July '21

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G R A P H I C S - P R O. C O M 2 0 2 1 J U L Y G R A P H I C S P R O 2 9 machines require maintenance and repairs. Infrequent and quick repairs you can do yourself is important to on-time delivery. Not being able to produce for several days, a week, or even longer can create both cus- tomer problems and greatly reduce income. Before you buy, understand the mainte- nance requirements, most frequent parts that need to be replaced, and their costs. What parts should you have on hand to reduce downtime and over-night shipping costs (and preserve your sanity)? Equipment maintenance and repairs are often overlooked in the business-planning process. A laser tube replacement will cost you several thousands of dollars. Is the cost of maintenance and repairs part of your pricing calculation? Do you have a maintenance and repair budget and sav- ings plan? If your pricing formula does not account for all your costs, you will be surprised one day when you add up your expenses and find the revenue does not cover these expenses or your actual earn- ings are not what you expected. MARKETING You may need to increase your order flow from a few orders each month to 10 each week to rely on the income. That order number of 10 may be what you need ev- ery day to make a full-time living. Is your present method of marketing able to give you this order flow a year from now? Friends and family business is not likely to be continuous, although word of mouth is great marketing. Facebook Markets, Instagram, Pinterest, and the many other digital methods of marketing are key to explore today. Meeting prospective cus- tomers face-to-face can also be important. Can you hang out where potential cus- tomers are? Do you have an active cham- ber of commerce? You may need to try a number of mar- keting methods to see what will work for you. This is where a written business plan provides you the opportunity to explore the various methods you can experiment with and helps you create a marketing budget. Talk to other local small busi- ness owners to see what works for them. If your business will be all online, find chat rooms where you can communicate with some seasoned and successful busi- ness owners. Some hobbies may be focused on the in- dustry you are presently working in such as accessories for construction workers, firefighters, or law enforcement. If you plan to market to present customers or employees of the company you work for, be cautious as you may need to explore this option with your boss. If you create issues with these customers, you may be forced to go full time with your new busi- ness earlier than expected. SHIPPING Shipping is another overlooked subject. Today, you typically see "free" shipping included in the price of the product you order online. The shipping cost is actu- ally included in the pricing formula, and if you buy from a large company such as Amazon who may be filling the order for someone else, their shipping costs are far lower than you will pay. Explore not only your shipping costs, but the cost of materials and time to package your product. The materials se- lected and method of packing must also be secure enough to minimize breakage. Packaging products properly can be time consuming. Find simple methods and ma- terials that are quick to work with. I could easily dedicate a whole book to this subject. I have just touched on some of the topics that are overlooked and not thoroughly explored. My goal is to give you some thought-provoking questions to consider and encourage you to write a whole business plan. Going into your new venture with confidence will make it more fun for a longer timeframe. GP BOB HAGEL recently retired after owning Eagle's Mark Awards & Signs for 18 years in Southern California. While owning the business, he offered a full line of personalized products using laser engraving, sandcarving, and full- color UV direct print on products. Today, he consults on starting and expanding personalized businesses, and on improving production efficiency and quality. He can be reached at Invest in Something Better The fastest and most productive laser engraving machines on the market Trotec Laser USA Trotec Laser USA

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