Firms need to go beyond quality to excel

Frank Romano of the Rochester Institution of Technology says the answer to how to succeed in business lies in not just knowing your business well.

He says it lies in knowing your customers' businesses well.

Knowing your customers' businesses means knowing their customers, their industry as well as their problems.

You must be in a position to solve all their problems. You actually need to go beyond the traditional way of, say, the printing business, by investing in new technology.

Most traditional printers are still reluctant when it comes to buying new technology.

By investing in new technology you will be giving your business the edge to excel in service provision.

Where do you start? Make sure you ask all the relevant questions in order to get the answers that will solve the client's problem.

Nowadays, for a print client, good service is not only about meeting the deadline.

Clients look at how working with you adds value to their business or products.

They are concerned about how much you stretch to make them look good.

Quality has become a standard or a norm in the print industry and it cannot on its own set you apart from the rest. You need some bit of innovation to beat complacent printers.

Try providing extra supporting services to your clients at a small fee or for free.

Usually print clients come to you as a printer to print mainly communication materials. This is something that they will also send out to their clients.

What this means is that the image of the products counts a lot in this regard.

Therefore, its presentation, and appearance need to be appealing.

One printing guru, commenting on this industry, said a relationship based on price alone is very tenuous. He said additional services are profitable and they extend your relationship with the customer, moving the relationship beyond price.

You must try to do things that the traditional printing company cannot do, he said.

When choosing the equipment, you must make sure that you buy one with maximum flexibility and consistency for the types and quality of jobs you will specialise in.

Therefore, you need to look at the technology you are buying as an enabling tool within the broader business plan. The equipment you buy for a printing business should be compatible with jobs you are going to print.

You also need to check the compatibility of your equipment with the type of paper you will be using. Check if you won't be required to use imported paper as this can eat away your profits. Try to go for equipment that uses both types of paper.

Pertaining to the capacity of your business and the size of machines to buy, you must make sure you know the volume of the monthly production and align your equipment with that.

Finally, you also need to invest in human capital, especially employees that have an IT background. This will allow you to take advantage of digital devices, which you can use to add value to your clients' jobs as opposed to traditional printers.

You must teach them about the industry and communications skills as these are vital to survive in this business.