Although the US economy is showing a few positive signs of improvement, the printing industry still seems to be in a general malaise. A funk. An aimless wandering. You can almost see folks asking, “What should I do now?”
The industry has taken quite a beating from rising costs, thinning margins, ongoing infrastructure investments, sourcing the right talent, and competing against the invisible hand of digitization of everything. Just a couple of these would leave anyone’s head spinning. Winning in such a competitive environment requires a boldness to not repeat the past, to continually test, and look toward the future — calculated innovation.
Starbucks was in a similar heap of trouble a few years ago. Wall Street wanted the company to slash prices, slash employees, slash stores, slash benefits, slash anything that moved. Wrangling costs and over expansion were seen as surefire ways to temporarily boost the financials. Howard Schultz did jettison underperforming stores and reshuffled his management team. He did not change Starbucks or sway from its core values, like providing health benefits.
Instead, Schultz doubled down on what the company does best. “We have 40-plus years of acquiring real estate and designing and operating stores all over the world. We understand how to elevate and romanticize an experience built around a beverage.”, said Schultz. The company focused on taking small risks to see if it could later scale. Via, Vivanno, and Blonde are a few drinks tested in a few target markets before seeing wider release. The second pillar of the company, their coffeehouse store, is continuously being tested, tweaked, and modified. Roy Street Coffee & Tea in Seattle is such a test. The store shares little mention or reference to a traditional Starbucks. Instead the much larger structure can be repurposed to accommodate screenings and concerts while patrons munch on high-end snacks and sip their wine.
Starbucks recent resurgence aligns with Jim Collins research from his book Good to Great. One of the key discoveries from his research is that the more successful companies were not necessarily more innovative. However, when the successful companies did find a “winner”, they committed all the necessary resources to make it a success.
Every business is unique and has a set of core abilities. The trick for printers is to take that core competency, apply it to a new practice, and go commit to it fully if it works. This sort of calculated innovation just might allow you to climb out of this great recession.
Quotes from March 2012 Fast Company
photo: Zach Dischner