I received some very helpful comments and perspectives on last Friday’s introductory post about our new coverage on the printing industry, service, and supply chain. They have reaffirmed for me how the recent recession, subsequent recoveries, and unrelenting technological advances must remain at the forefront of effective coverage on these markets – and they are individual supply markets. I plan to verify and provide well-referenced metrics where needed, but for now let’s consider what is widely believed to be the current state of the industry, much of which is counterintuitive and reminiscent of the quip often attributed to Mark Twain: “The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.”
Contrary to popular belief – just ask Ikea what they spend on their catalog – print spending is not dead. Granted, while digital has completely upended the market, print and its intersections with broader marketing and agency spend refuses to be completely recycled into something else. If anyone enjoys telling the history of it, I do. Print buying once comprised a very large chunk of spend across all sectors with most large non- and for-profit Purchasing departments, employing many dedicated buyers. And it has refused to die, despite all the prognostications that it might. Even back in 1980, when personal computing began to skyrocket, predictions that we would be a paperless society by the year 2000 abounded. It hasn’t exactly happened that way, even though we’ve become much more efficient at sourcing and managing the lifecycle of print procurement – and spend volumes have dropped. From a practitioner’s point of view, print buying today has become just one of many categories handled by a single buyer. In many cases, we’re still buying truckloads of paper. This shift fascinates me – and raises a lot of questions.
If you're among the Spend Matters masses for whom a 12-hour work day is normal, have young children and an adult relationship to nurture, and remember that you have many other interests, activities, and hobbies that help you feel whole, then the solution to this conundrum is easy: Hire someone to perform your springtime fix-up and repair projects, budget permitting. And if you really, really just must do a few things yourself, consider making it a whole family endeavor, carefully scope and define the project, and don't spend more than half of a precious summer weekend in process -- preferably shoot for a half day. If your kids and mate kick, scream, and make excuses for why they can't assist, be firm (why should you be the lone worker?) and positive like Huck Finn – and you might be surprised by the fun and accomplishment.
If on any particular day we're especially busy, on tight deadlines and stressed, we permit our capacity to be polite, caring, and helpful to wane. And we think, "It's okay. I don't have time for x, y, or z right now. I can only do so much. They'll understand, they know how I can be.” And so on. Upon reflection, we may even apologize later for being terse, inattentive, or unkind to colleagues because our default thinking is that we'll have a second chance -- get a do over. Maybe so.
I've spent decades maintaining, repairing, and rehabbing houses. And when it comes to working on pre-existing structures, no two are ever alike. Building codes change continuously, a great deal of past work is performed by do-it-yourselfers (DIY), handymen and even general contractors are frequently not licensed in all trades, and all too often time-saving shortcuts are taken before infrastructure work is closed up. So if the job gets accomplished at the right price, why does any of this matter? Because future problems are unlikely to occur within the first year or two following completion.
To say that the quality of U.S. public schools varies tremendously is the understatement of our times. But most families with school age children – given that the country's median annual household income (with two wage earners and two children) is about $50,000 – are more or less locked in to sending kids to their local public school. And the pure economic argument that we can all vote with our feet and relocate to a neighborhood where the schools are above average -- as is the cost of housing and real estate taxes that largely fund the schools -- is specious and unrealistic.
The debate over climate change, and -- as some still argue -- whether it is even occurring, are becoming moot as an increase in droughts, floods, and wildly unseasonal temperature extremes interrupt food and water supply chains and increase commodity and financial risk. Or, as the old adage goes; if you want someone to stand up and take notice, hit 'em in the wallet. According to an article in today’s New York Times, Coca-Cola has become more focused on global warming than its economic bottom line.
Some of you may remember my posts from this time last year about my all-too-personal experiences in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy on the New Jersey Coast. Here's an update and a curious tale of increasing property values, despite compelling evidence that the demise of East Coast barrier islands is not far from the horizon.
I've experienced more New Year's eves than I care to count, but I suspect my last day of 2013 takes the cake -- in terms of dollars saved, spent, and earned. My tale begins the previous night. As I sat for what my dentist believed was his last appointment of the year at 8:00 PM, he reviewed my X-rays, turned to his assistant, and said, “Jenna, what are you doing tomorrow?” He then turned to me: “If you're available tomorrow AM, I'm willing to open the office for a marathon session in your mouth..."
In eastern Amsterdam (hat-tip to Gert, our Spend Matters Netherlands editor), the process of hiring and compensating street sweepers is not only out-of-the-receptical, it may also have a social benefit -- sort of. As the NY Times reported, Amsterdam is hiring alcoholics to sweep their streets. They must arrive looking sharp and wearing a red tie, at 9:00 AM when they're paid their first remuneration of the day, which takes the form of two cans of beer.
Want a fresh turkey for Thanksgiving dinner? Butterball's shortage may inadvertently move you to a higher altitude in sourcing your bird. Go organic. For that matter, go organic and local. I ordered a fresh turkey last weekend from a nearby farm, a bird that has spent its life running around outdoors, eating organic grain, and has never been fed hormones or antibiotics. Why? Because no matter how dumb a mere turkey may seem in our anthropomorphic way of thinking, it deserves a life consistent with its evolution. I don't consume hormones or antibiotics (directly or indirectly), and compared with a commercially confined and drugged bird, organic livestock tastes 10 times better.
Before joining Spend Matters, I founded and managed two businesses, for over 25 years. My first foray was in design, advertising and printing, and the second was construction and general contracting. But regardless of one's chosen sector, establishing and running your own shop is simultaneously exhilarating, rewarding, perpetually challenging, exhausting and -- my topic today -- unimaginably stressful. You might be thinking, "Stressful?... what could possibly be more stressful than working over 60 hours/week within an imposed structure in which I variably feel over loaded, under appreciated, and deserving of more money?"