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Greek Tragedy


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By:  Nick Howard  |  Date: November 2011  |  Contact the Author
Part 1 | Part 2

Cont'd from Part 1

Print - Greece Conundrum
Fast track to the UK. The recent news in the Web sector notes that the web offset market capacity has been reduced almost by half in 10 years. Cries from a notable printer to publishers that they consider carefully how low prices have impacted the industry will go unnoticed. Just as the Greeks find little pity from Europe so does the business of Print with its price margin customers.

I cannot think of one end-user who would pause to think he should be adding to his cost of print by encouraging his printer to add on an extra 2-4%. These things just don’t happen in an open economy where free enterprise exists. Those in the web sector in the UK and perhaps in other countries of the West will simply have to find new ways or tools to reduce their costs and improve the margins they have. When any industry moves to sell at lower costs, this is the nitroglycerin needed to change industries and countries alike.

In North America, where almost all printing firms are small to medium in size, tiny steps are being taken to reduce the amount of waste from the job-ticket. True, this has impacted the likes of machine suppliers but still printers are buying technology, possibly used, but helps them support a lower cost-of print scenario. Eventually, one hopes that the taps will start to flow with new equipment, but right now taking up existing late model used inventory is the norm. There is essentially no government safety blanket for enterprises in the western economies, no free lunch, and pensions or otherwise.  That may not be assuring but it does at least isolate industries from spreading debt all over the place. Print cannot expect a bail-out like Greece.

Confidence Is Key
What is most needed now is simply confidence. Confidence in the future and in investments of our businesses. Greece has none. Europe as well as the world-wide banking community knows it has to put the Greek fire out as quickly as possible to avoid total anarchy. Provided they implement very strong spending reductions maybe we can see a more stable environment for business.

Print relies on consumer confidence and without it one can’t determine how long it could take to find it. Why would anyone invest in anything if they didn’t have a good feeling about the future? It has been said that people like Warren Buffet buy when everyone else is heading for the exits. They obviously have confidence when very few do. But, most of us need to see at least some sign or tidbit of hope in the future before making plans for our businesses.

The United States has one of the most transparent economies in the world. China is still a bit “wild-west” in nature compared to most including Germany and the USA. There simply is no transparent business in China. Not much in the way of essential business rules and basically profits come on the backs of the huge workforce with large profits going to a select few. Maybe Greece reflects the complete opposite in that the state provided for all but forgot that stimulating the enterprise portion of the economy left it a social misfit not even qualified for inclusion in Engels theories.

Demanding the right to produce a profit or make a living is a paradox. Well run printing businesses, or for that matter any businesses, don’t depend on hand-outs or otherwise. Sadly, as the structure of our industry evolves, some of us cry foul at competition and apparent lower-than-cost-prices. This is understandable and will never go away. But, we must continue to push forward regardless because there are always opportunities in another man’s failure.

The socialized hand-out world of Greece does not work for Print or anyone else. We, as an industry, need to embrace competition not run from it. Even though some of us may wish we had that Greek safety net. Fables are for children, life’s not like that.

Let’s applaud the redesigning of the “free” society first and get back to less government and more opportunities for businesses - especially Print - so we can find our own level. If that UK web-printer is waiting for a call from a publisher, it might not be the call he’s hoping for.

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