Planning Your 2021 Post-COVID Recovery

  • Howie Fenton
  • |
  • December 09, 2020
Planning for COVID Recovery

While it is always hard to plan for next year, this year may be tougher than most. The good news is that all signs point to an economic recovery. As I write this there are encouraging vaccine results, pharmaceutical companies are applying for fast track authorizations, and flights are already delivering vaccines. Although the exact timing of the recovery is unclear, all indications point to some semblance of a return to normal in 2021. The big question is what can you do to prepare for your best recovery?

Movies and TV shows about disasters often discuss the importance of taking an inventory. In these movies and shows an inventory includes food, shelter and other resources. In the printing industry an inventory usually refers to paper stocks, but in this situation, it would mean taking an inventory of staff, equipment, and all services. Have you lost staff? Have you lost equipment? Have you added or discontinued products or services?

Compare Your Business Inventory Pre and Post COVID-19

The first step is to compare your pre-COVID-19 to your post-COVID-19 inventory. Document what has changed, and the impact of those changes was internally and to your business. I suspect that many experienced one of the following: decrease staffing, eliminated specific products or services, or invested in equipment to respond to a significant increase in demand.

Downturn Reaction Internal Result Business Result
Lost staff (CSRs) Creating OT and morale issues Declining customer satisfaction
Discontinued service (Offset) Lost four staff Resulted in $350 outsourcing
Bought new equipment (wide format) Helped provide more floor graphics and OT Great during surge but demand slowing


Three Strategies to Help Plan Your Recovery

1) Lost staff - Losing staff-- especially customer service staff can be disastrous. It can impair your ability to ensure jobs don't fall through the cracks, make sure the unique demands of specific clients are fulfilled and that jobs are delivered on-time. If you have lost customer service staff, you have two choices- rehire staff or add automation. You should get feedback from the administration to see if they are leaning toward rehiring (perhaps you lost someone beloved by customers) or toward automation (perhaps they believe your head count is already high). Fortunately, Web to print software like RSA's WebCRD reduces the demand for job ticketing and automates estimating and billing. Other workflow software such as prepress and batching software also can reduce touches to optimize the use of your staff.

2) Discontinued a service - Unfortunately, there is more of an impact of discontinuing a service than simply the revenue loss. For some people in administration, it's a reminder that in-plant services can be outsourced. That is dangerous because the more products or services are outsourced the lower the perceived value of the in-plant. One option is to try to monitor the demand to cost justify a purchase later. One way to do that is to maintain the responsibility of ordering the work.

Managing the procurement process minimizes that message, allows you to maintain the status as the expert and it allows you to keep track of what is outsourced. You might discover that the certain types of jobs that are outsourced could be done on equipment that is less expensive then the equipment you lost. A perfect example would be an inkjet press.

There are arguments you can make to justify managing the procurement process, too. For example, typically only the in-plant understands the complexities of managing the bidding process and has the experience to understand which sources have the expertise for certain kinds of work.

3) Shifting demand - Some in-plants saw the opportunities created by the pandemic and invested in equipment to help them respond. Many upgraded, replaced, or bought new equipment to create face masks or floor graphics. The light at the end of this horrible tunnel is that a vaccine is around the corner, However, the demand for vaccine motivated problems may decline and the need to cost justify the equipment will remain. If internal demand slows for any product you should consider insourcing or selling outside your parent company.

If you believe that any service may not return to pre-COVID-19 demand you should start planning a sales process to bring in new business. A simple sales process would include: prospect development, research prospects, contact, presentation, overcoming objections, closing and follow-up. Two that are time consuming that can be started early are prospect development and presentation. This often is the most important and difficult step. The fourth step (making a presentation) can start with discussions about what your customers say is the value you provide and a simple sample book. Creating the prospect list is an ongoing effort which can include manning booths at shows, online research and email marketing. The sample book is a great tool to break the ice and demonstrate your capabilities.

In the past sample books were shown in face to face meetings. Today you can make video presentations with Zoom, Google Meet or MS Teams. Another option is to make ultra short videos. This was a tool pioneered by the online shoe company Zappos which helped them grow. If you bought the new equipment to produce face shields or floor graphics, ultra short videos or video sales calls would be a great way to showcase them to internal and external customers.

Plan for a Better Recovery.

Contact me or RSA to help you plan for a better recovery.

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About the Author

Howie Fenton

Howie Fenton is an independent consultant and trusted advisor to in-plant printers. He recommends equipment, best practices and workflow automation tools to streamline operations. To learn more about measuring performance, benchmarking to leaders, and improving your value e-mail

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