Starting Your Career with Five Lifelong Strategies

Here my advice for those starting their career. It is based on what I have learned during my long career.


For me in order of importance behind faith and family, comes work. I love to work. It does not make a difference whether it is physical or mental. I learned early on that work is part of who I am. It has allowed me to use my gifts and talents for good.

In the “work for pay” arena, I liked all of my jobs through my entire life. If I did not like what I was doing, I would not do it. For the most part, I have been lucky to be able to choose my jobs. I rarely put my professional life above my family and never above my faith. I worked to earn money to help my family live a good life and give them some opportunities that I did not have.

I loved teaching, coaching, working at Xerox, managing people and working in my own business. Physical, mental, for pay, not for pay, and volunteer work are all fulfilling for me because I always find a higher purpose in it. No purposeful work is too menial for me. Based on what I know and learned, here is some advice about work.

Working Hard Is Important

Current thinking is that working “hard” is not as important as is working “smart”. That may be true but putting in a sustained and strong effort is essential. When I started as a sales person at Xerox, I had no business experience or natural aptitude for sales. I had a good personality but knew very little about sales or business.

I observed successful people, studied my company, its products and my customers. I then managed my time and territory efficiently. I have found people who succeed, work not only smart but very hard.

Identify Smart People and Then Stay in Touch

I received good advice when I was young. Identify winners. Seek out successful people. Through my work life, I found there were plenty of people who did not perform due to bad work habits, weak commitment or incompetence. I tried to minimize my interactions with them. I looked for people that I felt were talented, shared my values and whom I could learn from.

It was these successful people, who helped me through my career and allowed me to start my own business. To this day, I receive business opportunities from individuals that I identified early in my career and have maintained a long-term relationship. 

Treat Your Job as A Profession

With technology advancing at a fast pace, expect that what you are doing today will likely change multiple times before your finish your career. One should think of not only what is needed today but what skills will be needed for the future. Many of the skills I learned earlier in my career has helped me to publish over 60 articles and speak extensively at business forums.

As I entered the business world, I got my MBA and worked hard to advance my marketing, managerial, financial and interpersonal skills every chance I had. It is these skills that enabled me to change jobs, advance my career and become a Divisional President at Sharp Electronics. These experiences allowed me to pursue my dream of running my own business. It also created many good and some cases more lucrative opportunities through my working life that I chose NOT to pursue.

Activities are not Accomplishments

A way to ensure success is to consistently deliver results. It is amazing how many employees go through the day completing tasks and activities that have no impact on their or their company’s results. Identifying what the company’s goals are, what your boss’s boss objectives are and setting lofty goals for yourself and then meeting them, will make you invaluable.

Though I always set goals for myself, I feel now that perhaps I did not set them high enough since I always made my goals for performance and career advancement. Maybe I could have even done better. My advice is to set lofty goals for your personal and business life.

Good People Finish First

Business people are constantly being presented with ethical challenges. Whether it is expense reports, marketing tactics or personnel decisions, I have constantly asked myself if what I was doing was consistent with my family, personal and religious values.

Most successful people that I admire are good people. The adage that “nice guys finish last” is not true. I believe that people that I have worked with through the years felt that I could be trusted to do the right things. It helped me to be a successful manager and executive. No one wants to follow a dishonest or unethical leader. I like to think I was tough and ambitious while being ethical and moral.

I have followed this advice for my whole life. All and all I have really enjoyed my personal and professional life. I seldom made decisions about my career or personal life based solely on money. I just wanted to make an impact, earn enough money to move my family forward and do good deeds.

By sticking to my core principles and working hard toward my personal and career goals, I have been afforded the freedom to work for companies and markets that I enjoy while earning a good income with a minimum of debt. Maureen and I live a fulfilled and financially secure life.

Joe Rickard is the founder of Intellective Solutions. Intellective Solutions (see our web site at is a consulting and training company. They work with printing and technology organizations to improve their sales, marketing and operational effectiveness.  Joe can be reached at 845 753 6156.

Virginia Department of Education updates Graphic Communications skill competencies


Frank Kanonik, managing director of Intellective Solutions recently participated in a workshop to update the Commonwealth of Virginia’s graphic communications skill competencies. The courses being taught in the Commonwealth are now aligned to the new PrintED skill competencies.

The Virginia Department of Education conducts periodic reviews of the technical knowledge required by potential employers. Bringing together educators and industry representation confirms that the graphic communications courses being taught throughout Virginia will lead to students being prepared for todays high skill, high demand and high wage careers in the print industry.

It was extremely encouraging to work with such a dedicated group of teachers that equips their students with the skills required to be successful in the printing industry. What students need to know is different from even a few years ago. Courses being taught today must reflect the newer technologies being used.

During the workshop, each skill competency, also known as a Task Statement was discussed to ensure that it was both measurable and expressed a specific action that was being learned. Also developed was a description of each task to help the educator and questions to help encourage critical thinking and discussion.

An example of a Task Statement is the following:

#72 Explain the purpose of Imposition


Explanation should state that the purpose of imposition is the positioning of pages in a way so that the pages in the finished format document come out in the proper printed sequence and should include step-and-repeat, work and turn or tumble, and signature.

Process/Skill Questions:

  • What are the consequences of incorrect use of imposition on a document?

  • How has digital printing technology affected imposition?

  • How would a work-and-Turn imposition differ from a work-and-tumble imposition?

  • How does imposition for saddle stitch binding differ from imposition for perfect binding?

The recently updated PrintED Skill Competencies were researched and managed by Intellective Solutions. Interviews were conducted with numerous educators, printing companies and vendors to validate their completeness and accuracy. To download a free copy of the Skill Competencies, visit:

To learn more about the Commonwealth of Virginia’s Career and Technical Education department’s efforts and success stories, visit

PrintED offers assistance and accreditation for schools that offer graphic communication courses.

For information on the Intellective Solutions newly available Introduction to Graphic Communications curriculum visit:

Perkins CTE Act Approved and Improved

We are excited with the recent reauthorization of the HR Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education (CTE) Act. This is a bipartisan triumph for Congress and the Administration to extend and improve the 2006 Perkins Act. In the very large and transitioning Graphic Communications Industry there is a growing demand for skilled workers. This Act addresses many needs of job seekers and industry.

The Graphic Communications Industry is rapidly changing due to the impact of the internet, data driven printing, digital imaging technologies and expanding industrial applications. As a consequence, we are seeing shortages in labor in multiple states. Graphic Communications is among the top five manufacturing sectors in the United States.

A highlight of the Act is bringing the funding and decision making closer to the local communities and employers. For a good review of the improvements, see H.R. 235s: Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act. A key focus of the legislation is directing resources to providing the students with the actual skills necessary to fill today’s available jobs. For us, that means less theory and old thinking and more “hands on” and creativity.

This Act is huge step in providing the right skills to available job openings. There is no better place than the ever changing and transitioning Graphic Communications industry.  We at Intellective Solutions are very proud to working with High Schools and vocational institutions across the country to provide benchmark curriculum and instructor/student resources for courses in Digital Production Printing and Intro to Graphic Communications. Congratulations to our government for agreeing in a bipartisan way to deliver a great bill.

Printing students win medals at SkillsUSA National Competition


During the week of June 25 over 16,000 students, teachers and business partners gathered in Louisville Kentucky for the 54th annual National Leadership and Skills Conference. More than 6,000 outstanding career and technical education students, all state contest winners, competed hands-on in 100 different trade, technical and leadership fields. Students worked against the clock and each other, proving their expertise in occupations such as electronics, computer-aided drafting, precision machining, medical assisting, culinary arts and graphic communications. Contests are run with the help of industry, trade associations and labor organizations.



Graphic Communications students started the week with a general assessment based on the Graphic Communications Skill Competencies provided by PrintED, and the SkillsUSA Career Essentials Assessments provided by SkillsUSA. Intellective Solutions is proud to have been involved in the research and authoring of both.

Later in the week, each student competed by estimating projects, completing prepress work and printing and binding jobs. Each student was assessed by an industry expert. Gold, Silver and Bronze medals were awarded to High School and College winners. Of special note is that Brittany Whitestone is going on to Russia to represent Graphic Communications at the WorldSkills Competition.


It was both invigorating and reassuring to see students preparing for their future in our industry. It was obvious that the schools they attended had prepared them well for the testing in Louisville. They knew how to estimate projects and were well versed on the business side of the printing industry. They had genuine excitement about starting their careers and bringing new ideas and innovations to our industry.

SkillsUSA ( is a national membership association serving high school, college and middle school students who are preparing for careers in trade, technical and skilled service occupations.

PrintED, administered by the Graphic Arts Education and Research Foundation (GAERF®) is a national accreditation program, based on industry standards, appropriate for secondary and post-secondary schools offering graphic communications curricula (

Production Digital Printing Education Thriving in New Jersey

Congratulations to Hudson Community Enterprises (HCE) ( for successfully launching their new Digital Printing Career Pathways program.  All the students in the pilot program have been placed in jobs within New Jersey. This year HCE plans to make the program available to 50 job ready candidates. We at Intellective Solutions were very pleased to support their efforts.


The program was established to respond to growing need for skilled workers in the very large Printing Industry. Printing is one of the largest manufacturing sectors in the country. Many thousands of skilled workers will be needed to staff open positions in the next few years. As the industry continues to transition to digital technology and emerging industrial printing applications, a strong workforce is required.

Our company, Intellective Solutions along with Xerox helped HCE to develop a course using the proprietary Xerox® Digital Career Pathways Program Curriculum (// Students are trained at the HCE’s fully operational print shop. Within this facility, students have an opportunity to learn and develop the key skills necessary to work in a graphic communications organization. The emphasis is to give students the necessary knowledge and hands on experience that would be welcomed by any employer looking for job ready entry level workers.

Here is a summary of the program

·       12-week Intensive Digital Printing Curriculum

·       Career Development Classes

·       4 week paid internships

·       Job Placement and Higher Education Referral Services

·       Nationally recognized accreditation upon successful completion

·       Open to people with and without disabilities

The HCE Jersey City-based program is led by printing industry pro Brian Opitz, VP Digital Printing Services. Some the areas that the students are trained include pre-press, production, printing workflow and personalized printing. In addition to an industry expert instructor, graphic designer Alex Rivera works with students to help them to properly receive, proof, fix common errors and prepare files for printing.

HCE is a non-profit organization that has been based in Jersey City, New Jersey since 1957. Since the organization’s inception, the primary mission has remained consistent – creating employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities and other barriers to employment while providing valuable services to the business community.

Intellective Solutions ( works with vocational and STEM organizations to provide resources and support for printing industry training programs.

For perspective participants in the HCE’s program or employers looking for more information contact:

Abbe Morello , VP, Workforce Development, 201-434-3303 ext.228,         

Sarah Barks, Senior Vocational Counselor, 201-434-3303 x437,                                      

Get Better Results from Fewer Marketing Programs

Marketing Makes the Difference


We find the number one challenge for printing companies to develop great marketing and sales programs is time and focus. For smaller companies, success is seldom about the size of marketing budgets or the number of marketing initiatives being managed. With the day to day pressures of satisfying customers and getting work out, many marketing activities are often relegated to a low priority. This is counter-intuitive because without marketing there can be no sustained growth.

There are more choices than ever for businesses. For instance, for many small printers, maintaining and regularly creating new content for a great web site, pushing content to multiple social media sites, managing Google ads, maintaining an eCommerce site, participating in business networks, keeping up with LinkedIn, hosting a customer event or two, driving Search Engine Optimization (SEO), as well as other forms of marketing is just “too much”. The time and focus needed to manage everything possible is daunting.

Recently we researched printing company web sites. It was interesting to find so many not well maintained, displaying broken links and errors. A poor web site will create a negative perception for a perspective customer and may cause them not to place a call for a quote. This helps prove the point that it is better to do a few things very well than to do many things poorly.

Before spending any money or exerting any effort on marketing, here are 10 questions to answer. The answers will help narrow down your program to a “vital few”.

Ten Questions

  1.     What is your company’s story? How did you get to where you are now?
  2.     What do your sell that generates the most sales and profits?
  3.     Are you a technology company, a service company, or a PRINTING company
  4.     Who are your customers?
  5.     How do your customers describe what you do and how you make them successful?
  6.     What are your company advantages?
  7.     How much is the company willing to spend on marketing and sales?
  8.     Based on the answers above, list and prioritize every marketing and sales initiative
        that the company could possibly implement
  9.     Pick 1, 2 or 3 of the top initiatives that can supported and maintained
  10.     Monitor progress regularly and adjust as required

Whatever is decided upon, the approach should be: do it well. The advantage of doing a few things well is that they can be easily scaled up or down as required. For instance, one company may do well a robust eCommerce site, an aggressive Search Engine Optimization program and a well-managed in bound and out bound telemarketing team. While another print provider may want to focus on a direct sales team, customer events and a dynamic web site.

If something is working, then increase it. On the other hand, if an initiative is getting tired or simply not working, replace it with a new program. Doing a few things well builds a great brand and generates results.

Joe Rickard is the founder of Intellective Solutions. Intellective Solutions ( is a consulting and training company. They work with printing and technology organizations to improve their sales, marketing and operational effectiveness.  Contact Joe by calling 845 753 6156.

Print and Graphics Scholarship (PGSF) Recipients Selected

I recently had the honor of participating in the selection of the Print and Graphics Scholarship Foundation (PGSF) scholarship recipients. The PGSF distributes about $400,000 in scholarships to 200 students each year. The PGSF was formed over 60 years ago and since its inception, over 7,000 students have benefited from the financial help they have received from PGSF.

The PGSF awards scholarships to students pursuing a career in the graphic arts and is made possible by donations from individuals and companies. For me, it was great to see the names on the endowed scholarships. I’ve had the privilege of knowing and working with many of these individuals who have built this industry through their innovations and determination.

The print industry would not be as formidable as it is today without people like Bert Bassett, Zeb Green, Fred Kagy and Naomi Berber. These fine folks (and many others) dedicated their lives to print and with the help of their scholarship support are passing the baton to a new generation of innovators.

It was stimulating to read some of the students’ comments on what they are hoping their career paths will be. Many were interested in the design aspect of our industry, some were interested in management, a good-sized number want to work in companies that blend print with new media, and there were even a few that had the desire to go into sales.

There was an awareness by the students of the power and value that print provides. Kudos to the teachers who are emphasizing this in their classrooms! As we all known and cringe about, there has been a fair amount of negative opinions about print tossed around in the media over the years.

Of note, this is what one of the students had to say about their career aspirations…

“I see myself striving to achieve my goal of owning my own printshop. Working in this industry is my passion and I want to have the opportunity to make my own mark, to grow this industry and keep it moving forward.”

With students like this, their passion and their love for the printed word, our industry will continue to lead, grow and prosper.

For more information about the Print and Graphics Scholarship Foundation and how to support it, contact John Berthelsen at 608-575-3904 or

For scholarship information, contact Bernie Eckert at 412-259-1740 or The PGSF website has some great resources for students and parents investigating the graphic communications industry as a career.

PIA Print Award Judging held at Dubiski High School

I recently had the honor of being a judge for the PIA of MidAmerica print awards held in Dallas. These types of regional competitions showcase examples of print that are in a word, extraordinary. They reward those printers who produce printed pieces that are flawless and celebrate the craft of the printing industry.

What made this year’s competition so special was where it was held. The judging took place at the Dubiski Career High School in Grand Prairie, Texas which is near Dallas.

We hear a lot about how young people aren’t interested in the printing industry today…how it’s old, boring and lacks the glamour of other high tech occupations. The students that we encountered at Dubiski were genuinely enthusiastic and very engaged about their future in the print industry. It was incredibly refreshing to see students busy creating pages on their computers, printing their projects on a digital press and running a booklet maker. All with a determination to produce the best work they possibly could! The students in the graphic communications program are outstanding examples of the future of our industry.

Dubiski is a member of SkillsUSA ( which provides help for both students and teachers. Its an organization that is aligned with the PrintED ( program, which offers accreditation for schools that offer graphic communication courses. The graphic arts students were so proud of the awards they received from SkillsUSA. When I asked one of the students about the SkillsUSA pins she was wearing, she gushed excitement about what each of them meant to her and how she won them.

In addition to the graphic arts programs, Dubiski also has other programs such as engineering and architecture. While we were there judging the PIA print awards, the culinary students prepared and served us breakfast and lunch. It was awesome! They are well on their way to successful careers.    

Leading Printers Praise GAERF Skill Competencies and Assessments


Printing company owners Tim Boucher and Todd Ventura discussed the value of skill competencies and assessments for employees of printing companies provided by Graphic Arts Education and Research Foundation (GAERF).

GAERF provides Graphic Communications Skills Competencies (GCSC) and Skill Assessments  for the graphic communications industry. The competencies and assessments were written by industry professionals and graphic communications educators to provide measurable or observable knowledge, skills, abilities, and behaviors critical to successful job performance in six key content areas

“The ability to evaluate and benchmark high level skills for prepress and print production professionals is essential” says Tim Boucher owner of BSquared Design & Printing. BSquared is a state-of-the-art digital printer that runs 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Boucher feels to compete in his very competitive market he insists that his employees maintain the highest level of technical and professional skills. Supporting high expectations of his time-starved customers is an important ingredient to his company’s success. BSquared is one of the fastest growing printers in the Northeast.

Discussing SkillsUSA assessments, Megan Valdez, Managing Director of BSquared said, “Many pre-press professionals are self-taught or learn through on the job training”. The use of these assessments is a way to identify areas where further training or mentoring is required”.

Recently, one of BSquared customer service account representatives reviewed the results of the Digital File Preparation and Output Assessments and found a potential gap in their knowledge of color management. This allowed the employee to take steps to deeper their skill level in this area by working with more experienced employees and reviewing available training materials.

PRP Companies is a full service commercial printer located in San Luis Obispo, California. The President, Todd Ventura, is a firm believer in the value of putting in place a continuing education program for both sales and production staff.

According to Ventura, “because of the changes in the graphic communications industry, we must provide a systematic educational approach to stay abreast of not only technological changes, but also in what types of products and services our customers are requesting”.

Ventura’s staff has been involved with the review of the updated PrintED GCSC skill competencies and assessments. “As the person responsible for ensuring that PRP companies maintains its competitive edge by hiring and maintaining a skilled workforce, the PrintED skill competencies are exactly what we need”

When asked about the value of the assessments for his company, Ventura answered “We were not aware of the PrintED program prior to agreeing to review the materials. However, we absolutely will use the GCSC skill assessments in two different ways; number one is to give preferential treatment to prospective candidates that possess a PrintED certification and number two, to use the assessments to benchmark current employees to help develop a training continuum based on their needs.” Contact Joe Rickard of Intellective Solutions at 845 753 6156 to answer any questions. 

Small Businesses Working and Succeeding in Government

This week I attended a workshop at Dominican College in Orangeburg, NY sponsored by the Palisades Institute of Dominican College. The title was, How to Make Government Your Customer.

Business educational workshops are always good for networking but even better if you can learn a few things along the way. In this one, I received a double payoff for attending and listening. The format of the session was two panels of speakers. One represented Rockland County Government and the other was successful small businesses serving the county.

Paul Brennan Director of Purchasing for Rockland County gave a compelling overview of Doing Business with Rockland County, Local Governments and School Districts by sharing engagement approaches and taking the mystery out of engaging public entities. He explained the national state and local government marketplace is very large and represented over $6 trillion dollars and there are over 90,000 local governments nationwide. He suggested this is a perfect place for small businesses of any type to build their top and bottom lines.

With him were Paul Piperato, Rockland County Clerk, who discussed the engagement and contractual process. There was a surprise for me when Lin Simeti, Program Director, of the REDC Procurement Technical Assistance Center (PATC) shared the free services of her organization to help small businesses wade through the myriad of steps to effectively engage government agencies. She provided some straight forward strategies for those in attendance.

A key message from the government panel was that it is great for small businesses to gain business from government markets but they should not depend on it. They recommended that no more than 50% of their total revenue should come from the public sector to assure a less risky mix of customers.

For the small business panel, Harry Campbell, President, Biofeedback Resources International, Ellie Kassner, President, W.H. Kassner, Inc., Marcelo Reggiardo, Principal, Alianza Services shared their processes, successes and recommendations to compete and succeed in this market. There were also some great tips on how to succeed as a Minority Supplier.

Getting out there and spending the time in events like this is a great way to gain valuable information and insights. There is no substitute for listening, learning and interacting in person.  If you are alert, you will find many of these networking and learning opportunities by colleges, trade associations, community groups and networking groups.

Joe Rickard is the President of Intellective Solutions which is a training and consulting company for the Graphic Communications Industry. He serves as an advisory Board Member of the Palisades Institute of Dominican College.

Skill Assessments are Crucial to Validate Performance For the Graphic Communications Industry

Frank Kanonik , Printing Industry Expert

Frank Kanonik , Printing Industry Expert

There are thousands of students enrolled in programs preparing them to enter the printing and graphic communications workforce. For graphic communications industry instructors and employers, there is no better way to ensure that new hires have required skills than with industry-driven skill competencies and assessments.

We at Intellective Solutions are proud to be the developer of the competencies and assessments used by the Graphic Arts Education and Research Foundation (GAERF) and SkillsUSA. Joe Rickard and Frank Kanonik led the efforts to create and develop the industry resources. They worked with education and industry subject matter experts to ensure the competencies and assessments are current, valid and relevant to today’s printing industry.

Patty Duncan, Program Manager of the SkillsUSA Work Force Ready System recently said, “I am impressed with Intellective Solutions professionalism and as well as their expertise in graphic communications. They have developed outstanding and timely industry standards and assessments that will benefit all those who use them”

GAERF has available through PrintED, a national accreditation program that is based on industry standards for graphic communications courses of study at the secondary and post-secondary levels. Their Graphic Communication Skill Standards (GCSC) are six sets of skill competencies and corresponding assessments that are used by instructors to validate their curricula, and also by employers to confirm a potential candidate’s capabilities.

There are 6 topics that are covered by the GCSC competencies, and are available for free download at

·        Digital File Preparation and Output

·        Digital Production Printing

·        Graphic Design

·        Introduction to Graphic Communications

·        Offset Press Operations/Bindery & Finishing

·        Screen Printing

The GCSC assessments are available through GAERF and SkillsUSA, and test technical skills and knowledge using an online, graphic rich format. The assessments correspond to the six GCSC competencies. Ordering information can be found at Immediate grading and feedback is provided.

With rapidly changing technology, digital integration and new business models, having up to date and printing industry driven standards and assessments are critical for our industry to ensure a steady stream of great employees. These standards and assessments support that requirement.

The Value of a Sales Relationship

Spending a many hours researching and writing about the transition taking place in B2B direct selling, I have found that the value of networking and relationships still remain paramount.  More than a few Decembers ago, I remember a specific deal where a relationship of my father-in-law helped me finish the year strongly.

After a promotion to a sales manager for a Manhattan-based team of savvy and seasoned pros, I was faced with a dilemma. My sales team was reluctant to share information about their prospects or bring me in to meet their large prospects. It seemed they were testing their new and young sales manager. At this time, members of my sales team were engaged in a very large sales opportunity at a prominent publishing company. Because of the size of the deal, it had high visibility in my company. My boss repeatedly quizzed me on the status of the prospect. An order here would immediately propel my sales team and me from mediocrity to stardom.

I understood we had a strong support and agreement from within the account. The barrier according to my salespeople was gaining agreement from a tough VP of Finance, a long-term employee who had a reputation akin to “Attila the Hun”.  Not only was my team terrified of him, but the account’s employees were as well. Nothing of significance was ever approved without a scrupulous and contentious review by this tyrannical VP. One member of my sales team suggested we wait until he retired.

Over a weekend, my retired father-in-law gave me an encouraging talk on his experiences dealing with tough decision makers. Years earlier as a printing salesman, he sold to the very same publishing company. He talked with great fondness about a print buyer who gave him his largest order. He viewed the order as a reward for persistence and professional selling.

Consequently, the buyer became his friend and they spend many hours together. My father-in-law described the buyer as a “wild man”. After his retirement, he lost track of the buyer. Upon hearing the man’s name, I was excited as I realized that his last name matched my invincible VP of Finance. The first name my father-in-law remembered was a nickname and was not the same as the formal first name we knew. We decided, given the disparity in first name and the apparent difference in personality, the man was probably not our VP of finance.

The year-end approached, we had our final meeting to defend our proposal and close the deal. I forced my reluctant sales team to bring me along. This was my first visit to the account. There wasn’t too much pressure, since no one expected us to win the deal. As I entered the conference room, I took a chance. I whispered my father-in-law’s name in the VP’s ear. The VP smiled broadly. He pulled me from the room and spent the next fifteen minutes asking about his old friend. As we re-entered, the meeting participants were stunned.

Although no one knew how I “broke the ice” with is reluctant buyer, we got the order. My sales team was impressed. I gained their confidence, and the VP and my father-in-law renewed their friendship.

Some things do not change. The value of relationships is very powerful.

An Often Missed Sales KPI That Drives Results

With the wide acceptance of CRM and sales performance reporting, we regularly see sales managers review a variety of performance indicators ranging from what’s in the pipeline to how many deals were won in a specific time frame.

Data readily available from salespeople can be a huge help for not only the sales staff but also the marketing and senior management teams.  For instance, if there are not enough deals in the pipeline, then an early alert is given to all in the organization that corrective actions must be taken or suffer the consequences of a missed sales or profit objective.

Now that the year end is near, it’s is a great time to take stock in the effectiveness of your sales program.

Based on our observations working with a variety of commercial printing companies and equipment manufacturers, there is one indicator that is rarely leveraged. It is deals won divided by proposals generated where customers actually made a decision to act. We use decisions where customers actually acted because we expect great salespeople to qualify opportunities before generating proposals.

The simple formula is:

Deals won/total deals where customers actually made a decision to act = sales effectiveness

5 deals won divided by 25 customer opportunities where the customer actually acted equals 20% effectiveness

We recommend using this KPI to give everyone in the organization a view of what is vital. Detailed analysis of sales effectiveness could lead to adjustments on sales coverage, skills, compensation, marketing and management.

Here are some key questions to ask

·       Of the proposals generated how many were a response to “blind” RFPs – That means situations where salespeople had no significant involvement prior to the RFP being developed?  Are these opportunities worth responding to?

·       How many proposals were enabled from leads generated by the company’s marketing e.g. SEO, social media, trade shows?  How many of those were won? Do we need to do more marketing? What role does the salesperson have in creating and developing leads?

·       How many proposals and wins were generated by salespeople where the lead was mainly enabled, developed and qualified by the hard work and skill of the salesperson? What can be done to create even more opportunities?

·       Are we in enough opportunities that are qualified and the customer is ready to act?

Organizations need to understand where opportunities come from, why some proposals are won and some are lost. Most importantly, how companies and salespeople can add more value to win more deals. The answers to questions can only be developed through using and managing the data that is readily available to marketing and management teams.

Joe Rickard is the President of Intellective Solutions and can be reached at 845 753 6156


phone blog.jpg

The printing industry, like most industries, has terms that can be misinterpreted by those outside the business. As a designer or print buyer, not knowing the proper intention of these words can spell disaster when talking to a print salesperson or customer service rep. This is especially true when discussing the specifications of a job.

There’s two different types of jargon that are commonly used in the printing industry. The first is technical jargon, which are those words and phrases that can be baffling to a nontechnical person. Many times technical jargon is used unintentionally by a salesperson or CSR, they just assume that what they are saying is understandable by everyone.

When a printing company CSR says something like “Just send us the PDF of the VDP and don’t forget to sort the XLS.” Very few human beings can honestly say that they totally understood that sentence!

The important thing is to stop and ask what is being said, in simple terms that YOU understand. The absolute worst thing to do is to nod your head and say “okay, I’ll pass that information along to my coworkers”. The meaning of technical instructions always tends to dilute even further as it passes from one person to another, just like a bad rumor.

The second type of jargon that you’ll run into are words that mean something entirely different in everyday life. These words are not meant to be confusing or mean spirited by the person who uses them, they’re just words that the printing industry uses to describe something. Some are inherited from the old days of printing, and others are used because they describe something very well. And a few are even kind of funny.

As with technical jargon, it’s important to ask for an explanation if something doesn’t quite make sense to you. There’s even a fair number of words which won’t be listed here because even though they are used often in the production areas, they are crude and offensive.

The following is a short list of the most commonly misunderstood words used in the printing industry.


Bleed – Ask a doctor what this means and they’ll tell you someone is cut, shot or ill. Ask a printer and they will tell you that since no printing process can print to the very edge of a sheet of paper, extra image must be included that will later be trimmed off. This gives the finished page an appearance that looks like the image is printed to the edge of the paper.

Two considerations to keep in mind when designing a page like this is to include an extra 1/8 of inch of image which will be later cut off and also the paper size must be larger than the final trimmed page size. Or, you can just say forget it, with the result being a rough white border around the page or have the job cut slightly smaller than what you originally intended.

Perfect – Yes, every printer in the world produces their work in a perfect fashion. In the printing world, perfecting a job essentially means printing both sides. Some people use the word duplex and the really smart people use the phrase “prints both sides”. There are even special presses that are called perfecting presses, which means that they simultaneously print both sides of the sheet and are incredibly efficient. When specifying a job to be printed, the key information to pass along is the total number of pages that have printing on them and also the total number of sheets of paper. For example, a book can have 128 printed pages, but a total of 256 pages. What this really translates to is that there is printing only on the front of each sheet of paper.

One other definition of the term perfect is when a specific type of binding is used for a book. A perfect bound book is constructed in a way that folded pages are stacked one on top of the other and glue is applied along the bound edge. You can easily tell if a book is perfect bound by examining the side of it.


Spine, face, head and foot – These four terms describe the orientation of a page or book. It’s really quite simple, the spine is the bound edge, the face is the edge opposite the spine, the head is the top and the foot is the bottom. When a printer asks you where you want page numbers added and you say at the bottom of the page instead of the foot, you’ve just announced that you’re a rookie in the printing world.

Booger Glue – Think like a 9 year old child and you have the common meaning of this word, giggles and all. In the printing industry, booger glue, sometimes known as fugitive glue, has many uses. A little dab is used to keep a booklet closed during mailing and can also be used to attach dimensional products like credit cards to a brochure. Don’t be grossed out when a salesperson offers to send you samples. 

Ream – This means 500 sheets of paper. Period. No further explanation needed. Although, this could also be a threat from the CSR if you don’t include bleeds in your job.

Flush – Flush left and flush right are two different ways of aligning text on a page.


The opposite of flush is runaround. This is a type of text treatment that allows lines of text to follow the contours of a graphic.

Flush also is a term that is used in the printing industry to describe the alignment of two elements. For example, “these two graphics are flush with each other”, meaning that they align perfectly.

The word flush is never used to describe the financial condition of most printing companies these days.

Gutter - The inside margins or blank space between two facing pages is the gutter. For some types of binding, extra space must be added. The phrase “stay out of the gutter” simply means to keep the area blank.

Signature – The three most important signatures in a printing company are when an order is signed, a proof is signed for approval and a signed check is received as payment for a job. The other time the word signature is used is to designate a large sheet of paper that contains multiple pages and is then folded into a smaller size to form a book.

Generally, a signature will contain 4, 8, 16 or 32 pages. Multiple signatures can be assembled to form a book that contains many pages. For example, a book that contains 64 pages may be constructed with 8 pages signatures, 16 page signatures or 32 page signatures. The deciding factor is the maximum size of the sheet of paper that the press can handle.

Imposition – In ordinary life, this describes when your in-laws are staying over at your house for the holidays. In the printing industry, this describes the positioning of pages onto a large sheet of paper. A chief reason for imposing a job is for efficiency. For example, if a project has 10 different business cards and a quantity of 1000 each, there are two options for production. Option number one is to repeat the same card 10 times on an 8.5 x 11 sheet and run 100 sheets of each card. Or, the 10 different cards can be placed on one 8.5 x 11 sheet and printed 1000 times.


Many times to maximize the real estate of a large press sheet, different jobs are imposed and sufficient quantities are run to satisfy the minimum quantity. It used to be an incredibly complex task to calculate these different scenarios. It’s relatively easy now by using special imposition software.

The other time that imposition becomes important is when a multi page book is being produced. Presses are classified as being able to print 2, 4, 8 or 16 pages onto a sheet of paper. These large sheets are folded into signatures and then bound in a variety of different ways. To maximize the efficiency of using the largest sheet available, there may be pages contained on the signature that are not printed and are blank. For example, a book that has 15 printed pages may contain 1 page that is blank since a signature always contains an even number of pages.

Most government publications will include the phrase “This page intentionally left blank” to dispel any type of conspiracy theories on what should have been printed on the blank page.

Hickey – A defect in print. Usually appears as a tiny white spot or sometimes will appear as a circle in a solid area of an image. When the solid areas of your print job looks like it has the measles, there are hickies and if there are enough of them, it may be a good reason to reject the job. Cleanliness in the pressroom is very important.

There have been horror stories of hickies appearing on a high quality job, especially in solid black areas. To save the job, the printer armed everyone in the shop with fine tip black sharpie markers and dabbed the hickie to make it disappear. Imagine doing that for 20,000 covers of an annual report.

This can also occur with digital presses and is a sign that the press needs a good cleaning on the inside. It is caused by loose fragments of paper dust inside the press.

Creep – This term generally refers to the practical joker that resides in the prepress department. When a book is being printed and will be saddle stitched, the folded signatures are inserted into each other. This causes a buildup of paper thickness at the spine and will cause the pages to uniformly move, or creep, from the center of the book towards the front and back covers.

This effect is exaggerated when a thick paper is used. To overcome this effect, the pages are slightly repositioned towards the center, with the pages closest to the fold moving the most. The project you submit doesn’t have to include this repositioning of every page, software that is used in prepress or built into most digital printers can accomplish this automatically. A tip to help this process is to not position page numbers close to the edge.

Orphan / Widow – An orphan or widow is that one word or line of text that flows onto the next page or into an adjacent column, or in the worst case, just disappears. It really looks unprofessional. And you may be asking yourself, how does this happen? The most common reason is that even though it looked good on your monitor or printed proof, a font substitution may have occurred. There are dozens of variations of Times fonts from different vendors. And if you are supplying original InDesign source files, you must include the fonts you used to create the job. If you used Times from vendor “A” and your printer uses Times from vendor “B”, there may a minute difference between the two that over the course of 4 pages of text, it may be just enough that it causes one additional line of text to appear, resulting in a widow.

Either supply the font you used to the printer or create a PDF file and submit that to the printer. And for goodness sakes, when the printer sends you proofs, go over them carefully to make sure that the text is all there.  

RIP – Usually, when a job is delayed, the salesperson will say that the job is still ripping. Or even worse they’ll say that your job choked their rip. The raster image processor (RIP) is the computer that takes all of the text, graphics, and color information in your job and converts it into a format that can be printed directly to a digital press or can be used to make plates for an offset press. The RIP is typically the most powerful computer in the printing company and it’s really amazing the amount of work it must do.

These are some of the most common and misunderstood terms in the printing world. And to quote an old seer, there is no such thing as a dumb question. If you’re not one hundred percent sure of what you’re being told or what they’re asking you to do, ask for clarification. The people that are throwing these words at you were in your shoes too at one point in their career. They want to help you understand since it can make a job flow a lot more smoothly through production and delivered to you on time and on budget.

Intellective Solutions can help you or your employees navigate through the printing industry world through our Intellective Essentials of Print Training Programs. Give us a call or email.

How Much Pressure Can Salespeople Stand?

The general thinking in managing salespeople is that the right amount pressure on salespeople is good for sales performance.

There have been countless articles on sales management and how to effectively manage sales performance without using undue pressure tactics. What about salespeople who put too much pressure on themselves when closing a large deal?

Recently, I read an abstract, The Impact of Pressure on Performance: Evidence from the PGA Tour February 2015 published in the Harvard Business Review written by Professors Daniel C. Hickman and Neil E. Metz. They used data analysis to determine the effect of pressure on making big money putts on the PGA golf tour. A key finding was that short putts that would result in winning significant amounts of money were not appreciably impacted by the pressure. But they did find that slightly longer putts of 6 to 10 feet were in fact impacted.

For salespeople and managers, an analogy to golf may be logical and no further discussion is needed. For me, the abstract reinforces the necessity for managers to ensure salespeople are working in environments that minimize mistakes and paralysis caused by pressure.

The takeaway is that large deals that are “more than short putts” and which will generate large rewards do result in a “choking” phenomenon for many salespeople.  Here are four recommendations to minimize pressure on large deals where there is a lot at stake.

1.      Match less experienced salespeople with seasoned pros. Experience salespeople will less likely be impacted by the pressure.

2.      Don’t leave a big deal to one person. Make it a team approach. The more support and help will alleviate the pressure on any one individual.

3.      Ensure the deal is sold before the close. Carefully review the sales and buying process to make sure each step was carefully executed.

4.      Test the proposal with the “customer champion” or a loyal supporter in the account to make sure everything has been covered before presenting.

By qualifying the account and thoroughly managing the sales process, longer putts become shorter putts. The shorter the putt; there is less pressure.

Joe Rickard is the founder of Intellective Solutions. Intellective Solutions (  works with printing and technology organizations to improve their sales, marketing and operational effectiveness. The Intellective team enjoys providing Customer Event marketing services. He can be reached at 845 753 6156. Follow him on Twitter @joerickardIS

Three Must Do's Before Planning Your Customer Event

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There is no better way to get closer to customers and prospects than a successful customer event or open house.

Many marketing pros and salespeople cringe at the idea of another customer event. This is because many events have failed to produce results. It can be a frustrating experience when a customer event ends up being an expensive party that produces no business.

A successful event depends on a number of variables. Yes, themes, story-lines and the invitation process are very important. We have worked with a variety of printing and in plant organizations to promote customer events and open houses. There are a few key than many organizations forget to complete before they even begin planning their event.

Here are three essential steps to take before planning and executing the details of a customer event.

1. Create a simple and specific objective for the event.

A broad sweeping goal such increase customer interest in our services or launch our new product is not good enough. As the planning process develops, it often becomes unclear why the organization is having the event in the first place. Objectives such as, increase our pipeline by 25% or 10 additional customers for our new solution helps keep everyone focused on the same objective.

2.  Get an approved budget before you start.

Knowing how much money and internal resources are available will help tailor the theme, size and scope of the event. There is nothing more frustrating than running out of money or internal resources prior to the completion of all the planning steps. Getting the budget requires a sign-off by management. Once the budget is approved then the task is managing it rigorously to ensure getting the greatest return for investment.

3.  Get everyone on the “bus”.

Before moving forward, it is vital to get every employee who will potentially influence and work on the event to be committed. No marketing or sales effort can be successful without the entire organization pulling the same direction. That means production people, finance, customer service in addition to management, marketing and sales must do their part. Getting a commitment from all before planning the details will ensure success.

A recommendation to all event planning managers, don’t start planning and executing until these three steps are completed.

For those who need marketing resources for their events, see our cross media invitation marketing services  

When to Train College New Hire Salespeople

We train a large number of salespeople within the graphic communications market. We still see companies formally training new salespeople in classroom settings on the very first day that they report. This is a common practice because most companies want to get salespeople out there and start selling as quickly as possible.

New College Hires Must Earn Training

Based on our experience, the traditional thinking may need to be adjusted. There has been change in the attitude from many coming out of school. Though we still see a great amount of talent and potential, many graduates view corporate education and training as an entitlement.

The percentage of students living at home, hustling, working a part time job and studying through the night to graduate college is not large. Consequently, many new college graduates expect training but don’t really value it.

Many recent graduates fail in their first year of sales and the training investment is also lost as well. Based on our experience, we have found it is a better practice to make new hires earn training. This way the employer will know within a few weeks if they made the right hiring decision.

How to Manage New Hire Sales Training

We recommend giving new hires tasks that they need to accomplish BEFORE they enter into a high value and high cost formal sales training program. For instance, have them work and produce in a production capacity for a week. Then have the current employees in that area evaluate the salesperson on work ethic, timeliness, ability to take constructive criticism, confidence, quality of work etc.

Another example would have new hires prepare a company presentation. Then have the salesperson present it to the team. Check for quality, attire, writing skills, confidence and persuasiveness. If they can’t do this well, they will not sell.

If the new hire fails in deliver outstanding results in these endeavors, make them do it over again or remove them from the team. Under no circumstances, should you let them go through any costly formal sales skills, product or industry training program without demonstrating they can deliver results first.

As a result, salespeople will be much more motivated in their formal training when they get it and management will have an employee who is much more likely to succeed.

How the Printing Industry and Retail is the same

This morning, I had the good fortune to hear retail senior executive Mark Cohen speak about a range of topics affecting the retail industry.  It was outstanding. Mark teaches at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Business and also consults with leading retailers.

To an audience on the campus of Dominican College, he spoke specifically about the challenges, changes and opportunities facing the Retail Industry. Mark gave many examples about the rapid transformation that has taken place and some of the companies that will not survive. He emphasized that leadership and creativity is vital. He emphasized that no matter what changes take place over time, customers will always still search for value.

It struck me as a consultant and trainer who works within the Printing Industry that some of his advice and consul that he gave to the audience apply to the printing industry. Here are some key points that every printing business needs to pay close attention:

·       Short term pricing discounts that impact long term profitability is
        a prescription for disaster. Once you discount, it is impossible to  
        reverse the tactic with customers.

·       Consistent and large discounts are unsustainable and reduce 
        customer confidence in the brand.

·       Provide wonderful and high value products and services

·       Create exciting promotions that don’t rely on discounts

·       Participate with partners to support customer requirements

·       Provide great customer service

·       Move quickly to a multichannel system of delivery and marketing

With all the challenges facing printers, these bullets should be carefully considered. The commercial printing industry was built by small, regional and family businesses. Their core advantage is that they have been able to establish deep relationships with customers in a very personal business.  Keeping up with the times and knowing how to deliver high value products and services is the road map for long term success.

Four Marketing Ideas for a Tight Budget

For those who in small or medium sized companies, there always a question about how best to use tight marketing dollars and limited internal resources.

There are so many ways to market to customers. The challenge is to use strategies and tactics that don’t just generate looks at the Website but actually convert to sales. No matter what the approach is, nothing is forever. If something is not working then move on and try something else. Even SEO strategies should be varied.

Many small businesses will use outside consultants or freelancers to help. There is plenty of talent out there with specific expertise. Whatever the intent and budget, we suggest to always start with a set of objectives and a marketing plan. Revise it regularly and measure results.

Recently, we are often asked if there are advertising agencies for small companies. Yes, there are some. Unfortunately, it is very difficult for general agencies to make it with small business customers.

The best approach might is to use the resources that are readily available and can be done in a modest but scalable way. Here are some approaches we like and suggest to our clients.

1.     Pay-per-click (PPC) search advertising is a great way to get start. You can do that self-serve through Google.

2.     For print and digital media, reach out to some trade publications that might give the right targets, and see what the rates would be. Some might also want to try local newspapers if they're tied to a specific geography. These publications may have package print and digital deals.

3.     Whatever the approach is, plan to advertise consistently for several months.  Do not just do a one-off and think that will do the trick. Media will be a larger cost than the ads themselves, so start there to get a sense of how much it would cost to really advertise effectively.

4.     On the ad creative, work with a designer to get some brand ads developed. No need for an agency per se, but if there is an affordable one, that might be a good place to start. You might actually do well with posting a Craig's list ad for free-lance design work. You would be amazed at the quality of the freelance talent out there.  


Five Customer Emotions

A big mistake salespeople and their managers’ make is they think that rational analysis by customers is how buying decisions are made. Companies spend large amounts of time and money training salespeople on technology, competition and cost justification.  But, this is not enough to guarantee success. Information and facts can prove your case but emotions move the customer to action.

Common Emotions in the Buying Process

Here are five areas where powerful customer emotions commonly affect the sale: