The Big Picture - August 2014 - (Page 12)
Hiring Outside the Core and
Expanding Your Shop
By Craig Miller
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
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
CRaIG MIllER is a principal shareholder
in Las Vegas-based Pictographics, (pictographics.net) where he is also director
of military and law-enforcement projects,
the company's defense-contracting division.
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
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The Big Picture - August 2014
Pack It Up
Step-by-Step: Float On
The Big Picture - August 2014