Philie Group Blog

The Great Pivot
By Mike Philie

There’s been much discussion about wanting to get back to normal and what the new marketplace has in store for the print industry. These thoughts have become a catalyst for change within many senior management teams. They are evaluating whether or not to stay the course, pivot into new areas, or do both.


There are two main areas that are making their way to the top of the issues list. The first is a desire to improve the operational efficiency of the business. This generally starts with a thorough review of how work flows through the operation. The steps that include from when a customer calls up and says “I’m ready to go” through to when the invoice is paid, are being critically reviewed. The second area includes a review of the current product niche(s) and whether or not to add additional revenue streams to the business. These could be adding adjunct services, but could also be a radical shift to their go-to-market approach.

Operational Efficiency Realty Check

Pandemics, reduced revenue levels, and PPP stimulus support caused many firms to hit the pause button, waiting for the trends to settle down. The time has come for many to revisit how they operate the business, and evaluate what’s working and what needs improvement.


CEOs that I speak with are re-thinking how they process the work they have. It seems that for them, the customer service role has morphed into an inefficient order entry and traffic position. There seems little time to actually offer good customer service. Underutilized MIS applications, coupled with an increase in the amount of transactions and a decrease in the average revenue from each project has created a much-needed opportunity for improvement. System reboots and process mapping have become popular activities for these teams.


Another area that is receiving a much needed review is pre-press and the overall file management protocols. Multiple pre-press silos have been developed as companies added adjunct services to their portfolio. All done with the best intentions, but as you look back, it’s not how you’d design it if you were starting over. The inefficiencies these cause not only creates additional touches, butjeopardizes the ability to schedule and effectively manage bottlenecks. There is some great work being done by some of industry experts, assisting these teams to re-load and re-think their workflow.

What Will You Abandon

Targeted markets, processes, and procedures shouldn’t be abandoned on a whim. Make an evaluation based on the best information you can get as to what can be improved on or what should be left behind. Make strides to drive unnecessary costs, and touches out of an operation. Look for incremental areas of improvement — don’t get hung up on only hitting home runs. I speak with many senior leaders who continue to nurture a workflow that was perfected in the 90s. I think it’s time to move on from there.

Differentiation or Low Cost Provider … or Both

The pandemic has affected several different revenue streams, leaving firms to evaluate how to best add revenue to their business. In the conventional thinking of the past, a print company was either a high touch, high value business, the low cost provider or stuck somewhere in the middle with one foot on the boat and another on the dock. Some leaders of high touch, high value businesses are now evaluating adding a low cost revenue stream to their business. This can be tricky, but can be done.


These two models don’t need to be considered in isolation and there can be many shared components. The scalable, repeatable and reliable operating platform that was built to deliver high quality print for the most demanding clientele can be re-purposed. Harness the underutilized capacity in your shop to a revenue stream that is volume driven, and fed through a technology solution that requires little, to no front-end intervention. This requires looking at these business opportunities through a different set of lenses and certainly isn’t easy. But then again, nothing truly worthwhile is easy.


There’s no question that we all want to regain some sort of normalcy to our lives. What that ultimately looks like though remains uncertain. Use these ideas and challenges to drive the conversations within your senior team. You may or may not feel the need to pivot in any parts of your business, but take the time to turn all the puzzle pieces face-up and make your best plan to go forward.


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


First published in Printing Impressions



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