Monday, August 29, 2016

Business to Business: Do You Qualify?

In my last blog article, I talked about keys to a good business deal: commitment and reality. Customers need to be committed to marketing, and realistic about what is required to accomplish their goal.

Understanding those characteristics is part of the business relationship known as qualifying. It’s what we do with each other in a transaction: You qualify me to see if I can provide the product or service you need, and I qualify you to make sure that you’re committed to doing what it takes, and spending what it takes, to get the job done.

Often, when a customer comes to us, they are dealing with an urgent problem or concern. Their attention is on the immediate situation. What we try to do is focus on the big picture and determine the underlying problem that needs to be solved. It’s long-term thinking, instead of short-term.

Occasionally, a short-term solution is all that’s necessary—like when a political candidate needs yard signs, for example. They put them out, people vote, and that’s that. Usually, however, long-term thinking is needed. There’s no point in starting a project unless we’re both committed to going all the way with it. And “all the way” might mean more than you’ve imagined. On the other hand, sometimes it may mean less. That’s why we’re here—to help you consider all the angles, all the possibilities.

As a businessman, I’m not paid to think the way you think. It’s my job to try to see things that you don’t, and to bring solutions to the table that you haven’t thought of.

Isn’t it that way with everything? No matter which vendor you’re dealing with, you expect them to come to you with innovative ideas and creative solutions. You qualify them to see if they have what it takes to make you more efficient and cost-effective.

It’s what makes free enterprise such a powerful thing. The best companies are the ones that consistently do great work, at a fair price, while exceeding expectations. The best companies are the ones that qualify to do business with you.

So when I say we qualify one another, it’s a good thing. We kick the tires, so to speak. Take the relationship for a test drive. If we both have what it takes, we’ll end up doing great work together for a long time to come.

Mike Boyd is president of Creative Source, a Canton, Ohio sign company

Saturday, July 30, 2016

2 Keys to a Good Business Deal: Commitment and Reality

Sometimes, I catch customers off guard.

We’ll be having a conversation about a project, and inevitably they’ll ask, “What will that cost?” And I’ll reply, “What kind of budget do you have?”

That might sound naïve. After all, a sign is a sign. A display is a display. And they cost a certain amount, right? So I should just give them a quote and leave it at that.

But that’s not why I ask the question. The fact is, marketing requires commitment. There’s an old adage that says the surest way to spend too much on advertising is to not spend enough. You have to be willing to budget enough to get the job done properly.

Final numbers aren’t necessarily the issue. Commitment is. If someone describes an ambitious project to me, but is only willing to spend a fraction of what it will cost, we’ll end up too far apart no matter what I say. But if I’m given a realistic budget figure, I know that we can work together to get the job done right. I may give a little, or they may give a little—or both. But eventually, the objective is to complete the project to their satisfaction, at a price we can both live with.

That’s what business is all about, isn’t it? We’re traders, all of us. We exchange things of equal value—or should. Some people might think they can rip people off and get away with it, but in the end it catches up to them, one way or the other. It might be in lost business, or it might be in a damaged reputation. Meanwhile, they’ve hurt the other party, not helped them. And that will harm the customer’s ability to grow their business, which in turn is a detriment to the economy, not a benefit. Everyone loses.

So I ask about budgets right up front. It provides a basis for moving forward. If I hear a figure that’s realistic, I know we can work together. If not, I’ll suggest an alternative, and if that’s too expensive for their taste, then my advice is to try something different.

You have to be realistic, and honest. You can’t serve a customer any other way.

Mike Boyd is president of Creative Source, a Canton, Ohio sign company

Monday, April 18, 2016

Celebrating 20 Years: Relationships Make the Difference

Canton-Ohio-signs-banners-displays“What’s your twenty?”

That’s another way of saying, “Where are you?” And it’s a great question to ask as we celebrate our “twenty” – the 20th Anniversary of Creative Source.

We’ve come a long way in 20 years. Dave Hess and I started the company with three other associates in 1996. We had previously worked together in the marketing department at Camelot Music, once one of the world’s largest music retailers. Based in North Canton, Camelot and other retail music chains began to disappear in the 1990s as the industry scrambled to keep up with the digital age. Seeing the handwriting on the wall, a group of us struck out on our own to form Creative Source.

Since then, the world has been turned on its head by technology. When we opened our doors, the Internet was still a novelty. Most people didn’t own home computers to connect to it, let alone enjoy the convenience of smart phones and other mobile devices we take for granted today.

The music industry had experienced rapid change in the 1970s and '80s. Record albums and 45s gave way to 8-track tapes, then cassettes, and then CDs. Movies and TV shows moved from VHS tapes to Laser Discs to DVDs and Blu-ray. Today, it’s all about the Internet and apps.

In the sign industry, similar changes have occurred. I recall when we were at Camelot and desktop computing technology became available. We were told that we could have one computer for a department of five graphic artists. (Our IT department thought they were being generous when they gave us 2GB of server space!) The breakthrough came when we finally got five computers (one for each artist), each with 560MB of storage, along with a scanner and a black-and-white printer—all for $50,000. Systems that are infinitely more powerful today can be purchased for a fraction of that cost.

Over time that computer technology, combined with the speed of delivery available over the World Wide Web, reduced production times from weeks or even months to just days, and sometimes even hours.

(An early version of our logo)
Even as we’ve witnessed breathtaking technological progress over these past 20 years, we’ve been reminded that some things are timeless. I remember Paul David, the founder of Camelot, saying, “Success in business comes from offering a great product, providing outstanding service, and building strong relationships.”

Maybe that’s why our company is built as much on relationships as anything else. Sure, we’re experts in producing signs, banners, displays and large format printing for businesses of all sizes. But, more than that, we strive to be a unique and innovative resource center for good ideas. We get to know our customers and help them develop cost-effective marketing solutions. It’s a formula that has served us well.

As we celebrate 20 years in business, I want to extend my personal thanks to all those who have been a part of the journey. What began out of necessity has developed into a small but powerful example of the American Dream. We’re honored to be a part of the community and hope you’ll join us in 2016 as we celebrate this important milestone in our company’s history.

Mike Boyd is the president of Creative Source, a Canton, Ohio sign company.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Where's Your Resolve?

The new year is still pretty new, so…how are your resolutions coming along?

It’s only natural that we would feel optimistic at the beginning of another year. Once every 12 months we get a new beginning, a fresh start.

So we tell ourselves we’re going to do this, or that. We promise ourselves that this year will be a better year. And we jump in with both feet, ready to make it happen.

Within a few weeks, however, things change. Why?

If you’re anything like me, the pace of life at the end of the year is different. I’m not talking so much about our personal livesafter all, the holidays aren’t exactly a quiet time. I’m talking about our business lives. Things slow down noticeably in December. People take time off. You can’t reach customers. Billings take a break.

It’s something we plan for. “You can’t get ahold of anybody during the holidays,” we say. So what do we do? We start planning for the new year. We decide to do things better. We set goals.

To put it another way, we make resolutions. And that’s a good thing. Every business or success coach will agree you’ve got to fix the right goal in your mind before you can accomplish anything.

Except, January comes. Business picks up. People start calling. Orders come in. Expectations are high. And those goals that seemed so attainable when things were quiet just a few weeks earlier get put on the back burner. Hopes, dreams and new ideas get pushed aside by a little thing we call reality. As the saying goes, you go back to working in your business, instead of working on your business.

Don’t sweat it. It happens all the time, to all of us. Rather than give up and give in, however, why not take an hour or two, right now, to revisit those plans you made last month, and figure out how to pursue them?

Think about it: When you had some time to clear your mind and your desk, you came up with some pretty good ideas. You told yourself you were going to do something about them.

So, do something about them. Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and set your resolve again—right now, today, while there’s still time.

You solved your problems once. Now it’s time to resolve them.

Here’s to a successful year!

MIKE BOYD is president of Creative Source, a Canton, Ohio sign company.