Revisiting the skills required for business-saving customer service

The thumbnail version:

  • A bad customer service experience should be a lesson
  • This is a lesson from a major international courier company

The full version:

Over the past three weeks I’ve been dealing with a major international express courier company trying to get answers out of them about an original painting that disappeared en route to an exhibition in New York.

Aside from everything else learned from this experience there was a lesson in how not to handle customer service. The infuriating automated phone-answering voice, the difficulty finding the right person in the right department, the misinformation, the changing and contradictory explanations, an aggressive attitude, failing to make promised return phone calls, failing to keep scheduled telephone meeting commitments, and failing to respond to emails, are just some of the customer service failings of the courier company in question.

And it all followed the key failing—losing a valuable original piece of art entrusted to them for delivery.

Don’t drive your customers crazy!

The lesson from my experience is that you should be making  a pact with yourself to ensure that no customer of your shop is ever left feeling the way I feel about this courier company.

And remember that word of mouth is an effective and inexpensive business builder so you want customers to tell other people about your great customer service. But, word of mouth can also be a devastating business destroyer.

So what does it take from you or a customer service employee (which could be everyone in your shop who interacts with customers at any level) to deliver the type of customer service that keeps customers coming back?

Well, here’s a list of qualities needed for providing great customer service (this is just a list, you need to explore these qualities in more depth):

  • Communication skills
  • Good listening skills
  • A thick skin
  • A willingness to take ownership of customer problems
  • Patience
  • Empathy
  • Politeness (good manners)
  • Product knowledge
  • Adaptability and creativity

What will people say about your shop’s customer service after trying to resolve a product issue?

A show date to note (with caution)

The thumbnail version:

  • Registration is open for the Printing United expo in October
  • COVID may still be a party pooper though

The full version:

The Printing United Expo is scheduled for 6 to 8 October in Orlando, Florida in just over six weeks time. Exhibitors are encouraging attendees to visit them at the show to network, attend educational sessions, and socialize.

While I’ve always maintained that show attendance is essential if you’re going to stay in touch with developments in the industry, now may not be the ideal time to do so. Is everyone just dismissing the COVID threat? And of all places to have the expo—Florida where the COVID numbers are currently the worst in the US. And what about the risk of sitting in a plane for a few hours sharing viruses, one of which could be COVID 19?

Well, in any case, here’s the link at which you can register, but . . .

A reminder from Roland about maintenance

The thumbnail version:

  • Pay attention to the maintenance warning messages
  • Bypassing the warnings has consequences

The full version:

Roland has a money-saving tip for you—pay attention and react to the display warning message system on your Roland DG TrueVIS printer.

If you bypass the “Time for Maintenance” message by hitting the “enter” key, your machine apparently remembers this. If you continue to bypass it, the machine will compensate for the lack of a manual cleaning by doing longer and more frequent internal automatic print head cleanings. This uses more ink and therefore costs you money.

Failing to conduct scheduled manual cleanings can also result in clogged print head nozzles and poor quality prints.

So, pay attention to the “Time for Maintenance” message. It has quality and bottom line benefits.

Signs for the times

The thumbnail version:

  • Businesses re-opening can use banners to welcome customers back
  • Suggesting banners to your customers could boost your bottom line

The full version:

As businesses such as boutiques, pubs, and restaurants reopen and look to put a positive spin on things after the doom-and-gloom of eighteen months of COVID, your shop has an opportunity.

Imagine your favourite pub or restaurant with a banner strung across the front entrance that says. “Welcome back! We missed you.” Wouldn’t that project a positive image? Wouldn’t it make you feel welcome? Of course it would.

Now all you have to do is convince existing and new customers of that too and  you could generate some new business.

Sing Media annual salary survey

The thumbnail version:

  • It’s time for the annual industry salary survey
  • The results provide useful planning information

The full version:

The deadline for participating in Sign Media Canada’s 15th annual salary survey is coming up soon on September 14th.

Why should you participate? Well, for owners, part of attracting and keeping staff is having a good understanding of the industry’s pay scale for different categories of jobs. Pay too little and you run the risk of losing the good hires to your competitors; pay too much and you run the risk of inflating your overheads and putting your shop at a competitive disadvantage.

For industry employees, knowing your worth can help ensure that you’re paid fairly.

However, in addition to any selfish reasons for participating, it just seems to be the right thing to do. Participating in an industry-wide salary survey designed to enhance all members’ understanding of their industry is surely a good thing.

You have until September 14th to log on here and complete the survey. 

In-store signage survey with helpful info for your customers

The thumbnail version:

  • Insight into the impact of in-store signage
  • Knowing this is useful for your customers
  • Knowing this can help you sell more in-store signage

The full version:

Sign Media has reported on a survey by Inmar Intelligence about the effectiveness of in-store signage. Insights like this are valuable. It can confirm what you already suspected, give you “ammunition” for selling to customers, and be useful for your customers to know; all of this can help generate revenue.

Essentially, the survey found that 69 percent of shoppers who saw an in-store advertisement browsed for the featured product and 61 percent of those actually bought it. Although 81 percent said they shopped with a list, only 11 percent of those included specific brands on the list. This would seem to suggest that shoppers are open to suggestions from in-store signage.

If your shop works proactively with customers by suggesting how they can use signage to their advantage, rather than just reactively responding to orders, then the information brought to light by this survey should be useful to you. Taking time to read the full survey could be time well invested.

An icon of the screen printing industry passes away

Stan Presisniuk (1934 – 2021)

The principals of Stanley’s Sign and Screen Supply, Doug Presisniuk, Barb Cumby, Sandy Presisniuk, and Rob Presisniuk, regret to have to announce that an icon of the Canadian screen printing industry, their father, Stanley Presisniuk, passed away last Friday, 6th August 2021, after a short illness.

Stan was committed to the screen printing industry for over four decades. He began his career at Sherwin-Williams Paints in 1956 where he met Cliff Beisel. Together in 1958 they were the first to bring silk screen supplies to the Alberta market when they launched Western Silk Screen Supply in Edmonton. In 1979 Stan launched Stanley’s Sign and Screen Supply where over time he introduced many new products to the industry.

Stan retired to his ranch about twenty years ago where he remained active until his passing.

Are you employing your employees’ full capabilities?

The thumbnail version:

  • Employees are generally more capable than we assume
  • How to employ those additional capabilities?

The full version:

Hewitt Associates once published a statement of philosophy that included this piece of wisdom: “We believe that most people have capabilities beyond those they are called on to demonstrate in their jobs.” My experience would lead me to agree with this.

How often have you challenged an employee with a task they had not performed before? You may be surprised at what they know and what they can do for your shop. Think about it as buying a product, being satisfied with what it does for you, but then one day finding out that it can do a lot more. Bonus!

It could be the same with employees. And an added bonus is that the employee will likely relish the chance to demonstrate what they are capable of, and as a result feel more relevant. The employee, the business, morale, and you, will all benefit from encouraging the employee to demonstrate their capabilities beyond the immediate demands of the job.

What is Sign MFG day and why should your sign shop participate?

The thumbnail version:

  • Sign MFG day is coming around again
  • There are a number of benefits to participating

The full version:

Future employees at Sign Manufacturing Day.

Sign MFG day is organized by International Sign Association (ISA) and is aimed at encouraging future sign industry workers by introducing them to the industry.

On October 1st this year, participating shops will invite students to visit and, by way of facility tours, demonstrations, and discussion, find out about the industry. The purpose is to address one of the industry’s biggest headaches—finding qualified workers. Sign MFG day is a first step to solving this problem.

And not only potential workers are encouraged to participate. ISA suggests that if shops were to allow participation by community members as well it would promote understanding of the industry and demonstrate its value to the economy. And then there’s always the possibility that better awareness among the community could generate new business.

Registration is the first step to participating. You can register your shop here:

Footnote: All of this of course presupposes that the COVID situation at the time allows for the event to be conducted safely and that all the usual precautions will be taken.

Décor printing

The thumbnail version:

  • Customized décor prints continue to trend
  • It’s a market made for graphics shops

The full version:

Articles about individuals looking for ways to create unique customized décor for the spaces they occupy continue to appear in various places, including digital and graphics industry blogs and publications.

Interior decorators would make good contacts.

As we reported a number of months ago and are going to repeat here, this presents an opportunity for large format digital printers to provide customized short runs. And even if wall coverings are beyond the scope of most smaller digital and graphic shops in Canada, textile prints to be used as cushion covers, fine art printed on canvas, wall decals, blinds and a host of other items, are not.

Hooking up with a few interior decorators as well as some market research into this potential opportunity could be worth your while.

Small doesn’t justify sloppy

The thumbnail version:

  • You can’t be sloppy and expect to compete with the big shops.
  • Improve your image and improve your competitive edge.

The full version:

It’s not the size. It’s the presentation.

The sign industry consists of printing companies large and small; some as small as one-person home-based shops. The problem for the smaller shops is that they are often competing for the same business as the bigger shops. And often the smaller shops are their own worst enemy in these situations by being sloppy about the image they put forth.

Bigger businesses tend to present polished images because they know that a “business-like” image gains them credibility with potential customers. Sadly, many smaller business just don’t get it. I’m not suggesting that you fake it by pretending that you’re big when you’re not because sooner or later you’ll be caught out and your credibility will be shot.

But there are measures you can take to present a polished image that will help to generate confidence. Nowadays a lot of people want to support smaller businesses but they don’t want to have to deal with sloppy. Here are some image-building things to which you should pay attention:

  • Make sure a polite, attentive, human being answers your shop’s phone within a few rings (you, an employee, an answering service—doesn’t matter who, just make sure it is answered).
  • Answer email inquiries promptly, even if it is to say you have the inquiry and will be in touch. Then follow up promptly.
  • Have professionally-designed and printed stationery  (cards, letterheads, envelopes, brochures etc.)
  • Dress in at least business-casual attire for meetings or customer visits.
  • Have an impressive well-put together portfolio of examples of your best work.
  • And of course it should go without saying that your product prices, quality, and service must be top-drawer.

You shouldn’t pretend to be big, just match big standards.

When a major arterial historic road changes names

The thumbnail version:

  • Dundas Street in Toronto is having a name change
  • All kinds of signs are going to have to be reprinted
  • This could happen near you too

The full version:

Dundas Street in Toronto is going to have a name change. This means that a lot of stationery, cards, promotional materials and, most particularly in our case, signs are going to have to be reprinted.

One would guess that this is good news for sign shops in the GTA and perhaps beyond. The more aggressive shops will be vying for a piece of the action. What are you doing about it?

The name change is happening because Toronto City Council voted in favour of renaming Dundas Street in a bid to promote inclusion of marginalized communities. Similar sentiments are gaining momentum across the country and could well result in name changes in other centers with all kinds of signs affected. If this happens where you are, someone has to print the new signs, why not your shop?

Keep an eye open and an ear to the ground.

Roland VersaWorks 6—helpful tips

The thumbnail version:

  • Supplier and manufacturer sites have valuable information
  • You can find money-saving and money-making tips by spending just a few minutes

The full version:

It has always been a good idea to occasionally visit supplier and manufacturer sites to keep up to date on new products and technology. Both the Stanley’s blog you’re reading now, the textile blog you can reach here, and manufacturers’ sites, offer helpful and often money-saving and money-making tips in addition to a host of other information to keep you in touch with the industry.

A good example is the Roland DGA site where they recently posted two tips that can help you get more out of VersaWorks 6. We don’t have the room here to share the tips in detail, but if you visit the site you’ll find a post on how to use the “Cut and Print” option and another on naming print queues and defining settings.

Getting the most out of your equipment is a way to differentiate your shop from the competition. Staying in touch online with the latest tips and other information from suppliers and manufacturers is a good way to do it.

New equipment—see it work

The thumbnail version:

  • A new piece of equipment can cost a lot of time and money
  • Seeing it work before you commit, is a good idea.

The full version:

See the equipment work. Examine it closely

In a post earlier this year in March, “New equipment—look before you leap”,  we addressed some of the things you should consider before going shopping for an item of new equipment. Now, to take it a step further, we suggest that it’s a good idea to see the equipment in action and understand all its capabilities and limitations before you buy it.

You’re in a very competitive market so one thing your new equipment should do is give you a competitive edge. If you’re going to lay out a lot of money, does it make sense to do so just to play catch-up? Since you’re investing so much time and money into the acquisition, now would be the time to invest just that little bit more to get the maximum benefit from your purchase. That extra something that will help differentiate your shop from the competition.

One place to see equipment in action is the bigger trade shows such as, for instance, Long Beach. As we begin to emerge from the restrictions of the pandemic, you’d do well to keep an eye on the trade show calendar.

Brochures and videos are all very well but nothing beats being able to see, touch, hear, and even smell a piece of equipment being put through its paces.

Decorating aluminum—do you know?

Whether you decorate aluminum or are thinking of decorating aluminum, there are a few important things that Rob Day of Tonejet wants you to know.

An aluminum can not decorated by plastic label or sleeve.

His main point is that decorating, say, aluminum cans with plastic labels or shrink sleeves is not a good idea from a recycling perspective. And why so? Because aluminum is a readily recyclable material, . . .  “with over 75 % of all the aluminum ever produced still in use today.”

Apparently plastic labels and sleeves on cans cause damage and safety problems for recycling workers in addition to diluting the value of the aluminum. Some jurisdictions are beginning to ban the use of plastic labels and sleeves on aluminum cans; Quebec is one example.

Two more interesting facts about aluminum drink cans:

      • They can be recycled and back on the store shelf in as few as 60 days.
    • It takes 95% less energy to recycle aluminum than it does to produce it from raw materials.

This is just some of the important information you need to know if you’re considering aluminum can decorating. You have more home work to do.


Growing a sticker-printing shop—the wisdom of experience from a successful owner

The thumbnail version:

  • Successful experience is worth learning from.
  • One lesson is to focus on a limited range and do it better than anyone else.

The full version:

Listen. It can be very valuable.

Sometimes it pays to take note of the experience-based wisdom that industry colleagues have to offer, particularly colleagues who speak from a position of success. Recently Roland told the story of a printer who built a successful sticker business. With eleven staff members, Ace High Printing is not a huge shop, but it’s a busy shop.

Here is the voice of experience from the owner, Rick Herbert, as reported by Roland:

  • “We do it slower than other people, that’s the key. We have TrueVIS machines that we take the print speed down to 600, 900 to make really superb quality. Does it take us a bit longer? Sure! But can you see it in the details? Sure!”
  • “When you put in an in with us, you’re speaking directly to me, the owner of the company. It’s not some automated bot, it’s not an email box. I will call you, email you, and if you’re here in person you’re speaking with the owner.”
  • Look at what5the competition are doing. Look at their turnaround times, the quality of products they’re producing and pick a few items and do those few items really well. Don’t try to offer 50 different products. Too many people try to do that and get burned.”
  • “If you start doing jobs you hate and that bore you, and you get frustrated with them, you’re not going to want to do this anymore. And when you lose your passion for this, what’s the point?”

This is just a taste of why you should check in on the Roland blog occasionally.


We’d both have bragging rights

The thumbnail version:

  • The BOCSIes entry deadline is 24th July (just over two weeks away).
  • If you win, we win.

The full version:

This is your last reminder to enter the Best of Canada’s Sign Industry (BOSCI) awards to honour the top work of sign companies in 12 categories. Entries close for this year on July 24th.

We urge participation because being mentioned as a winner will give your shop a visibility boost which is bound to be good for business. Then there are staff morale benefits and half dozen other good reasons too. And from a purely selfish point of view, as one of your suppliers, Stanley’s would be able to claim bragging rights too.

So how about it? Enter before the 24th. It makes business sense.

Would you have spotted the error?

The thumbnail version:

  • Quality control is essential to delivering a good product
  • But stuff happens, even to a high-profile industry magazine

The full version:

Much has been written about quality control in the shop. Often this is assumed to be the quality of the print. But what about the quality of the artwork?

The cover of the June 2021 edition of Sign Media magazine is a lesson in how errors can sneak through where you’d least expect to see them.

Sign Media is published monthly by the Sign Association of Canada and is well worth reading. Membership of the association is well worth it too. But back to the cover . . .

Can you spot the quality control lapse?  No?

How do you spell “business”?

How good is your shop’s quality control?

Inspiring designs found in simple places

The thumbnail version:

  • Once in a while a design stands out.
  • It can then be used to inspire

The full version:

Once in a while you’ll see design work that makes you stop and take notice—a design that can inspire; it certainly happens to me from time to time. Yesterday was such an occasion.

We were at lunch in Mahone Bay when Margaret ordered cider. It was delivered in the can in the illustration. Not only did the overall design intrigue me, but when I picked up the can to take a closer look it felt good to handle because the “chain link fence” background and the name “Intrepid” were textured. I’m assuming it was screen printed.

All-in-all the design and printing of the can was as impressive as the contents apparently were.

Well done, Chain Yard Cider Inc. of Halifax, Nova Scotia. Perhaps the design and printing of this can will inspire a print shop artist or two elsewhere in Canada.

Protecting your customers’ data

The thumbnail version:

  • There are plenty of bad guys trying to get their hands on your customers’ information.
  • You have an obligation to protect it.

The full version:

Protect your customers’ information from this guy

If you gather customer data—few can operate at all without doing this—you have an obligation to protect it. And in today’s digital world, that can be easier said than done. Nevertheless, it doesn’t relieve you of the obligation.

Courier recently published a good paper with various ways in which you can protect your customers’ data. We just have space for an overview here—you really need to explore the topic in more detail.

  1. Understand what data you’re dealing with.
  2. Understand the laws you’re subject to.
  3. Secure your WiFi network and passwords.
  4. Encourage use of a VPN by staff when using any kind of public WiFi.
  5. Install the right anti-malware and anti-virus tools.
  6. Make it someone’s responsibility to stay on top of online security.
  7. Communicate to your customers what information you collect and why.
  8. Educate your employees in spotting scams, password security etc.
  9. Back up your data offsite.
  10. Prepare for the worst in case an attack happens, have expertise on standby.
  11. Keep updating your software.

Being aware of the above measures is a start. You have work to do.

Rewarding employees with time off

The thumbnail version:

  • Employees are stressed after almost a year and a half of pandemic precautions
  • The end is not yet in sight
  • You can help provide relief by rewarding time

The full version:

Thanks to the pandemic in particular, your employees have been dealing with elevated stress levels at work and at home. And for now, in most jurisdictions, the stress of working in masks, social distancing, and dealing with customers just as irritated as everyone else, all in increasing summer heat, is going to go on for some time.

And while some jurisdictions are rushing to lift restrictions, remember that the recent pattern has been for spikes in new COVID-19 infections to follow relaxed restrictions. This is discouraging and only compounds the stress on people.

Time . . . Your to give

So how do you deal with this and reward employees, especially when the shop’s budget is under strain and trying to recover from eighteen months of pandemic?  Time off. Time is the one commodity you have to give and it’s a commodity always appreciated.

Here are some ideas:

  • Provide an extra break.
  • Give the occasional two-hour lunch and perhaps order in pizza or a dessert.
  • Give two-hour lunch one day a week for a month.
  • Give a day off.
  • Give a three-day weekend.
  • In an exceptional case give a week off.

You can probably think of many more ways to use time to help your employees in the current stressful circumstances.

Printing on canvas

The thumbnail version:

  • The demand for canvas prints is on the rise
  • You have the technology and the material

The full version:

It seems to be catching on among photographers and artist—having their work printed on canvas. And the good news is that your Roland printer can do this.

Your new customer

Canvas prints are particularly suited to art usually produced on canvas in the first place—it gives the print a more authentic look. But this doesn’t mean that usually “smooth-finish” pieces such as photographs can’t or shouldn’t be reproduced on canvas with a pleasing result; they certainly can. I know a Calgary bird photographer that regularly receives orders for prints on canvas.

Stanley’s stocks a canvas supplied by Roland for use on your Roland equipment. So why not consider positioning your shop as a canvas printing specialist and go after that market of photographers and artists that seems to be growing?

The impact of COVID-19 on your marketing plan

The thumbnail version:

  • COVID has changed customer behavior.
  • Your shop has to adapt.

The full version:

The customer has changed the way they want to do business and how they want us to supply them

BDC confirms that CVID-19 is having a significant impact on customer behavior. It requires that businesses recognize that online sales are trending sharply upwards and that customers’ preferences are changing. This requires an adaptation of marketing plans.

Quoting Martin Wiedenhof, BDC offers 5 adaptations to help businesses meet the challenges of this changing marketplace;

  1. Survey your customers to find out what you have to change to meet their changing demands.
  2. Create a revised sales forecast using the information gleaned from customers.
  3. Plan for a variety of scenarios such as fewer than anticipated sales or greater than anticipated sales.
  4. Revamp your marketing plan once you have worked through steps 1 to 3 above.
  5. Get online and be creative in finding ways to market.

There is obviously more to this topic than we can cover in this format, so you have homework to do. Many of us don’t readily embrace change, unfortunately though, we’ve reached a point where we have no choice but to react to the changing circumstances of the marketplace.

It was happening anyway, but COVID has given it impetus. Now we all have work to do.


Blade and cutter settings

The thumbnail version:

  • There are things you should know about blade and cutter settings
  • If the information below is not enough you can refer to Roland

The full version:

According to Lily Hunter of Roland, one of the most common questions asked by printers new to the business or unfamiliar with Roland equipment, is about blade and cutter settings.

Roland provides a Cutter Blade Reference Guide on their support page but, not surprisingly, it is often overlooked (even printers seem to have the try-it-first-read-the-instructions-later habit). So Hunter recommends three things in particular that you should note:

    1. Blade Extension – The tendency is to set the blade in the blade holder with the tip of the blade visible. While this sounds intuitive enough, it’s incorrect. We don’t actually need to see the blade. A colleague of mine described this the best – you should feel the blade, but not see it. Run the blade over a scrap piece of vinyl and see if it cuts it. Our reference guide (page 2) states that the best amount of extension to use as a starting point is half the thickness of a credit card. Next, do a cut test to determine if additional downforce is needed and/or more blade extension is required.
    2. Cut Force – If you’re doing a CutContour (contour cutting), the media should be cut with enough force/pressure that you do not see cut lines in your liner. Cut force is measured in grams force (gf). For some media, like our HeatSoft™ heat transfer material, too much cut force actually pushes the cut media edges into the liner, resulting in cut media that is difficult to weed. On page 3 of the guide, there are recommended blade settings for different types of media.
    3. 45º or 60º Blade? Offset? The angle of the blade design is referenced in degrees. The offset—the measurement from the middle of the blade to the edge of the blade—determines the turning radius. Typically, a 45º blade is a multi-purpose blade for most media <3 mil. A 60º blade is best for thicker media (>3mil.)

For a more detailed discussion of cutter settings refer to the Roland website or reference guides.


The thumbnail version:

  • If the market doesn’t know your shop exists, it can’t do business with it.
  • Publicity is essential.

The full version:

This is not a new topic, but it’s an important one—publicity for your shop.

It’s just common sense, the more widely you promote your shop, the more it will be known, and the more it is known, the more likely you are to attract business.

And publicity doesn’t have to be costly. For instance, magazines like Sign Media will publish stories about your shop and it’s more interesting work. But the media isn’t the only avenue for publicity. There are many creative things you can do to attract publicity for your shop, all you have to do is commit to giving the matter some thought.

We all have different comfort levels but you may try pushing a bit beyond your comfort level for the sake of publicity, However, you might not want to do something as extreme as Richard Branson when he was filmed water skiing with a naked woman clinging to his back as a publicity stunt. That kind of thing may not fall within your comfort level, but there are things you can do to publicize your shop well within your comfort level. It does however require a commitment and some creativity.

If the market doesn’t know that your shop exists, it can’t do business with it.

Vehicle wrapping is still an expanding sector of the industry

The thumbnail version:

  • The demand for wrapping is growing
  • Advancements in material have made wraps easier to do

The full version:

Sign Media Magazine has published an update on the vehicle-wrapping sector of the industry; it’s well worth the read.

The demand for wraps is growing and it’s not confined to vehicles.

The bottom line is that it is still growing. As one printer is quoted as saying, “Even though most businesses have company vehicles, many still don’t wrap their vehicles to advertise their services.” I’d say that this provides a marketing opportunity.

Advances in materials have made it easier for installers. Pressure-sensitive adhesive vinyls are no longer so prone to trapping air bubbles, premature adhesion, and other installation problems of the past. In addition, they can now be removed quite easily leaving no damage to the original surface.

As you look to expand your shop’s offering, if you’re not already wrapping, it may be something you want to explore. In fact, nowadays wrapping is not limited to vehicles. Sign Media quotes one printer (wrapper?): “I travel all over the country wrapping cars, walls . . . all sorts of things. The market has really expanded over the past several years.”

What additional incentves do you need?

Emerging from the pandemic . . . time to consider rebranding?

The thumbnail version:

  • Rebranding may be the boost your shop needs
  • Also, it may not; it depends.

The full version:

Richard Gradner, writing for Mustard, a  creative and digital agency, recently noted that 2021 may be the time to rebrand. He quotes McKinsey who apparently showed that businesses with strong branding outperform competitors, and a Harvard Business School study that apparently found that consistent branding is one of the most valuable characteristics of modern brands.

He offers 5 reasons to consider rebranding: (1) Vision (take your business in a new direction?); (2) Competitors (What are they doing? You may want to rebrand to differentiate your business); (3) Target market (Has your target market changed since you launched your brand?); (4) Mergers (Is your brand part of a family of brands? Does it need to rebrand to communicate a stronger message?); and (5) Boring (has your target market become bored with your brand?).

So does this automatically apply to a small business such as, say, your sign shop? Well, that depends. If business is lagging and your shop is struggling, sure, rebranding may give it a new lease on life. On the other hand, if customers are beating a path to your door and you can’t keep up with demand, there’s an old saying that applies: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!”

Give it some thought and then decide whether you should consider rebranding and, if so, what it would involve.

E-commerce; the shipping whens and hows.

The thumbnail version:

  • Shipping is an essential aspect of e-commerce
  • Customers generally have unrealistic delivery expectations

The full version:

FedEx recently hosted a webinar for the benefit of small business. One of the ten topics dealt with shipping. This is not surprising because, as you’d expect of an organization that moves 16 million packages a day (air and ground services combined), they’d know a few things about shipping.

First of all, you must develop your shipping and return policy and state it clearly on your website. Then you need to cater to the typically impatient customers who always seem to have unrealistic delivery expectations. Be clear when the order is expected to ship, when it will likely be delivered, and what it will cost. Allowing them to trace the shipment is a big added-value item. And then, having committed in this way, make sure your shop meets the customer’s expectations.

Something important that was not mentioned in the webinar but should have been, is attention to how you package your shipments. We can’t all go to the extent required to match, say, Apple’s legendary packaging, but we can make an effort to pack effectively, in a box that gives a good impression, and perhaps toss in a surprise such as a bag of cookies, candy, or even a chocolate bar. You’d be surprised how inexpensive it is to make a favourable impression.

And why should you do all this? Because if you don’t, your competitors will get the sign order next time.


The thumbnail version:

  • Employee management is hard.
  • One-on-ones can make it easier.

The full version:

Employee management is hard. The whole thing from hiring, to training, to retaining, to firing—it’s all hard. So any tips or concepts that can make it easier should be welcome.

Here’s a concept that’s bound to make the managing aspect a bit easier; it’s known as one-on-ones. One definition goes like this: One-on-ones are recurring discussions (every two weeks or so) between you and someone who works directly below you. In them, employees are given the time, space and platform to talk about whatever’s important to them – work-related or not.” I’m not entirely convinced about the “or not” part, but you use your discretion.

Even during a pandemic, or between remote locations, you can still do one-on-ones.

The aim is to build a relationship on an individual level, and for you to show that they’re important to the business and that you’re committed to their development. They benefit the employees but letting them know that they have the space to air their opinions, thoughts and problems. For the employer it’s an opportunity to better understand their employees’ strengths and weaknesses, what they need to do a good job, and how to best handle them in terms of assigning tasks.

The key of course is to be genuinely committed to the concept and to then manage the one-on-ones properly. If it comes across as a pain in the neck that you’re only doing because you read somewhere that it is a good idea, then you’d be better off not doing it. However, commit to doing it genuinely and properly, and you’ll likely boost morale and find that employee management becomes easier.

Your shop doing e-business? Considered cyber insurance?

The thumbnail version:

  • Cybercrime is running rampant
  • Even small businesses are targets
  • You can now get insurance coverage

The full version:

Protect your e-commerce site against this character

I was recently told about something I wish I’d had about almost 15 years ago when my e-commerce site was hacked. It took two months of downtime and $8,000 to restore the two hundred or so vandalized files.

A cyber insurance addition to our regular business insurance policy would have helped a lot. According to the broker who told me about this, it’s and easily and relatively inexpensive (he mentioned an additional premium of about $200) addition to a business policy.

Given the extent of cybercrime nowadays, if you’re doing business online, cyber insurance is something you should call your broker about today. If you’re already covered, it wouldn’t hurt to revisit the policy to make sure that the coverage is adequate—it could save you a lot of frustration, lost business, and money.