In part one of Surviving Adversity: A CEO Panel Discussion, we highlighted the main topics of conversation around revenue following a Printing Industry Midwest (PIM) Financial Executives Council (FEC) meeting. In part two, we’ll cover the discussion by the panelists on how they’ve adapted the way they manage their graphic arts business in light of COVID-19, including the impact to staffing and internal processes.  

Panelists on the call included Brian Turbeville - President of Wallace Carlson Printing, Mike Lane - CEO/President of Meyer’s Printing Co., Gary Garner - President/CEO of GLS Companies, and Tom Moe - CEO of Daily Printing, and the webinar facilitators included Mel Enger and Rick Riesgraf from LB Carlson. 

COVID’s impact on staffing a graphic arts business 

The panelists on the call dove into many of the challenges the pandemic created related to staffing with government restrictions in place and ensuring their teams felt and stayed safe. They identified a few key issues their companies faced including: 

  • Managing the peaks and valleys – As COVID progressed and affected customer industries, the need for services ebbed and flowed. This issue created a staffing management issue. The first six months of the pandemic were the most difficult but as customer sales rebounded the panelists saw more consistency and could plan more efficiently. 
  • Adapting to remote work – All the panelists agreed that they’ve been able to move some office jobs remote in order to meet social distancing compliance. While some panelists would prefer to have everyone in-house for collaboration and quality control, the move to remote work has provided employees with much appreciated flexibility.  
  • Keeping up employee morale – The panelists found that extensive communication, especially at the beginning of the crisis, was key to keeping up employee morale. They agreed it was important for employees to feel informed with regular and consistent updates as things changed and progressed. Some started weekly newsletters to staff to send company updates or held regular all-company virtual calls. Bringing people back to work was a key morale booster but concern remains that a second round of shutdowns could send people back home.  
  • Keeping employees safe – As employees returned to the workplaces, safety has been paramount for everyone. The panelists each had different ways of addressing safety including distributing work groups, setting up socially distanced work stations, and ramping up cleaning protocols. Avoiding an entire department outbreak seemed to be the top concern. 

COVID’s impact on managing a graphic arts business 

COVID has forced many graphic arts businesses to rethink how they work with clients, procure new business, and adapt their manufacturing processes. The panelists discussed at-length how the crisis has impacted their timelines, sales, and production. 

  • Supporting clients – The panelists have experienced some roadblocks with supporting clients in a remote environment. It can be difficult to pin down where the decision makers are to get answers and approvals or even deliver hard copy proofs, greatly slowing down the process. Most panelists felt they were seeing significant delays in approvals.  
  • Developing new business – The panelists all agreed business development has been a challenge when decision makers are scattered and networking opportunities are few and far between. Further complicating matters is adapting to a new way of interacting with prospects usually virtually.  
  • Adjusting processes – The panelists agreed the crisis forced a good long look at processes, costs, and supply chainThe panelists were able to find significant cost savings by delegating team members the task of performing their own internal audit. Communicating early and often has allowed  to eliminate spoilage, reduce costs and protect the bottom line. 

Overall, the panelists agreed that if another round of shutdowns is imminent, they’re better prepared to handle the challenges of the crisis thanks to their experience over the past several months. They know what they did right and what they could improve, which gives them a greater sense of confidence.  

In part three, we’ll cover where the graphic arts industry expects to go from here in terms of growth, technology, and adapting to a changed marketplace.