Philie Group Blog

Inflection Points and Designing Your Path Forward
By Mike Philie

After a long pause, customers are beginning to go back to their offices and resume the business at hand. Not all customers, but many. The rate and pace of re-entry is influenced by what part of the country and which market segments your customers are in. It would be wonderful to imagine that the sales pipeline and manufacturing backlog will fill to capacity in the next few weeks. If your glass is more than half full, maybe it will. Those who have prepared and not left anything to chance, are well positioned for success going forward. What will your business look like for the rest of this year, and what have you done to add value in the eyes of your customers?

The printing industry has weathered many changes since Gutenberg, so dealing with inflection points is nothing new. Senior managers who prepare for the future are always on the lookout for unforeseen changes. In the past, the focus was on keeping up with the latest round of technology improvements. Today however, the changes are multi-faceted. The changes can come from technology, workflow and automation. We see additional changes to where and how people work, customer buying preferences, shadow competitors, and the need for sales and marketing initiatives that are adaptable. All of which can add to the complexity of success.

Throughout the business pause created by the pandemic, many firms had to hold on for dear life. They watched as their business meter dropped close to zero, almost overnight. At first it was survival, then they transitioned to a custodial mode — taking care of what they have and working to fight another day.

As we see business begin to flow a bit more freely, many of these companies have remained in their custodial mindset. They are mindful not to upset the apple cart and work to be as responsive and helpful to their clients as they can.

I have seen a smaller subset of companies take a different path. Yes, they too endured a drop in business just like the others. And yes, it was survival for them as well, particularly in the beginning stages of the business pause. But unlike the other firms, they quickly pivoted and began designing their future, their fate. They had no crystal ball or any magical powers. They had simply decided that they were not going to become victims of this situation.

While these leaders took the appropriate measures to keep their business afloat, they spent considerable energy on looking for new opportunities. They worked on new opportunities to make themselves more user friendly, and to minimize the non-value added activities of their past. They sought to hire folks that would be additive to their business. And while customers were working from home, that didn’t stop their relentless pursuit of new opportunities. They upgraded their technology and equipment. They modified and adapted their marketing and sales approach.

They filled their planning box with “what-if” scenarios, as the future remained uncertain. With the detailed eye of an architect, they designed the changes that would help their business accelerate through the curve, and be in a position to capitalize on an outcome that had not yet been decided—and may still not be!

There is no right or wrong here in these two examples. These have been unprecedented times and no one could have, or has, predicted the final outcome. Merely, this post highlights the fact that you have choices in how you respond to situations as they are presented to you. Your financial condition, the strength of your team and customer base, and your tolerance for the uncertain, all play a part in determining the path you choose.

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 advice, not being afraid to voice the unpopular opinion and helping leaders navigate change through a common sense and practical approach. Learn more at www.philiegroup.comLinkedIn or email at

Originally published in Printing Impressions


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