Philie Group Blog

Your Saturday Morning Yellow Pad
By Mike Philie

This blog originally published in Printing Impressions.


Working on the business gives you the opportunity to step back from the day-to-day minutia of urgent to-do’s and handling other people’s issues. While these day-to-day issues are important to keeping the trains running on time, planning for tomorrow, next quarter, next year, or beyond is critical for insuring shareholder value. Where this really hits home is when you’re busier than ever, but don’t experience any fulfillment when things get accomplished.


Start with a pad

Working on your business can take many shapes and forms depending on the size, structure, and discipline of your business. If you’ve been successful in the planning process in the past, you may be holding annual and quarterly off-site planning sessions with your leadership team. You’d be working on the strategies that will help propel your business to the next level. If you haven’t done much of this in the past, or at least not formally, now can be a good time to start. Even if your leadership team is a party of one, you can begin to map out where you think you want to go, how you’ll get there, and overcome the obstacles along the way, and take your business to where it should be.


Break out the yellow pad and a cup of coffee on a Saturday morning and begin mapping out your plan. During a recent meeting I was facilitating, a business owner shared that he got great energy and satisfaction by taking two hours on a weekend morning and going through his business, goals, and opportunities and writing them out on a yellow pad. He said the weeks that followed where not only his most productive, but he was able to look at his business in a completely different light.


Building your roadmap

A few areas that you should review in your overall planning and that should be re-visited during your yellow pad session would include:


Current business results (what’s working and what needs improvement):

  • As you have diversified the business, this is a good time to review how each area is doing. Some organizations will break out their revenue streams by type of production, i.e. offset, mailing, digital, fulfillment, and wide format/signage. Others take this a step further and create departmental P&L’s for each segment. How do these all roll up and impact your balance sheet – the true health scorecard of the organization.


Succession planning:

  • You’ve built the business but what’s your plan B? It’s important to have a clear succession plan or exit strategy, especially when you don’t think you need it. You might have several options based on whether or not you have family in the business or key managers that could take over. Other options could include forming a strategic alliance, a merger, or outright sale of all or parts of the business. Thinking these options through when you don’t need to is much easier than when you’re backed into a corner without a plan.


Your people – how are they doing?

  • Are they growing, are they engaged, are they there for the paycheck? Are there any gaps on your team? What skill sets should your next hire have? Start with your senior people and work your way through each department. These are the folks that helped get you to where you are. The question now is, are they the ones that can take you to the next level? In most cases the answer will be yes, but with an asterisk. What are they working on that will make an impact on the business? Have you done a good job of articulating your vision and expectations to them so that they can excel and help you achieve the important stuff? This is a good start in helping you assess your team.


Your process – are you good at getting things done, are jobs going out on time?

  • What does the throughput look like, can technology help streamline your workflow and minimize touches, and is it easy for your staff (and YOUR CUSTOMERS) to do business with you? Are you winning all the work that you should? Are you chasing the right opportunities, ones that you can excel at and that your differentiation affords you the ability to be profitable?


Your culture – what’s it like to work for you?

  • How would you describe the culture of your business, and when you describe it to someone, does it make you feel good about what you’ve built? Are there some areas that need to be tuned-up? Do you have a command and control organization or perhaps you trying to create a learning environment so that as the industry continues to transition, your team is best equipped to handle whatever comes at them? Whichever end of the spectrum you might be, is it where you want to be?


Give this a try and let me know how it works out for you. Good luck and remember, doing nothing is not an option!


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


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