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Weathering Your Business's Midlife Crisis

(August 2006) posted on Sun Sep 10, 2006

Learn how to avoid common missteps during the most critical times.


By Gordon Roberts

A lot of times this midlife crisis, like other midlife crises, is mollified by your decision to buy a very expensive, shiny, new piece of machinery that will somehow make up for the shortcomings of your reliable, but somewhat dowdy, workplace. It's streamlined, new, and technologically pushing the envelope, and it'll take you into a new era of success. The salesman stressed efficiency and maximum throughput, and you believed him. He is, of course, right about the need for efficiency and maximum throughput; however, the new press might not be the only way to achieve it. Before you take that giant step, take a look around and see whether you can find a few other ways to achieve extra profits without making a huge investment.

Take a second look

Many business owners haven't fully grabbed up the profits lying around their shops. Every penny that you save between the time you take an order and ship it immediately falls to the all-important bottom line and becomes a potential profit. Look at all the processes that you have set up over the years and see how many inefficiencies you have built into them. When your business was growing, you almost certainly set up your presses to handle the ever-increasing orders in a way that allowed you to get the job done as quickly as possible. This has become your way of doing business, but it isn't always the most efficient way.

Are two people doing a job that could, with a few changes and perhaps a moderate investment in equipment, become a one-person job? Could that freed-up employee fill in other areas where you can't justify a new hire? Could a few more carts make the workflow from one station to another a quicker process? Perhaps you could invest in a squeegee sharpener and reduce your high cost in inventory.

Talk to your ink suppliers and tell them that you will start shopping around for the best deals if they don't come up with incentives to keep you as a loyal customer. Look at your scrap rate and institute a program that will reduce waste to negligible amounts. Use your clout in the business to get the best prices on your raw materials, and make those suppliers miserable by pestering them all the time for a better deal. Ask your shipping manager to meet with all the shipping companies at one time and make them fight it out for your business. It's amazing what the smaller shipping companies are willing to offer to get a piece of the big guy's pie. Sounds familiar doesn't it?

Offer incentive programs that turn all of these changes into extra money for everyone. I can't stress enough the importance of making your business as efficient as it can be at this critical point in its life. We all know what happens when we neglect ourselves at this stage in our lives. The same thing can potentially happen to your business.

Once you are satisfied that you have developed the lean and mean business machine that you had when your business was young, you can buy a new, shiny press. But you might find you don't need it. Maybe it's time to let the old business tick over and look for a new opportunity to exploit back in the garage. The lessons you learned the first time around will prove invaluable to you in your second business's childhood, and the profits from your first venture can feed the needs of the new venture. Now, where did I put the keys to my new Porsche?


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