Printing & Design Tips: OCTOBER 2008, #87

What Should You Do When You’re The Print Buyer and You Get A New Boss?

Let’s say that you have developed relationships with several print vendors over several years, and your supervisor either quits or is fired. Now it’s up to you to justify why you are buying from these vendors. In some cases your new boss may want to stake out his/her territory, making changes to show initiative in the new supervisory position. Or maybe you’re fortunate, and your new boss is just  observing and not making drastic changes right away. Regardless, you may need to explain such intangibles as the “trust” and “confidence” you have in your printer. You may even need to clarify why you have chosen a printer who charges somewhat higher prices than his competition.

What do you do?
First of all, look at the situation dispassionately, and plan to quantify and qualify your choices. Look it as a challenge, an opportunity to win over your supervisor. After all, your printer won you over. You didn’t know him when you met, and yet little by little, one job at a time, he began to convince you that he will always charge fair prices, meet your deadlines, provide a quality product, and fix problems when they arise.

When your boss raises questions about your chosen print vendors, provide a selection of high quality print samples. Nothing shows a printer’s competence like a portfolio of prior work displaying difficult printing techniques, such as die-cuts, showcase-quality process color work, and difficult (and precise) folds. Quality has to come first, and the best way to demonstrate quality is with samples.

Closely related to quality is price. You may want to show your boss several bids from a variety of printers for a live job you just completed to help explain exactly why you chose a particular vendor. Your collection of bids will show the range of prices available for the job, yet you may not have selected the low bid. This is the time to point out the quality of the samples. After all, the lowest bidder may not provide the level of quality your business requires. A low price may look good when compared to your current budget figures, but what if the colors in the ads are washed out, or the folds in the publication are imprecise? The advertisers could see this and stop buying advertising space, or if you are producing collateral pieces with imprecise folds, then your clients may think that you don’t value quality. After all, why should they buy your product if the brochure makes it look cheap?

The price your printer charges is not necessarily the total cost. Losing an advertiser or a product sale due to sloppy printing is also a cost, a much higher one. And this is the sort of thing you may need to clarify for your boss, using your printer’s samples and printer’s pricing to back up your position.

The third element of good printing is your vendor’s ability to meet deadlines (which is really a reflection of his level of service). Can your printer keep the commitments he makes to you: for quality, price, and schedule? A perfect magazine that a printer mails out late is useless. Your advertisers won’t come back, and your subscribers will cancel their subscriptions. The same is true if your product is ready to sell and the print collateral is late.

The best way to convince your boss that your print vendor or vendors are worth keeping is to describe a situation in which your print vendor met a difficult deadline or perhaps helped you out in a rush situation. Or maybe you will want to note that over a three-year period (for instance), your chosen print vendor never missed one deadline and always entered your completed publication into the mail-stream at the agreed-upon time. You may even have an anecdote about a time when you pulled a job from another vendor and this printer helped you out by completing the job on time. Maybe you will also want to show how this printer’s bills always match his estimates (without unforeseen additional costs).

It is a truism that there will always be a cheaper printer out there somewhere, but usually there is a reason for the discount. Often, such a printer can talk a good game, telling you he can meet all your printing requirements. But over time you will realize that the prices are higher than quoted or the quality is lower than expected.

In reality, it takes time to work with a printer and come to a level of mutual trust. It also takes time for your printer to fully understand the needs of your organization. Explaining this to your new boss is a challenge, but in the long run, he or she will benefit when using this vendor. A good printer will not only make you look good, but will also make your boss look good. Your job is to prove this to your boss.

[Steven Waxman is a printing consultant. He teaches corporations how to save money buying printing, brokers printing services, and teaches prepress techniques. Steven has been in the printing industry for thirty-three years working as a writer, editor, print buyer, photographer, graphic designer, art director, and production manager.]