Philie Group Blog

Finding Your Way When There’s No Clear Path
By Mike Philie

It’s been tough sledding out there. You’re focused on lives and livelihoods with no clear roadmap or weather forecast. Dealing with uncertainty, you’ve managed to clean, organize the plant and produce the work that’s come in. For many it has been a 20% to 80% decrease in revenue, with no clarity for the weeks ahead. From conversations I’ve had with business owners, their outlook has gone through stages. From “this can’t be happening, it’s not real,” to “umm, my business is virtually closed.” Then it’s progressed to “I need to take care of my people and protect the business.” For some, it has moved to “which customers will still be around and when will they start buying again?” The progressive stages will continue for a while.

Customer Landscape

Where are your customers? The challenge has been knowing when to move beyond the “we’re OK, hope you’re OK conversation.” With many businesses being shuttered or significantly paused, it’s unlikely that their print needs will pick up just where they left off. Getting past the COVID-19 related floor graphics, posters, etc., there will be a ramp up period for their true business initiatives. What that looks like, I doubt anybody really knows. The focus needs to be on helping them attain their initial goals, meaning, what is the work at hand and what types of print will help them achieve that. You may find some customer buying behaviors changing in the short term, using price as the driving force to better manage their shrunken pocketbook. What they value going forward may not be the same as in the past.


And just because the re-start button has been pressed, doesn’t mean that all of your customers will be back to work and ready to go when you are. Some will be, some will phase in later, and some may not return at all. You should also be looking for new business (I know, you always are…) because not everyone will be at full throttle. This means making sure that your sales and client facing teams are best equipped with the right messaging and the tools to deliver them to a customer base that’s probably still working from home. We sometimes take for granted that everyone can set up a video call in minutes and connect with a client or prospect. When in reality, many sales reps have been working from a desktop computer with no camera and/or their cell phones. Help them, please.

Structural, Financial, and Staffing

They weren’t handing out crystal balls with the PPP government checks this month. That said, no one knows for sure what level of revenue to expect once you’re back to work. It would not surprise me to see most businesses be off by 20% or 30% for a while. I would plan accordingly, and if in fact you return to 100% or more, that would be a bonus. So, thinking about that, what does the structure of your business look like with less revenue? Without proactive measures, your fixed costs and debt structure won’t change on their own. You’ll need to take positive action to leverage the technology you have, your workflow, and overall operational excellence to be able to do more with less so that your earnings are protected. Going forward there will be no room for complacency – no gliding.

Where You’re Going

It will be time to embrace the new realities of our marketplace. Face the challenge with sharpened tools, an open mind, and a team that is aligned in the direction you set forth. As I’ve written in the past, this could also be a time to look for strategic partners to strengthen your position in the marketplace. Move onto the next stage with confidence and continue to look for recovery signals. Tell your team to get some rest, there’s a lot of work to be done.


I welcome any thoughts or questions, please add them below or reach out to me directly.


Mike Philie can help validate what’s working and what may need to change in your business. Changing the trajectory of a business is difficult to do while simultaneously operating the core competencies. Mike provides strategy and insight to owners and CEOs in the Graphic Communications Industry by providing direct and realistic assessments, not being afraid to voice the unpopular opinion and helping leaders navigate change through a common sense and practical approach. Learn more at, LinkedIn or email at


The blog originally published in Printing Impressions



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