The first weeks of January are a good time to reflect on your print shop’s successes and missteps in 2018. Measuring and documenting achievements in different facets of your print shop can help you zero in on areas for improvement in 2019. Consider using these questions to jumpstart your analysis and identify gaps in your metrics.

How many new customers did we add in 2018? Can we determine how we acquired them? Can we measure how long it took to close each sale?

How many previous customers didn’t do any business with us in 2018? Do we know why they left? Is there anything we can do to win back their business?

How much did we grow in 2018? What trends and achievements helped stimulate this growth? What trends, inefficiencies, and unforeseen events stifled our growth?

Which jobs that go through our shop are most profitable? Which ones are least profitable? What steps can we take to attract more profitable types of jobs? What steps can we take to improve the margins on our least profitable jobs?

What equipment operated at 75% of capacity or more? Did any equipment operate at less than 50% capacity? What factors contributed to these high and low capacity levels? Should we consider adding new equipment, replacing aging equipment, or retiring under-utilized equipment?

How many new employees did we hire? Can we document how we recruited and trained our most promising new hires? Do we know why they accepted our offer? If some promising candidates rejected offers, do we know why?

How many employees left us for other jobs in 2018? Do we know why they left? Were there any actions we could have taken to prevent the turnover?

Do we have the right skills to keep up with changes in fields such as IT, design, production, project management, administration, and marketing? What types of employees will we need to add to meet some of our objectives for 2019? What types of work can be supported by contractors or consultants?  

Who are our top-performing vendors? What services and support sets them apart from other vendors?

Do we have any problem vendors? Have late deliveries of supplies cause any production delays? Did any vendors fail to deliver what they promised?

How healthy our are finances? Are we accurately forecasting our cash flow? Do we have enough working capital to meet our goals? Can we reduce our borrowing costs?  

How much variation exists in revenues each month? What factors caused these variations? Can we take steps to generate a steadier, more predictable cash flow throughout the year? What types of products and services can we offer to generate more business slow periods?

What steps can we take to improve the return on our marketing dollars? Which marketing channels have yielded the greatest immediate returns? Which marketing channels help boost our success in other channels? How did our best new customers learn about us?

What services have our customers started asking for? Are they interested in online payment processing? Online ordering? Help with graphics shipping and logistics? Assistance with design?  Are there any services that customers rarely request any more?

What were some of the biggest lessons we learned at the trade shows and conferences we attended in 2018? Have we adopted any of those lessons? Have we followed up with all of the new contacts we made at trade shows? Can we identify any trade shows that could help use make connections with potential new customers? There are dozens of other questions you can raise to assess your performance. These examples can simply jump-start your thinking.

Analyze More Than NumbersAutomating your print-shop management and production systems can provide a wealth of numbers to analyze during your year end review. But your analysis won’t be complete unless you can pinpoint some of the circumstances that affected your numbers. When you can document “why” your company surpassed some goals and missed others, you can take steps to address your biggest risks for disruption or opportunities for growth.

At Ordant, users of our estimating and order management system continuously suggest refinements that can help them continue to improve the efficiency of their print-shop business systems. As your print shop continues to adapt to changing markets and evolve into services beyond printing, consider adopting an estimating and order management system that is easy to update and customize as your business changes. Visit www.ordant.com for a demonstration of our supremely easy-to-use and versatile estimating and order management system for all types of print-service providers and sign shops.