How Printers Can Build a Strategic Lighthouse to Guide the Business

lighthouse at nightWhere is your print business headed? Not sure? Too many owners rush to the tactical side without a strategic beacon to guide the printing company’s success. Printers need a master strategy – a solid lighthouse that can survive the turbulence of the business environment. Here are tips on how to build your strategic lighthouse and the tools you’ll need. 

In smooth waters, the lighthouse is your ever-present navigational guide. If you need to deviate – perhaps due to economic conditions, the owner’s health or family, or issues with customers or employees – your strategic lighthouse allows you to see the dangerous waters, recover, and get back on course. 

Here’s an example of a crisp, bright lighthouse.

One of my clients has a goal of being self-sustaining and ready for succession by the next generation. Their documented master strategy focuses on predictable income and fiscal austerity. The owner and board of directors keep stringent controls on the business, even in prosperous times. Numbers drive decisions. Each new hire is tightly mentored. The strategy is written up and shared so everyone is pulling in the same direction. 

To build your strategy, printers can start from scratch, refine it from your general operational approach, or extract it from your existing model. Crafting a strategy can occur anytime – maybe at a retreat with your executive team and trusted advisors – but it should be a thoughtful process. It helps to schedule a multi-day session where we can brainstorm in a creative environment. 

Once you have designed your basic strategy, here are the planning tools printers need to fully craft your master strategy. 

Business Plan: Your business plan is a subset of your master strategy. It includes a high-angle explanation of how you will gain customers, what it will take to be profitable, who runs the show, how the business will thrive from year to year, and why it matters.

Marketing Strategy: Your marketing strategy is a philosophical approach to gaining new customers. For example, you may center your strategy around being the one-stop option for all your customer’s needs, including business services inside their location. Through this lens, your marketing options become clearer, and you can see a logical approach to sales and customer service. 

Annual Marketing Plan: Your yearly planning should cover goals, a summary of what has worked in the past and why, tactics you plan to use, and how you will measure success. 

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Annual Budget with Comparative: Your budget should be updated monthly, printed out, and on your desk, right after you finalize month-end. The document should include the aspirational budget, your actual numbers year-to-date, and percentages so you can compare them to industry ratios. 

Cash Flow and Accounts Receivable List: If your strategy is to grow and be profitable, you must know whether your customers are paying their bills – and whether you can pay yours. 

With these strategic pieces in place, schedule a monthly strategy briefing with your department managers. A ten-minute standup meeting works well. You are the ship’s captain, letting your crew know where you’re headed next and why, the sailing conditions, and what they might encounter. 

The final piece of the strategy toolkit is your advisor. As an industry consultant, I work closely with clients on the big-picture side of the business, helping them steer the ship confidently. 

For printers to get the best results in their businesses, build a bright beacon with your master strategy. Use strategic tools to make decisions. Choose an advisor who can keep you on your heading. With your strategic lighthouse in sight, you can move full sail ahead! 

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Sandy Hubbard is a Chief Marketing Advisor with a roll-up-her-sleeves approach geared to print leaders who want to grow their companies or position powerfully for transition. Sandy produces #PrintChat, a weekly global forum for the printing industry. She is a Certified Scrum Master and is the 2022 recipient of the coveted Girls Who Print Girlie Award.