The Big Picture - August 2014 - (Page 12)

inside output inside output Hiring Outside the Core and Expanding Your Shop By Craig Miller L ast February, our small digital printing company completed its 20th year in business. Over the years, we have ranged in staff size from four employees when we started to a peak of 45 in 2007, right before the "Great Recession" began. During the recession, our staffing numbers dropped to roughly half of what they were at our high point. Like many print shops, we are grateful to have survived what bordered on an economic depression. Over the past four years, we have regained profitability and gradually expanded our staff to pre-recession numbers. This experience of expansion, contraction, and expansion again got me thinking about staffing in our industry, and the positions that are critical to what we do versus those that expand a printing company beyond its core functionality. Which jobs are required to simply operate as a digital printing operation? In very small companies, employees take on responsibilities for multiple skill areas. For example, when we started Pictographics in 1994, I did sales, customer service, prepress, design, printing, and delivery. Sue, my wife and business partner, did billing, collection, accounting, HR, purchasing, and finishing. Combined, we accounted for 11 job functions. As sales increased, we hired people who specialized in those skill areas. At its most basic, a digital printing company requires certain skills to get the file from the customer and the finished product delivered. At the risk of oversimplifying, we break these skills into front end, printing, and finishing. I'm just going to focus on jobs that are directly associated with production, leaving sales and front-office roles for another time. CRaIG MIllER is a principal shareholder in Las Vegas-based Pictographics, ( where he is also director of military and law-enforcement projects, the company's defense-contracting division. 12 THE BIG PICTURE August 2014 Laying it out We define "front end" as customer service and prepress. A customer service representative's basic job is to communicate with the client, receive customer files, and write associated work orders. In prepress, we hire specialists to receive the work order and customer files, and then prepare them for the printing department. In the printing department, we employ press operators. Their job is self-explanatory: they load and unload media to the printers and run the jobs. Some companies have their prepress departments RIP the files; we have our press operators do it. The finishing department is where prints are turned into finished products. When we started Pictographics, finishing was primarily cutting boards to size, mounting prints to the boards, laminating, and trimming. Today, many printers have CNC machines, sublimation presses, sewing machines, saws, lasers, paint booths, and welders, for example. Finishing has become much more complex and the required skills have dramatically expanded beyond simple laminating and mounting. We also incorporate shipping and receiving into our finishing department. Beyond the core Since the economy is expanding and our business is growing again, we can add more people to the required core staff and increase our capacity - but what positions beyond the core will expand our reliability and capabilities? In 1995, our first outside-the-core hire expanded both of these attributes. We brought on a gifted designer, a risky move because almost all of our customers were ad agencies selling their own design services. We feared that by hiring a designer, we might be seen by our ad agency clients as trying to poach their business. We needed to reassure them that we had no plans to circumvent them. Our rationale for adding a degreed designer to our staff was to give us the ability to communicate professionally with the agencies' designers through a person who spoke the same language. (I don't know how many of you were in the business in the mid '90s, but we received files in Quark, PageMaker, >37

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of The Big Picture - August 2014

The Big Picture - August 2014
Wide Angle
Inside Output
Dynamic Signage
Pack It Up
Media Mayhem
Step-by-Step: Float On

The Big Picture - August 2014