Wednesday 9 November 2011

Turning an idea on its head

I was talking to an old printer friend the other day and asked him how he was doing.  I expected the usual cautious optimism (people say you have to be an optimist if you're still in the printing game at present) but instead he said "We're making money for the first time in years".

When I picked myself up off the floor I asked him what had changed.  "It's my new marketing guru", he said.  Apparently this new advisor had asked him what boxes a new client had to check in order to be accepted as a customer.  "Are you joking?" replied my friend "it's the other way round. There are so many printers for each job that the buyer can pick and choose".

"Well," said the advisor "why not stand that idea on its head?"  What he recommended was to see if the the customer had what it takes, by checking things like:
  • Will you pay me up front?
  • Will you accept my prices including a reasonable profit?
  • Will you accept a reasonable time frame? 
I cautiously asked my friend whether his business had shrunk at all.  "No" he said. "The customers who were haggling away my profits, paying late, or defaulting now go to the big on-line boys, where they get what service they can.  But if a customer wants proper service, with the knowledge that we'll continue to be here to serve him next year, there's a price and it's worth his while paying it.  So that proper service is what we've been selling, and successfully too."

I've heard similar views expressed as an ideal by printers, but I think this was the first time I've seen the profitability increased in this way without compromising turnover. 

I take my hat off to him!

It's a funny old game, printing, isn't it?

Tuesday 11 October 2011

IPEX South Asia

I was really annoyed at not being able to attend IPEX South Asia in Mumbai, but I now have the pictures to show you. It seems to have been a great success - we signed up several new users at the show, and are currently talking to a whole lot more. I think we seem to have hit the spot, as they say. Good software at a reasonable price really does seem to be a winning combination.

(Left to right) Vikas Nikam from FMV, Rajesh Vartak, Sameer Vartak

Sameer Vartak runs through the system with a customer
One piece of breaking news is that we had a 'proof of concept' meeting to see the first rough version of our new 'cloud-based' version, which was impressive.  It will work natively on Windows, Mac, or even in a browser, and users will be able to use both the current and the new interface to address the same on-line database simultaneously from different devices.

When I add to that that we're currently testing the system with Windows 8 you'll understand that we are a bit busy just now ...and despite all the doom and gloom, I get the general impression that many of you printers out there are a bit busy too!

Happy printing!

Tuesday 6 September 2011

The Green Shoots of Recovery?

I've always said that if the advertising industry is the sharp end of the ship - first into recession, first out - then printing, which after all mostly depends on advertising, must be the bowsprit.  So it's interesting as I talk to printers on a daily basis to notice a change starting to happen.  Whereas a month or so ago I was getting remarks like "it's OK for a bit but then it all goes dead again" or even "it's all because of the politicians - they keep talking the market down",  just recently I've been hearing "things seem to be picking up a bit".  Well, it's about time, too!

We've had a relatively quiet summer here, but that's about to change - we're off to exhibit at IPEX South Asia in Mumbai on 16th September.  I say "we" but to my great disappointment I won't be going myself as we have a family wedding for which my attendance has been secured by a 3 line whip.  I'll be sorry not to be able to catch up with old friends there.

Anyway, as we progress into Autumn ("Fall" to you Americans out there) we're looking forward to more optimism in the industry.  Maybe, just maybe, we're through the worst.  Let's hope so.

yours optimistically

Richard Fergusson

Monday 23 May 2011

Northprint - post-show reflections

Well, we've been back for a week now, and I've finally managed to clear my desk a bit.   Northprint was, despite pessimistic forecasts,  actually a very successful show for us.  We signed up our first new user within half an hour of the show opening, and from that moment on we didn't look back!

I think that the reason for our success was that it was the official U.K. launch of our 'Software as a Service' offer.  Basically we are offering the full system for just £65 per user month, with no contract and tha ability to opt out at any time without notice.  The other M.I.S. companies there seemed a little alarmed at this, as without exception they either ask for a major fee up front, or bind you in for a substantial number of monthly payments.  I should just mention that you can still pay up-front, which probably makes more financial sense if you want three or more users.

It was great to meet some of our northern friends at the stand,  and for those of you that couldn't make it I've posted some of our handouts and other Northprint-related material at

I think the star of the show, though, was undoubtedly Norman Marks, who was invited by the organizers to give the lunchtime address each day - and the subject he chose was "Digital or Litho? Why not both? Balancing the issues".   I've uploaded his powerpoint slides here.  I think you'll agree that this subject is an important one, as it holds the key to the future development of the industry, and I hope you find it useful.

Warm regards

Richard Fergusson

Thursday 5 May 2011


Well, Northprint is just next week. We haven't exhibited at Harrogate for a few years, and I'm rather looking forward to it. That makes the third trade fair this year - Jaume Casals hosted Printsum at Grafispag in Barcelona in March - we're getting to be quite international!

One of the things we'll be trying out will be a new projector screen for demonstrations. It's a bit innovative (and rather unconventional), as it's basically just an oval of fabric held out by a flexible spring steel band. When you first see it unpacked it's a bit startling - a small carry case unpacks practically by itself to this enormous great screen.

What concerned us far more, though, was how on earth to get it back into the case. Here is this enormous almost rigid object, but how on earth can it be folded up? After all you can't fold a steel band! In the end we did it - took us about an hour to figure it out, but it's really quite simple when you have the knack of it.

Once again I'm forced back to an analogy with software - as in any discipline there can be a learning curve, but when things fall into place, their simplicity can pay amazing dividends.  I could even extend the metaphor further and talk about flexibility, lightness (it only weighs about a kilo) etc. but I think you get my drift!

Anyway I look forward to meeting some of you at Northprint next week. Otherwise, stay in touch.

Warm regards

Richard Fergusson

Tuesday 8 March 2011

A little sunshine for a change

Just back from the Graphics of the Americas trade fair in Orlando. After the coldest December in London for centuries, and a pretty chilly January, February in Florida was really warm.

We also got a very warm welcome from the American printers who were looking at our new U.S.A. version of Printsum. Thanks for all your enthusiasm. We're glad you like the new product.

We were in Florida at the invitation of RCCSA, our Spanish colleagues, who were simultaneously showing our new Spanish version - if you haven't been, I should just say that around 60% of attendees of Graphics of the Americas are non-American, and mostly Spanish-speaking. I also should mention in passing that in addition to Latin America we saw people from as far afield as Haiti, Belarus, Denmark, China, and India - it's a very international show!

Anyway, it's back to chilly London again. I'm not able to reveal just yet what this year's offerings will be. You'll just have to watch this space.

warm regards

Richard Fergusson