Where is your print business going wrong?

Post by Colin Sinclair McDermott, owner of The Online Print Coach and The Print Growth Academy

Having been in the print industry since the mid-late 90s, Colin Sinclair McDermott entered the world of self-employment in 2004 and over the years that followed, experienced a number of highs and lows running his own print company, learning what does and doesn’t work. 

In 2022, he trained with The Business Coaching Academy to become a fully certified corporate coach with the Worldwide Association of Business Coaches. 

Through The Online Print Coach, industry members can access an online training platform in The Print Growth Academy, as well as private 1-to-1 coaching with Sinclair McDermott. 

Sinclair McDermott says: “I didn’t always get it right, I made mistakes along the way and one of the greatest motivators now is being able to give the support I never had to make sure others don’t repeat some of the errors I made. 

“My clients are seeing great results and it genuinely feels like I’m doing what I was always been meant to do and making a difference.”

Colin Sinclair McDermott, owner of The Online Print Coach and The Print Growth Academy 

Having run my own print business for a number of years and working with well over one hundred print business owners over the last couple of years, you start to see trends, what people are struggling with and where they are going wrong. I was partial to most of these in the past too. 

I see these issues existing in a range of businesses, big and small, well-established and not. Nobody is exempt. Yes, even those big companies you consider to be successful! 

Here are just some of the more noticeable issues I come across regularly:

Not having solid systems and processes in place 

These are the building blocks that support your business to grow and run efficiently. Every employee and every department should have a solid blueprint, a checklist, and an ethos to follow that ensures consistency and that everyone is working towards the company's strategic objective. 

Underestimating Costs

How many times have you produced a print job for a client only to look back and realise it actually cost you money in the end? Often it comes down to inexperience from the estimator, not understanding the actual production of the job, and allowing for enough time or processes. 

Maybe you only allowed for a set number of design hours and the job grew arms and legs? Don't be afraid to go back to the client if they changed the brief on you midway. If you don't, it could slowly be killing your business. 

Not knowing your numbers properly 

Did you notice I emphasized the word "YOUR"? It's a common mistake to use your competitors as your pricing gauge without knowing why they use those numbers. Think about the nightmare you will get yourself into if you take a competitor's price, cut it by 10% and then sell it to your client. What if the competition has a bad pricing structure and is barely making any money? What if your costs are more than theirs? 

Sinclair McDermott says to ensure you know your own numbers rather than using competitors' pricings 

Not charging for all your time and costs

This seems like an obvious one, yet I see it with print businesses all the time. It's ok to throw in a little extra from time to time when relationship building, just be mindful of the impact it has on your numbers. One of the most common ones I see is clients changing the spec of their paper on a job. 

Let's say they tweak from a 130gsm to a 170gsm stock. It might feel like too much hassle to change the work ticket, get accounts to raise a new invoice, etc so you just bypass these steps to push the job through. You might say you'll stick it on the next job they place but let's be honest, it seldom actually happens. 

Not getting paid fast enough 

We've all heard the phrase "Cash is King". Cash flow can be a real issue for printers specifically which is why I'm now a real advocate of being paid in full upfront prior to starting a job. Sadly, I've been on the wrong end of customers not paying their bills, however, I do appreciate there are some customers where this is just not possible and you have to offer credit terms. 

In these cases, be sure to get these invoiced raised as soon as possible. When I first went into business for myself, I was very guilty of being too busy to keep on top of invoicing and in some cases, wouldn't get around to raising an invoice as much as 6 weeks after the job was delivered. You can imagine the impact this had on my cash flow!

Wasting money on advertising

I would actually rather see people not advertise than spend money without tracking the results. There is absolutely no point in a marketing campaign unless you put the measures in place to see the effectiveness. 

A common one is just boosting Facebook posts because it's easy and will get you lots of likes but what's the point if those likes are not from your ideal clients? Make sure you are measuring all your sales and marketing activity so you get to see what works and what doesn’t.  

Sinclair McDermott warns against not charging for all your time and costs or your business will be the one suffering

Spreading yourself too thin 

This is a classic mistake made by every business owner. It's tough! You're typically the designer, the production person, the salesperson, the bookkeeper, and the marketer. The key is to recognize when you are at the point of wearing too many hats and get some help. 

The secret here is to know your own strengths. For me, back in the day, bookkeeping, accounts, office admin, and telesales, were never my fortee. I could do them but I never enjoyed them and they were a time sapper. Nowadays there are plenty of options open to us. Virtual Assistants are easily accessible, you can outsource various done-for-you services to lighten your workload. 

Not getting help soon enough 

Set goals to know when to hire people to take over where you are light on knowledge or time. Not getting help or waiting too long can kill a business. Most people don't start a business with good all-around business knowledge. I, for example, came from a background in print sales. 

I could generate print orders with no problem at all but when it came to standing in front of a guillotine, I only had to mess up a print run of business cards once to know I needed to leave that to the experienced production staff we had. Don't try to be something to your business that you’re not. It will only hold you back.

Clarity Software allows your business to reach its full potential

Clarity software offers powerful print MIS software designed to scale and grow your business. With over 20+ years developing software which powers your whole business, you can be sure that Clarity has the answers you are looking for and the tools to scale your business.

Clarity streamlines your whole business processes and Integrates with your favourite accounts packages to ensure everything is one place.

Some of the features Clarity Software offers:

  • Quoting & Estimating

  • Price Lists

  • Customer Relationship Management (CRM)

  • Sales Management & Tracking

  • Digital Invoicing

  • Production

  • Purchasing

  • Deliveries & Stock Management

  • Proof of Delivery (POD)

For a full list of features or to talk to our sales team and book a FREE demo click on the button below.

Book a Demo

Subscribe for updates

Stay up to date with Clarity Software developments, news and events.


Read out latest Blog posts and learn more from the industry.


See what's going on here at Clarity Software.