black." The campaign relaunches Gap's skinny black pants and includes the tagline, "It's Back--The Skinny Black Pant." This marks the first time in more than 12 years that a film clip of Hepburn has been authorized to endorse a commercial product in North America. "We wanted to do something really special to relaunch our skinny black pants and thought who better to showcase them than actress Audrey Hepburn--an iconic woman famous for dressing with sophistication and classic style," said Trey Laird, creative director of the company. The 30- and 60-second spots will air through Oct. 5. The campaign follows disappointing sales results for Gap Inc. in August.
Posted by DavePinter on September 7, 2006 at 12:58 PM

This commercial has become an instant classic for me. I love AC/DC and I grew up watching Audrey Hepburn movies. I don't look at many commercials, but this one is great. Sometimes blending works; it depends on how it's done and who's doing it. The why is also very important. Advertising is a key part of business, getting the word out to move product. We'll see how this plays out for the Gap.
As for me, I'm entertained, but I'm not buying skinny black pants.

Monday, September 11, 2006

CHECK YOUR CALENDAR. Ever wonder about that wall or desk calendar? The ubiquitous calendar is a great and relatively inexpensive way to advertise your company or organization. It's target marketing at it's best. You get your name, phone number, e-mail and web site on your client's or prospect's wall or desk 24 hours a day for 365 days. A calendar is also a nice give-away for many people. You can get calendars tailor-made to your business, but always consider what your clients might like. Pictures of your plant and employees may not be what most people want to see, but there are scenic calendars, classic cars, history, comedy and religious themes. When you give out calendars, you're making it easier for clients to reach you. My company gives out a scenic America calendar every year. My customers appreciate it, and put it to good use. September is a good time to start planning your calendar marketing program. For more information, and to see the different calendars available, go to my website merrickprinting.net and click on my advertising specialties link. Click on Triumph Calendars and there you are. Feel free to e-mail me from my website if I can answer any questions. It's Only Business, but you have to spread the word.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

BUSINESS AND EDUCATION

Can education keep pace with the business world? This depends on the level of education and the type of business. In my experience, in the printing industry, I have customers who tell me how they learned printing in high school. Most of what I hear looks like this picture of woodcuts and handpress.

I taught high school 25 years ago after being in the industry for about 10 years. My class actually had similar equipment pictured in this old illustration. My first lesson was an introduction to printing, showing how it was done in the past. The next lessons were dedicated as much to the present as possible with the newer equipment available, and moving on to the future of printing at the end of the term. Unfortunately, my views of the future were murky at best.

At the college level there are professors who have been in the industry for many years. There are institutions, such as Rochester Institute of Technology, that are constantly updating their equipment. There are still many people choosing printing and publishing as their careers.

In the past 35 years I've seen an incredible amount of change. When we first bought Merrick Printing in 1985, a common question for sending a proof was, "Do you have a fax?". Usually it was by mail or messenger. E-mail and websites, of course, changed all that.

The problems with education keeping up with all the changes is that business can hardly keep pace with new technologies. It's not only the large outlay of capital; most new equipment becomes obsolete quicker than you can say buggy whip.

Luckily, there are many ways to work around these problems, but not every business can. More on this in a later post.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

HAVE FAITH IN BUSINESS

I usually enjoy talking to some of my customers that walk through my door. One of my discussions today was with a man who is opening a new restaurant across the street. I had printed business cards and take-out menus already, and he was looking to get varied fliers tailored to bring in different people.
I started to discuss why the previous restaurant in his location had gone out of business, hoping he could learn from their mistakes. He explained to me his vision of food, based on what his mother had taught him and his two brothers/partners: fresh ingredients, small batches,and attention to all details. Then he told me that all food will be free on Sundays! As a businessman that floored me.
He told me that it was his duty as a child of God to give back to the community. I said that was wonderful, charity is important, but the first struggling year of a business can mean future success or failure. He expresssed that his faith in God will mean success as long as he believes.
I replied that faith is very important to me too, but, after 21 years in business, I know a few things about running a small enterprise, and I would be happy to share my knowledge. After all, I have a vested interest for my customers to do well.
He smiled broadly and said, "God has been good to bring me to you today". I grinned and replied, "I guess so".
It's only business, but you gotta believe.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Making Bread

Panera Bread is one of my favorite restaurants. It features healthy and tasty cuisine, nice ambiance and good value. It's a great place to bring the family, meet friends or just go solo. Many of the locations have wi-fi(great for posting those blogs), fireplaces, armchairs and jazz playing in the backround. Sometimes just a cup of coffee and a book or newspaper is wonderful, if I have the time. Obviously, if you have a Panera in your area, check it out.
Panera Bread is one of the top franchises. I seem to remember reading that they have surpassed McDonalds. They seem like they have a good business plan, great customer service and customer retention. Visit their website at panera.com for all sorts of information.
I am, in no way or form, getting paid for this particular posting. I just know a good thing when I see it, or eat it. It's only business, but a guy's gotta eat.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

THE NEWBIE

I've been researching blogs and websites in search of knowledge and ideas. It's amazing to me what, and who, is out there in blogsville. Of course my kids reply is, "Dad, it's the world wide web." I know. I grew up with TV, and it rarely amazes me. This is a learning experience.
Luckily, my wife, Susan, is a seasoned veteran. She is my blog rabbi for all my stupid questions. (Yes, we tell our children there are no stupid questions, but come on.) When I was doing my preblog searches, she asked me why I was doing that. Just start your blog!So here I am.
From my research, I see that we start blogging for many reasons. I started this as a discouse on business, and to maybe bring added traffic to my company website. I now see the business potential that blogging has. After reading many of the pieces of free advice, I am impressed how limitless this medium is. There are many directions to take in search of income.
It's good to make a few bucks, but I enjoy talking about business. I look at situations and look at the business motivations below the surface. My family recently spent a week renting a house on North Carolina's Outer Banks. It was my first time there, and I was astounded by the amount of houses being built. Vacationers are induced to buy property that will pay for itself with rentals. Of course the same real estate companies that sell, also handle the rentals. I saw many empty rentals and many older houses for sale. It seems that real estate and construction firms are making money, but some homeowners are finding it difficult to own their vacation homes.
Doing business is often a win-lose situation, where the business makes money, and someone, either a customer or supplier, loses money. Does it have to be like this? Sometimes, yes. You don't want a lose-win business. (That's called a write-off or a hobby.)
A win-win business, obviously, is paramount as far as I'm concerned. We'll talk more about this. After all, It's Only Business.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Most of us have heard, at one time or another, "It's not personal, it's only business." That little saying is usually used to soothe over any bad feelings as a result of someone screwing you. Does it make you feel any better? Doubtful, but it gives the speaker a way of compartmentalizing the previous heinous act into some sort of business ethic.
My name is Joel Floss. I am presently a co-owner of Merrick Printing Company, Inc. Merrick Printing, located in New York City. I have been a small business owner for 21 years, and was in printing, teaching and sales before this.
I am always learning new things about printing and business in general. Just when I think I've heard it all, something new comes along to dispel that knowledge. It's a brave new world out there, where new technologies threaten to shake up old business ethics.
This blog is something new for me. My wife has been blogging for a while and is helping me set this up.