Sean Tomlin, Designer Wraps, poses some important questions and encourages shops to “inspect what you expect” in Graphics PRO Magazine
So it’s 2022; now what? Did you plan out your “new year” last year? If not, it’s not too late to start. I’m going to propose different questions here with the hopes of provoking some thoughts that you may have otherwise not have considered. So, here are some things to think about when planning your year.
What did you learn last year?
Is there anything you did last year that, if done differently, you could/would do better this year?
- Pro tip: Track mistakes, misprints, waste, etc., in a spreadsheet and compare it month-to-month/year-to-year. You can’t change what you don’t know.
Is all of your end-of-year booking cleaned up and ready to give to your accountant? How did your sales compare to the year before? What are your financial goals for 2022? How do you plan on accomplishing them?
- Pro tip: It’s easy when you’re using good software like QuickBooks or Freshbooks (not to be confused with estimating/invoicing, job-tracking software like shopVOX or CoreBridge).
How’s your org chart?
Are all the right “butts” in the right seats? Does everyone know what they are accountable for? How do they know? Who is tracking it?
- Pro tip: I know the market is tough right now, but try to focus on hiring people that align with your core values first, not just on emotion and a “good interview.” Remember to train, set expectations, and measure results! You’ve got to inspect what you expect in all areas of your business.
What about systems?
Is your process simple and easy to understand by your customers AND your employees? If not, what can you do this week to make it so?
- Pro tip: Write out your process step-by-step on a whiteboard or paper. Start with a heading for each step or icon. Look at it and try to run through it with a fresh set of eyes. Make any adjustments needed here, then start adding the sub-components that make each “gear” turn as efficiently as possible, so the “machine” runs as smoothly as it can.
Organization (as-in not disorganized)
How does your showroom look? Is it cluttered? Does it need updating? What about material samples? How’s your conference room look? Is it branded? Is it set up for Zoom calls with customers? How’s your production room/space look? Need better material storage/handling? How’s your fab and installation look? Better lighting? Tools? Equipment?
- Pro tip: Sometimes, a simple, fresh coat of paint goes a long way, or a nice new wall wrap to spice things up. You may also consider a floor scrubber to control dirt and dust in your production/install areas.
Let’s talk expansion
Are you prepared to grow? Are your budgets done? Will you be buying any new equipment this year? If so, what? When? How will you pay for it (cash, lease, finance)? Do you have enough space; the personnel to run the equipment? What about new markets? Is this the year to start looking outside of your current base? Or is your niche just right?
- Pro tip: You don’t want to grow a broken business. Make certain all of your “ducks are in a row,” your systems are bulletproof, your people are trained and accountable, and your financials are solid enough for growth. Remember, you’ve got to inspect what you expect!
Is your marketing plan ready for 2022? Have you thought about social media? Don’t forget about LinkedIn. Are you using all the platforms as efficiently as you can? Is your messaging the same across all platforms? How do potential customers reach you on those platforms? Is your CRM in place? How does your website look? Is it mobile-friendly? Stats show that over 80% of today’s traffic is from mobile devices. It may be time to update and upgrade your site. Otherwise, it may not be the most user-friendly on a mobile device.
What do you mean you don’t have a website? No, you can’t use Facebook or Yellow Pages as your website.
- Pro tip: Use Wix if you have to, but make sure it’s your unique domain name and not wix.com/yourcompany1. Hire a professional. Stop trying to do it all yourself. Either outsource or, if it’s in your budget, hire a part-time or full-time person in-house to handle this along with your other marketing efforts.
As billionaire Mark Cuban always says, “Sales fixes everything!” Be experts at selling because those are the companies that win, as opposed to the companies that may be great at what they do, but they don’t know how to sell. What does your sales process look like? It should be part of your system mentioned earlier. Are your salespeople adequately trained? Are they asking the right questions and explaining clear expectations? Back to marketing — how do you get your leads? How are you tracking the leads? Is your CRM in place and being used properly?
- Pro tip: Be sure to present what makes you unique and different at the forefront of your sales and marketing process.
This could be an article all to itself. Are your goals set? Are you an owner? If so, are you working on your business, not in your business? Are all of your staff members on the same page as your leadership team? Is your vision clear to the entire organization?
- Pro tip: Print out a large poster or vinyl lettering of your core values on a very visible wall in your shop (or in the breakroom). Track successes and wins and celebrate them (and your employees) publicly during your staff meetings.
What books are you reading right now? What books are next?
- Pro tip: Be sure to always take time for yourself to continue learning each day. You’re never too old to learn something new, the minute you think you already know everything is when you stop growing. I always try to better myself every day. I want to be a better person, a smarter person than I was yesterday. Ask yourself, what can I do today to make my tomorrow better?
It’s hard to think of everything when planning out the year ahead, but you can start by asking yourself some questions. Add those questions to a spreadsheet or list, then do your best to answer them honestly with your leadership team. As you think of new questions to ask yourself, add them to the list, then use the same list of questions for the following year. Rinse and repeat.