It’s been almost 10 years since I first read the “E-Myth Revisited” by Michael Gerber, but its message is as important and relevant to my business today as it was then. The aim of this article is to outline the ways in which the E-Myth has helped me in building a scalable printing business from scratch.

The E-Myth stands for the “entrepreneurial myth.” The premise is that many people who would call themselves entrepreneurs tend to spend the majority of their time working on the technical side of their business and not enough time on the managerial and strategic activities that are associated with being an entrepreneur.

In Michael Gerber’s opinion, it is better to focus one’s energy on creating a business that can eventually run and grow without heavy involvement from the owner on the technical side, or in the daily running of the business.

Gerber outlines a philosophy of implementing systems and training staff to help you, the entrepreneur, focus more time on activities that grow the business. He uses the term working on the business rather than in the business. This phrase is something that has stuck with me ever since I read the book, and now factors into most of the strategic decisions I make as a business owner.

Our story of entrepreneurship

We started Showcase Creative in 2007 with three directors: Andy (my close friend from school), Jack (my brother), and Paul (me). In the beginning, we all did a bit of everything; quoting, artwork, billing, product development, production, dispatch, marketing, finance, and so on.

We were all technical and had very little experience in managing or running a business. After a short period, our strengths and weaknesses started to show, and we decided to separate the workload into distinct departments: myself in production, marketing, and R&D, Jack in sales, and Andy in artwork and finance.

As we worked and our roles developed, we kept in mind that we were modeling roles for someone else to be slotted into in the future. Our goal was for each of us to manage a department containing relatively low skilled staff, trained to take over parts of our workload.

We found the modern apprenticeships scheme in the UK to be a valuable source of candidates to fill some of these roles. We now have an apprentice working in sales, two in production, and one in artwork. The apprenticeship scheme has financial benefits which can give you breathing room to train staff to your required standard.

Also, the candidates are keen to learn and can be molded to fit the role. A lot of our focus has gone into training our apprentices, as well as our other staff. We have also put together standard operating procedure documents or SOP’s for a number of our processes. This helps us to standardize the way things are done, gives us a level of accountability, and is a handy reference tool for our staff.

Production

By standardizing our products, it made it easier for someone with little printing experience to produce our products with minimal training.

We did this with our presentation folders and ring binder products. A set number of variations, materials, and finishes were decided upon and our die cutters set up permanently with our most common cutting dies.

As a result, setup times were reduced dramatically, orders could be produced by staff with no previous printing experience, and less orders had errors, which meant a more consistent result.

Due to the bespoke nature of printing, there are inevitably some orders that fall outside of our core product range. One of the downsides of standardizing and automating your processes is that more complex customer requests can throw off a less experienced team member.

Seeing this first-hand has helped me to realize that a good manager is a valuable asset to any department. A good manager should be able to train other people to perform any task that they can do. Conversely, a manager should be willing and able to perform any task that they give to a team member.

Some processes are harder to teach than others. For instance, trimming business cards on a paper cutter would seem like a basic operation; however, the experienced operator intuitively compensates for a number of subtle factors including shrinkage and skew of the print as well as recognizing if the blade is becoming blunt just by the sound. These things take time and practice to master. Patience during training is certainly a trait that I would look for in a manager.

Sales and artwork

Our sales team implemented a management information system where we were kindly allowed access to the development environment in order to produce our own calculation wizards that allow rapid configuration of complex, custom printed products while eliminating error. Each of these wizards can produce pricing as well as a bill of labor, bill of materials, and routing card for the order.

As well as this we have successfully implemented Salesforce for our customer facing staff. There are plenty of CRM systems around, but what we like about Salesforce is a feature it has called Flow. This can be used to create very detailed workflows that use a combination of triggers and actions that can automate many of the repetitive tasks a sales or customer service agent has to perform. An example would be automating the creation of a task to be put onto the appropriate account manager’s task list once a prospect has indicated which product they are interested in.

We use another excellent tool called Phrase Express. Dozens of pre-defined text snippets can be held within the program that can be strung together on command to create full emails without the need to type a single word. This helps us to speed up the emailing process whilst standardizing our messages across the team. This is especially helpful during the artwork process when we need to highlight and suggest solutions to any potential issues with the customer’s designs.

Conclusion

Gerber’s philosophy is no doubt ingrained in our business. When approaching a task I usually find myself thinking, “What can I do to make this happen in the future without myself or one of the other directors needing to be involved?”

After eight years, Showcase Creative is getting to the point where we can step back from working in our business and spend the majority of our time working on our business, and that’s a good feeling.

printingbusiness

It’s been almost 10 years since I first read the “E-Myth Revisited” by Michael Gerber, but its message is as important and relevant to my business today as it was then. The aim of this article is to outline the ways in which the E-Myth has helped me in building a scalable printing business from scratch.

The E-Myth stands for the “entrepreneurial myth.” The premise is that many people who would call themselves entrepreneurs tend to spend the majority of their time working on the technical side of their business and not enough time on the managerial and strategic activities that are associated with being an entrepreneur.

In Michael Gerber’s opinion, it is better to focus one’s energy on creating a business that can eventually run and grow without heavy involvement from the owner on the technical side, or in the daily running of the business.

Gerber outlines a philosophy of implementing systems and training staff to help you, the entrepreneur, focus more time on activities that grow the business. He uses the term working on the business rather than in the business. This phrase is something that has stuck with me ever since I read the book, and now factors into most of the strategic decisions I make as a business owner.

Our story of entrepreneurship

We started Showcase Creative in 2007 with three directors: Andy (my close friend from school), Jack (my brother), and Paul (me). In the beginning, we all did a bit of everything; quoting, artwork, billing, product development, production, dispatch, marketing, finance, and so on.

We were all technical and had very little experience in managing or running a business. After a short period, our strengths and weaknesses started to show, and we decided to separate the workload into distinct departments: myself in production, marketing, and R&D, Jack in sales, and Andy in artwork and finance.

As we worked and our roles developed, we kept in mind that we were modeling roles for someone else to be slotted into in the future. Our goal was for each of us to manage a department containing relatively low skilled staff, trained to take over parts of our workload.

We found the modern apprenticeships scheme in the UK to be a valuable source of candidates to fill some of these roles. We now have an apprentice working in sales, two in production, and one in artwork. The apprenticeship scheme has financial benefits which can give you breathing room to train staff to your required standard.

Also, the candidates are keen to learn and can be molded to fit the role. A lot of our focus has gone into training our apprentices, as well as our other staff. We have also put together standard operating procedure documents or SOP’s for a number of our processes. This helps us to standardize the way things are done, gives us a level of accountability, and is a handy reference tool for our staff.

Production

By standardizing our products, it made it easier for someone with little printing experience to produce our products with minimal training.

We did this with our presentation folders and ring binder products. A set number of variations, materials, and finishes were decided upon and our die cutters set up permanently with our most common cutting dies.

As a result, setup times were reduced dramatically, orders could be produced by staff with no previous printing experience, and less orders had errors, which meant a more consistent result.

Due to the bespoke nature of printing, there are inevitably some orders that fall outside of our core product range. One of the downsides of standardizing and automating your processes is that more complex customer requests can throw off a less experienced team member.

Seeing this first-hand has helped me to realize that a good manager is a valuable asset to any department. A good manager should be able to train other people to perform any task that they can do. Conversely, a manager should be willing and able to perform any task that they give to a team member.

Some processes are harder to teach than others. For instance, trimming business cards on a paper cutter would seem like a basic operation; however, the experienced operator intuitively compensates for a number of subtle factors including shrinkage and skew of the print as well as recognizing if the blade is becoming blunt just by the sound. These things take time and practice to master. Patience during training is certainly a trait that I would look for in a manager.

Sales and artwork

Our sales team implemented a management information system where we were kindly allowed access to the development environment in order to produce our own calculation wizards that allow rapid configuration of complex, custom printed products while eliminating error. Each of these wizards can produce pricing as well as a bill of labor, bill of materials, and routing card for the order.

As well as this we have successfully implemented Salesforce for our customer facing staff. There are plenty of CRM systems around, but what we like about Salesforce is a feature it has called Flow. This can be used to create very detailed workflows that use a combination of triggers and actions that can automate many of the repetitive tasks a sales or customer service agent has to perform. An example would be automating the creation of a task to be put onto the appropriate account manager’s task list once a prospect has indicated which product they are interested in.

We use another excellent tool called Phrase Express. Dozens of pre-defined text snippets can be held within the program that can be strung together on command to create full emails without the need to type a single word. This helps us to speed up the emailing process whilst standardizing our messages across the team. This is especially helpful during the artwork process when we need to highlight and suggest solutions to any potential issues with the customer’s designs.

Conclusion

Gerber’s philosophy is no doubt ingrained in our business. When approaching a task I usually find myself thinking, “What can I do to make this happen in the future without myself or one of the other directors needing to be involved?”

After eight years, Showcase Creative is getting to the point where we can step back from working in our business and spend the majority of our time working on our business, and that’s a good feeling.

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Paul Batey
Paul Batey

Paul Batey is a founder and director at UK printing company Showcase Creative.