May 11, 2020

Time to Adjust the Sails

Time to Adjust the Sails

“The pessimist complains about the wind. The optimist expects it to change. The leader adjusts the sails.” – John Maxwell

For business owners in the printing industry, these are challenging times. But remember, we’ve faced tough times before. Many of us weathered the Northridge earthquake in January 1994, 9-11, and the Great Recession of 2007 to 2009. We made the necessary adjustments to survive. At this time, understand that your employees also remember those financially uncertain times.

Taking the Lead

During difficult times, your employees look to you for direction. It’s easy to lead when things are going right. The real test of leadership comes when times are tough.

The first step in dealing with a crisis and your company is to be open and honest with your employees. Some employers try to withhold information from employees thinking they’re protecting them, but people know when leadership is not being forthright. This makes employees resentful and causes more problems than being straightforward about the situation.

Share with your employees the challenges the company is facing, then ask for their input. Remember if you ask for input, you need to respond to the input received. It doesn’t mean that you must agree or accept but it is important to respond…it is part of effective communication. By including your employees in the discussions, they can become part of the solution. And, if hard choices have to be made, they may not like the decisions, but they will understand because they were part of the process.

Create a Plan

There are some events or situations that are entirely out of your control. Don’t focus on those. Instead, take stock of what you have and determine how to best use that to your advantage. Sometimes an opportunity can be found amid a crisis.

Several PIASC members have looked for ways to support industries that provide essential services to the nation. These members are printing packaging and shipping cartons for essential products. Other PIASC members are printing labels for food and hand sanitizers.

Many craft distillers and brewers are making hand sanitizer instead of liquor. These distilleries are well-positioned to do this because the liquor you pour in your martini and the sanitizer you rub on your hands have the same key ingredient; ethyl alcohol. All of these bottles of hand sanitizer need labels.

Here are some PIASC member companies who have followed the advice to “take stock of what you have and determine how to best use that to your advantage.”

  • G2 Graphic Service, Inc. (PIASC member since 1995) is now in production creating unique branded facemasks. They come with replaceable n-95 filters.
  • D’Andrea Visual Communications, (PIASC member since 2015) has designed and created protective face shields.
  • Graphic Trends, Inc. (PIASC member since 2002) is also producing face shields as Personal Protective Equipment for the medical industry.

Communication is Key

During a crisis, it’s important to continually communicate with employees, vendors, suppliers, and the public. Is your shop open? How have you communicated that fact to the world? You should be using emails, social media like LinkedIn, etc. and Zoom conferencing with employees and clients.

I know about the work of G2, D’Andrea, and Graphic Trends because I saw their posts on LinkedIn. What have you posted on LinkedIn lately?

PaperSpecs founder, Sabine Lenz, works with many top-notch designers who believe that printers have closed up their shops. “So to help designers find printers, we’re compiling an easy-to-consult list of those who are currently doing business,” said Sabine in a LinkedIn post. Last time I checked, out of the over 200 printing companies listed, only nine Southern California printers are on her list!

In addition to promoting your products, you can spread some good cheer. Phil Kelley, President and CEO at Salem One (North Carolina), shared a post from his company on LinkedIn. Salem One is supporting local restaurants while providing an excellent lunch for their staff. In this post, they’re “supporting our wonderful National client Outback Steakhouse!”

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Thoro Packaging/Autajon Group (PIASC member since 1993) touts the benefits of paper packagingover plastic packaging using the hashtags #clean #packaging #paperpackaging. They are also posting pictures of their workers wearing protective masks.

Through their Facebook posts, Westamerica Communications (PIASC member since 1979) is promoting the fact that “Because of our unique customer mix and the provision of essential communication, print and mailing services, we’re available to those serving critical infrastructure departments.” This post, in turn, was picked up and promoted by their local Chamber of Commerce. The Chamber post included a link to Westamerica’s website and their phone number.

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In another Facebook post, Westamerica is promoting its “Be Kind. Be Strong. Be Healthy” program. Their goal is to fill their community with positive vibes. They’re doing this by providing free art files so people can make their own signs for yards or windows. And, individuals and companies can purchase a custom sign for a small fee.

Keith Mottram, President and CEO of Adcraft Labels, invited his LinkedIn followers to enjoy Some Good News, a YouTube channel hosted by John Krasinski, whom some of you will remember from the TV series The Office. The YouTube show features “good news” and is very uplifting.

In addition to his LinkedIn followers, Mottram, via email, encouraged his employees “to take time, on the clock, to watch the video.” He did this because he’s looking to help his employees maintain both their physical and emotional wellbeing.

At the Adcraft Labels offices and in the plant, employees are required to use masks, gloves, and practice social distancing for protection. In his email message to his team, Mottram mentioned that now more than ever, empathy and understanding at work and at home and with our family and friends is essential. He said, “Every one of us has a different internal dialog, fear, and uncertainty for different reasons.”

Mottram’s point is echoed in an article from the Center for Creative Leadership. Under Point 3 of How to Lead Through a Crisis, the author urges employers to “Remember that everyone observing or living through a crisis views it through a unique lens. For example, a paramedic will understand only that a hospital is overloaded; a hospital administrator will only know that the generator isn’t working. Keep in mind that no one will have a complete, accurate picture of what’s going on.”

We all are experiencing major uncertainty with the Coronavirus, our government and scientific leaders shutting down the country, and the extreme public health orders in place. We all observe and react to this crisis in our own way.

With all this uncertainty, business owners must provide clarity and reassurance through strong leadership. Right now, many people are feeling helpless. A powerful way to overcome this feeling is to create a plan and to figure out your options. Action provides hope. Action is empowering. And, to quote Joan Baez, “Action is the antidote to despair.”

About the Author

Printing Industries Association, Inc. is devoted to helping our members succeed…and there are many ways that we do so. Need group medical insurance? We’ve got dozens of plans to choose from, and a designated local customer service rep to handle your account. Have questions about human resources issues, sales tax or compliance? We’ve got the answers.

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