Philie Group Blog

Three Factors to Help Lead a Complex Business
By Mike Philie

Innovators and industry leaders can make managing a complex business look easy. Some may look at those businesses and say they are successful because they have the best people, or great clients. By looking under the hood though, you might also find that they have developed a scalable, repeatable process that is followed each day — no freelancing. What I often see is a focus on their people, their processes, and their procedures as three key factors they focus on to achieve these results.

First, to put things into context, let’s acknowledge that the printing industry is a complex, and transformative business. I like to say that we are a technology business that happens to put ink and toner on substrates.

Much of the leaders and innovators success revolves around people, process, and procedures. They have the right people in the places that make a difference. To use a baseball analogy, they are playing in the big leagues and can’t, and won’t tolerate having a Single A player at first base. They won’t win if they allow that to happen, and the player will be in over their head. Sometimes they accommodate these situations by moving people around to different positions until a good spot is found for that person. Sometimes they encourage the person to seek another team.

In the book “Traction,” Gino Wickman describes a concept of evaluating your people by whether they get it, want it, and have the capacity to do it. Whichever method you chose to evaluate your team members, you do need to make sure that you have the right folks in place. Without this, you put yourself at a competitive disadvantage right from the start. This business is hard enough as it is.

Let’s talk about process. There are the general workflows that these leading businesses work hard to automate as much as possible. Particularly in the order submission and file management steps of the business, they deploy technology to drive out the non-value added costs associated with processing hundreds and thousands of orders.

The other aspect of process is how they think about things. How they work on problems to come up with game-changing solutions for their clients. There’s a process for that as well. And while each team may approach problem solving differently, the emphasis is on the “team.” The days of having one person be the answer-person should be behind you. It’s too risky to have all that institutional knowledge residing in one place. Also known as single point of failures, these folks should be in positions to lead the transfer of knowledge to the team members involved in the project.

Even with the right people, and the processes in place, there remains the step by step procedures that need to happen in your business. In leading firms, these procedures are not recommendations, it’s how things are done. And they are not optional, or when you feel like doing it. They’ve instilled the discipline in their staff and developed best practices that they use each day to deliver the goods in a reliable, profitable manner.

Procedures are not static — things can change. These best practices were developed over a period of time and based on certain variables and desired outcomes. When the variables change, the procedures should be tested to ensure a stable and reliable outcome.

A focus on people, process, and procedures doesn’t make breaking through that ceiling of complexity easy, but it will make it a bit easier. If you have questions or insight into this topic, please comment 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 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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