October '22

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B U S I N E S S S T R A T E G I E S W hen building your business, think of it as a three-legged stool. Technically, it's already there. Why? Because a three-legged stool is sturdier than a four-legged one. It can navigate uneven ground better (and who has even ground in their sign shop every day, especially in the current world in which we live?) WHO CAME UP WITH THE WEIRD STOOL IDEA IN THE FIRST PLACE? Ironically, it originated with financial plan- ners years ago with the ideal way to retirement freedom: personal savings, Social Securit y, and employee pensions. I was born during the Eisenhower administration, and I've never had a pension so that's probably not working out for you either. Yes, you've heard of different variations of this analogy over the years. e legs can represent team, service/product, and distribution. Or, when talking about total quality management (TQM), made famous by Shewhart and Juran, to hasten Japanese economic recovery after World War II. But William Edwards Deming took it to a whole new level in the 1970s and '80s as he fine-tuned the philosophy and methods. e legs became processes, measures, and people. Your younger employees are probably coveting the stool for sustainability; the three pillars being social, economic, and environmental. If you are a larger firm, your big clients are probably asking about your company culture and how you go to market with renewal products, no- or low-VOC paint, and other ways to lessen environmental impact. All these examples are important to how you run your business. I would have you go get the materials for a sim- ple pine stool. I like the way pine smells. Or you can think of bamboo if you are in the previous sustainable group. e stool that served us best during almost 12 years of ups and downs had these legs and they were stout without any knots. Well maybe some knot heads. Our favorite was customers, employ- ees, and vendors. e first two categories are no-brainers (and finding and keeping talented or even alive employ- ees) has become an art form in recent years as you compete with the government, generational issues, the lack of work ethic, bad parenting, and a waning emphasis on personal pride. ese traits were somehow inoculated in my generation prob- ably in our polio vaccine in grade school in the 1960s. ey were enforced by our parents, clergy, and teachers. WHY VENDORS MATTER MOST is month, I'd like to shake things up and tell you which leg is the most important. Some obviously would say customers. Today, you'd say employees. Few of you would acknowledge ven- dors was even a viable leg with the supply chain we're enduring. So, which is the most import- ant? All three! Or it wouldn't be a stable stool, remember? However, in my humble experience growing a multimillion-dollar sign company, I cannot stress enough how your future success is fundamentally tied to your vendors. In our industry we buy aluminum, acrylic, fin- ished goods, paint, electronic signs, textiles, pro- motional products, digital printers, ink, thread, vinyl, etc., from a handful of the same vendors. I've grown up with some of these partners (I even know two and three generations) and many have regional offices for distribution around the country. I may not have met you, but the chances are high we use the same vendors and know many of the same peo- ple. ey are active in our local chapters and state and/or national industry organizations. In fact, these nonprofits owe their sustainability (added BUSINESSES ARE BUILT ON A SOLID FOUNDATION It's Time to Repair Your Three-Legged Stool B Y P A U L I N G L E 6 6 G R A P H I C S P R O • O C T O B E R 2 0 2 2 G R A P H I C S - P R O. C O M

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