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Monday, March 17, 2008

"Shaun's Corner" - On The Road Again...

By Shaun Meany

I’ve really been racking up those “frequent flier” miles lately. And my travels have been eye-opening.

Over the last month I have met with scores of reprographers both in North America and abroad and have learned a lot about the issues they are facing in their businesses today. No matter where I am there seems to be one common challenge (I prefer to see it as an opportunity) that comes up more often than any other.

It’s “training.” Short and sweet, it’s what I hear most often, and it doesn’t matter if I’m in Wales or West Virginia.

What I hear is: “there is no time for training… we cannot afford to send our people off to get trained… if we sent them to training then we’re short-staffed…” or “we don’t have access to good training material.”

I understand, believe me. But in today’s highly competitive business environment it is essential to differentiate your company from your competition. And one of the most effective ways to differentiate your company from others is by demonstrating the knowledge and the skills of your most valuable asset, your staff!

Reprographers tell me they can easily make the decision to buy a new piece of equipment without much hesitation, but when it comes to investing in their people it’s another story.

Here’s a simple truth: in today’s business climate your sales, customer service and production personnel require up to date skills in order to do their jobs. Some method of training is necessary for employees to develop and grow. The behavior of sales and customer service personnel play an ever increasing role in influencing your clients and prospects in choosing your reprographics business over your competition.

There you have it. Production personnel need to be trained on production workflow and best practices and they need to understand the needs of the customers they serve. Your financial and bookkeeping staff need to have the best tools available for managing cash flow and helping to identify trends and potential problems before they get out of control.

All employees need to understand the industries that your reprographics company serves. They need to know the vocabulary and terms used by your clients; they need to understand the key services and benefits these services provide. Period.

So, if you agree your staff is in need of more training, how do you go about providing it? This is where the PEiR Group would like to help. Since its inception, The PEiR Group has been developing training programs covering a wide array of topics – all of them focused on the needs of today’s reprographer.

The PEiR Group hosts a variety of conferences each year where members come to learn and exchange ideas and discuss best practices. We have offered online training on PlanWell Technology for sales and production personnel. Most recently, we introduced CD-ROM training for PlanWell to meet the needs of employees who needed training but were unable to make the online sessions. Last year we expanded our online training to include topics like Selling 3D Printing, Bid Communications and some Vendor Specific Webinars like the Océ Web Store. Many more are planned for the future.

All of these training materials have been archived on our Intranet. It’s a valuable resource, chalk full of training and best practices you can download and repurpose for your company’s specific needs.

Here’s a list of current training and education content available to members on the PEiR Intranet. Many of these subjects are categorized under specific conferences but will soon be organized by functional area, as well.

o FM Sales Training
o Selling Digital Services
o Listening and Asking Questions
o Handling Objections
o Compensation Programs Designed to Motivate and Meet Company Goals
o Branding and Why it is Important to Your Business
o Sales Prospecting
o PlanWell Specific Training for Sales and Customer Service
o PlanWell Certification Training and Hands-on Assignments
o Understanding the AEC Marketplace
o AEC Project Life Cycle and Document Management
o Bid Communications
o Variable Information Printing
o Display Graphics Trends and Applications
o Charging for Digital Services
o Disaster Preparedness and the Importance to your Business
o Financial Worksheets for Managing for Profit
o Managing Cash Flow
o Safety Programs
o Top HR Issues in Business Today
o Trends in Reprographics 2008

To continue improving PEiR’s training and educational offerings, I initiated a members’ Educational Advisory Group (EAG) to help gather ideas and input. This group meets about twice a year to discuss topics and locations for future conferences. Another extremely well received educational initiative we started this year is our Local Road Show Educational Tour (see a list of upcoming cities on the tour later in this issue).

Finally, in order to continue meeting the needs of our members, an electronic survey will be sent out shortly to gather input from all members as to their specific educational and training needs. It is very important that you tell us your thoughts and let us know how we can help improve the skills and knowledge of all employees in your organizations.

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