Johnson's World: Championing the Cause of Profits

Are you in it to win it? Then pay attention to the bottom line.

June 1, 2012

I live in the Chicago area and summer is upon us. Folks are watching baseball. Here in the Windy City there are two professional baseball clubs: the Cubs and… and... the other one. Very few are fans of both teams. You like one or the other.

Much has been written about the differences between the two teams. Most of it has been written by White Sox fans, who seethe with hatred of the Cubs. Very little has been written about this divide by Cub fans, who really couldn’t care less.

I’d like to look at the teams from a different perspective. As a kid I was always a Cub fan. Even then, I admired their success. I looked up to those organizations with clear cut missions, good follow-through, and consistent achievement of their objectives.

Even as a kid I knew that winning might or might not be everything, but it wasn’t always what it seemed. I noticed something all the other neighborhood kids (and their parents) seemed to overlook.

The simple fact was that the Chicago Cubs were consistently among the most profitable teams in sports. They were the champions of the century. I knew it, the Wrigley family sure knew it, but no one else knew it because they were using different metrics to measure success.

Metric System

What is your objective? Is it to book the most sales dollars? To have the most presses? To have the most trucks zooming around with your name on the side? A big storefront on Main Street?

What about profitability? Isn’t that why we are in business? Then why do we ignore it so much? Have loudmouthed politicians brainwashed us into believing that profits are sinister?

Most “successful” printing companies achieve lower profit yields than stock market index funds. Why do we accept this? Is it because we consider ourselves successful when our peers ooh and aah over that stochastic hexachrome job we printed on cellophane?

In Chicago the major league sports teams have historically been dominated by owners with an eye firmly fixed on the bottom line and a protective hand on the lid to the cookie jar. Owners like Wirtz, Wrigley, and Halas insisted on a high rate of return for themselves and their families and, while happy to win when they could, were unconvinced that the high price of winning consistently was worth paying.

Ask a Real Champ

The business mastermind of the 2005 World Series winning White Sox is the same fellow who presided over the Chicago Bulls during the Michael Jordan years. Long slammed by the sports press, he and his partners have won the grudging respect of fans by showing that profits and championships are not mutually exclusive.

I point this out so no one thinks I advocate lowering quality standards or working conditions in the name of profits. We all know organizations with reputations for substandard work that still can't seem to make a profit.

Do you have the best dots in town? Great! That alone will win you prizes and fame. Want fortune, too? You'll have to charge more than your competitors to cover the cost of your highly tuned quality processes. Of course, that means that you may lose market share since some clients aren’t willing to pay a premium.

Want it all? Quality, efficiency, profits: the technology exists to make it happen, but it takes a sizable up-front investment. Are you willing to risk the cash outlay?

In these challenging times, why settle for survival when you have a shot at being the profit champion while the big guys are scrambling to restructure? Now let's get off the bench and play ball!

Steve Johnson is president of Copresco in Carol Stream, IL; a pioneer in digital printing technology and print on demand. Contact him at [email protected].