Last week we talked about why it’s profitable to look for inspiration outside the print finishing industry. Today we’ll share a few easy ways to do that. Whether you’re a folding machine operator or the owner of the company, viewpoints from outside our industry can inspire us and provide ways to make our jobs easier.
There are those in the “it’s not my job” club who won’t agree with me, but I feel it’s everyone’s job to always be on the lookout for ways to improve his or her company. When you do that, you make yourself more valuable to the customer, your employer, and your co-workers. When you provide value, you get rewarded in many ways.
Here are 4 ways to find inspiration outside our industry.
1) The easiest way to start is to look at your own personal buying habits. Each of us has dozens of daily interactions on a business and personal level. These experiences can be exceptionally good, bad, or plain old mediocre. What is it that makes you a customer of a particular establishment? All we have to do is pay attention to that for clues to solve problems at work.
Last week I walked into a relatively new local men’s clothing store for the first time. Mind you, I hate shopping and am never in a great frame of mind when I venture out. I was immediately and warmly greeted. The saleswoman introduced herself and listened to find out what I needed. As we spoke the owner walked in, introduced herself and offered me coffee. They made me feel at home and within the hour I bought two suits and several shirts and ties. (Of course I’ll be wearing these to Graph Expo Sept 13-16. When you get tired of looking at bindery equipment and software, you can check out my new garb at Booth 3455.)
Here at Technifold we like to share notable experiences and ask questions. If it’s an experience we don’t like, we ask if we’re guilty of the same thing. If we love an experience, we ask how we can duplicate it.
After the clothing store experience, we talked about whether we made our customers feel this way. How might we make our customer experience better? Where do we fall short?
Every experience has the potential to give us ideas to make our business and personal lives better. As you go through your day, remember SWOT—Strength, Weakness, Opportunity, Threat. It’s often easy to see these things in other businesses. When we do, it can illuminate ways to see and change things in our own world.
2) Do something outside your comfort zone. My daughter Meghan, a freelance writer and editor, surprised me when she recently said she was auditioning for a part in the local theater production of Les Miserables. When I asked her why she was doing something so outside her character, she said she wanted to do something entirely outside her comfort zone. She wanted to learn and grow by stepping outside the activities and comfort of her normal, daily life. (She got the part and did a great job too!)
In my own case, getting my private pilot’s license was a big step outside my comfort zone. Even though I’ve loved aviation my whole life, the thought of piloting a plane myself was intimidating and scary. I believed during my first few lessons that I would never be able to land an airplane. I persisted and a year later had a license in my hands.
Flying is totally unrelated to the print finishing industry. But acquiring that skill boosted my confidence and influences my thinking and decision-making to this day.
3) Read. Search out books about people or businesses that you like. Use social media to follow them and read what they have to say. Tune in to what they’re doing. The best part about reading is you can do it for free by joining your local library. Online resource material is limitless, although you do have to be careful to screen out the low-quality content.
4) Join or start a mastermind group. If you’re a business owner or manager, a mastermind group is without doubt one of the best ways to find inspiration and solutions to problems.
Benjamin Franklin, our industry’s most famous printer, used the concept of a mastermind group. He viewed it as a way to improve those in the group and the community. The original twelve members, a group of Franklin’s friends and colleagues, called themselves Junto as well as the Leather Apron Club. Their occupations included glazier, surveyor, cobbler, cabinetmaker, shoemaker, printer, merchant, clerk, and wealthy ‘gentleman.’ (source pbs.org). They would meet to discuss various subjects including business affairs.
For several years I was a member of Dan Kennedy’s Peak Performers group. Its members are from every industry imaginable. The value of masterminding was clearly illustrated at my first meeting. A chiropractor had given a presentation on marketing in the morning. During the lunch break I asked him about how I might craft a sales letter on the difficult topic of price increases. He said, “Oh, that’s easy…” and proceeded to outline an approach he liked to use. During the remaining few minutes of lunch, I crafted my own letter. It turned out to be one of the best sales letters we ever mailed.
Napoleon Hill, the American best-selling author, talks about mastermind alliances. Hill defines the mastermind as, “A friendly alliance with one or more persons who will encourage one to follow through with both plan and purpose.” He interviewed numerous successful people and studied their work habits. He found that a mastermind group was one common, very powerful tactic they used to solve problems.
If I hadn’t been part of this mastermind, I would never have sought out a chiropractor for advice. I also learned valuable lessons in the group from a pet novelty manufacturer, a lawyer, a mutual fund owner, a martial arts school owner, and an author.
Each person in your company can add their own unique contributions in the search for inspiration. The things that inspire you will differ from what inspires the person next to you. If there are ten people in your company, that’s ten unique interests that can be brought to bear on your problems. No one else on earth has the same group of people that you do. It’s a valuable, unique resource that can deliver breakthroughs in solving your print finishing or general business problems.
Matthew Jervis in an article on the Neenah Paper Blog, says, “We all struggle. We all solve problems. We all negotiate. The key to a happier life is our willingness to seek new methods and practices that bring to us constant innovation and growth.”
Do you have ways to get inspired? Is there some technique you use to solve problems? Feel free to share below. And use the social buttons to share this article with your colleagues.