Tapping The Power Of Outside Experts

We are not all expert communicators, especially when it comes to business. At times, we have to bring in the outside experts—copywriters and marketing or branding consultants. In preparing to work with them, it’s important to provide context and preparation. This will help these professionals to provide the right message to the right audience, and save time and money in having to develop multiple drafts.

Try these tips from Elena Langdon to help you tap into some extra power.

Know thy contractors. Before selecting an outside communications consultant, ask about expertise in your specific setting or field, not just years of experience. For example, if you hire a copywriter for a newsletter or website, look at her portfolio to see if she’s worked in your line of business before. Working directly with the contractor makes this easier, but if you are getting proposals through an agency, many will also provide information on the individual’s credentials and past work.

Explain your audience. Clue the contractor in about whom they’ll be working with. For example, if you’re looking for a consultant to deliver a workshop on employee engagement, let them know what your corporate structure looks like. Names and roles are especially helpful, as are division, unit and project names. This will help make the workshop relevant and personalized, even though an outsider is presenting it.

State your purpose. Your team and your counterparts across the table might know why you are discussing a contract, but an external expert brought in for the day won’t. What are the team’s goals? Are the

stakes high and the situation tense? Think of communication experts as extensions of your team and brief them accordingly. If they know your objectives, they can better understand you and transmit your message accurately.

Get it in writing. Perhaps this is obvious, but make sure you draw up a contract when working with an external contractor. Some important sections to include are confidentiality, deliverables and duration of work. Consider licenses, certification and insurance, too, if there is any risk involved in the work being supplied.

Provide context. Clear communication depends on contextual knowledge, so provide as much background information as possible. Let’s say you need an interpreter to help you sort out an HR problem with an employee who is more comfortable in another language. Inform the interpreter about any previous meetings, the main issues to be discussed, the type of work the employee does and anything else you think is relevant.

Explain specific jargon and acronyms. Your internal jargon or acronyms might be second nature to you at this point, but they probably sound like alphabet soup to an outsider. A short list or glossary can be helpful so that time isn’t wasted trying to decipher “the BPO merger” or the “quarterly up-queue.”

Consider your space. If you will be working with someone who will need to speak to your employees or visitors, let them know w

hat the physical space looks like. Will you be sitting, standing or touring a facility? How many people need to hear the external contractor? Will you play a video or will participants join via Skype or speakerphone? Knowing this information will allow the external expert to better prepare for the situation or even suggest things you haven’t thought about.

Make the most of their time. Whether it’s an hourly rate or a monthly quota of deliverables, you are paying for the contractor’s time. Think of ways to shorten meetings, including agenda items and committee work that does not involve the contractor. The more focused you are while the external consultant is on the clock, the better.

Send files ahead of time. Always send any documentation that will be discussed a few days in advance. Agendas, contracts, previous meeting minutes, presentation slides—anything that provides context and terminology will greatly enhance communication and save time during the actual meeting or event.

Source: Elena Langdon is a certified Portuguese-to-English translator and interpreter, and an active member of the American Translators Association. The American Translators Association represents more than 10,000 translators and interpreters across 91 countries. Along with advancing the translation and interpreting professions, ATA promotes the education and development of language services providers and consumers alike.

Images courtesy of Google Image Search.

What You Can Learn From The Latest Craze

Pokémon Go is so big, actually, that it’s already catching up with some of the largest social networks out there. There is little doubt by now that Pokémon Go is becoming the most successful mobile app of all time, at least as far as launch-week performance is concerned. It took only 13 hours to hit the top of the U.S. sales charts in its first week. And it hit a 10.81-percent daily user penetration level only four days after its U.S. debut. And did I mention that Nintendo’s valuation increased an estimated $7.5 billion thanks to this game?

It’s a marketer’s dream! In fact, Forbes contributor and blogger Jayson DeMers shares these marketing principles we can take from this global phenomenon.

1. Good branding can sell just about anything. Pokémon Go is actually loosely based on a system that already existed for another location-based mobile game, Ingress. Have you ever heard of Ingress? Possibly, but it didn’t achieve breakout success because its brand never became well-recognized. Pokémon, on the other hand, is a brand that’s been consistently developing itself for more than 20 years. Its character design, game quality and tone as a video game series (and anime) has become so powerful, that its presence alone helped sell the game to multiple generations of Pokémon fans. The game itself is good, but without the branding, it never would have taken off.

2. Timing is really important. Pokémon launched just after the start of summer, when kids are out of school, festivals are kicking up, and people are looking for any excuse to go outside and walk around. Can you imagine what it would be like if the game launched in the dead of winter? During a blizzard? The launch date is no coincidence. It’s also good timing in a broader perspective; Pokémon is 20 years old now, and fans who were children when the series first launched are now 20-something adults with significant buying power.

3. Social proof is everything these days. Thanks to our immediately connected, highly communicative, social media-integrated world, social proof is everything in the modern era. We won’t buy a product unless someone else has reviewed it first. We won’t notice a business unless we hear someone else talking about it. With Pokémon Go, social proof is visible—when you see people having fun with the same mobile game almost everywhere you turn, it’s almost impossible not to want to get involved.

4. A sense of identity leads to loyalty. There are a handful of identity factors that make Pokémon Go such an addictive hit, all of which give users a sense of belonging and loyalty. Thefirst is a layer of nostalgia; 20-somethings all over the country grew up with Pokémon, and this is a way for them to hearken back to the original feelings they had playing the game in the late 1990s. The second is a division of loyalty; in the game, you must choose between three rival teams, and being able to identify with one gets people more invested, similar to the way sports fans become so invested in their teams.

Whether you are looking to launch a new product or rebrand an existing one, take these lessons to heart.

Source: Jayson DeMers is an author who founded AudienceBloom in April 2010. He is also a columnist for Search Engine Journal, Search Engine Watch and Huffington Post. His personal blog is located at AudienceBloom.com/blog.

Tips To Grab Attention On LinkedIn

If you’re a business professional, you most likely have a LinkedIn profile— along with 400 million others. But does your profile get the traction and visibility you need? Do people share your content? Do they request to be connected to you? Do they learn about your skills and services?

Today we share these tips on how to post super-engaging tips on LinkedIn that generate the traction needed to build relationships with your LinkedIn audience, as shared in an interview with LinkedIn expert Mark Williams.

1. Posting an image. The most important thing is on the right-hand side of the ‘What’s on your mind’ box. It’s a little symbol that is critical in that it allows you to add a photo or picture to your update. Updates with pictures get significantly more views than those without.

Images are absolutely critical to get someone’s attention. Most people these days have busy homepage feeds and it’s no different on Facebook, is it? Getting someone’s attention is about bright colors and strong imagery.

It doesn’t matter how good your content is. If they don’t see the image, they’re not going to read it. The image needs to be bright, colorful and relevant to get people’s attention. You can also put a link in your image.

2. Comments are key. There was a florist who was highly effective on LinkedIn simply by creating the opportunity for comments. For example, she shared two colorful, engaging pictures of floral arrangements—one in a vase and one in a box. These were simple pictures taken on her mobile phone and uploaded to the site. Then she asked for comments.

In this case, the opportunity for choice was key.

If you ask people a question, ‘What do you think of … ‘, then you might get a few comments. If you provide an alternate—say this or that—then you get lots of comments because you make it easy for people to answer. Comments are key because comments spread fast. Likes are okay, but they don’t spread like the power of comments.

3. The direct sell. I know what you’re thinking: people shouldn’t really direct sell on LinkedIn. Occasionally a direct sell can be very effective. Take the florist just mentioned. She typically comments or shares updates. She will sometimes simply post a special on her update, of course with a colorful image of the arrangement. But she adds this simple statement, “Please press like if you have any connections.”

One of the first comments generated by her post was, ‘Hi, any chance I can have that delivered today?’ A direct sell like that can only be effective if done in context of having done all the other activities and being seen as a real giver and contributor to the community as opposed to what a lot of people do which is just posting ads.

4. Use tools that make it easier to be active online. One tool suggested is WordSwag. This simple app for the iPhone allows you to add text to your photos in seconds with fun, engaging fonts. Another good tool is Canva, which can help you create decent-quality images that really get traction when used on your status updates.

5. Ask a question. In a recent LinkedIn update there was a picture with sales statistics. It was a bright purple with white text and it said 48 percent of salespeople never follow up with their prospect and 25 percent of salespeople make a second contact and stop. Its source is the National Sales Executive Association. Statistics are commonly used in social media posts and typically get very little traction. However, this LinkedIn user did something different. He shared the stat with a question at the top that read, “Interesting stats, anyone care to disagree?” This generated 14 comments and 30 likes.

Take a few minutes today to create an engaging post for your LinkedIn profile. Try these strategies and see your comments—and your sphere of influence—soar.

Source: Kenny Goodman is a business coach who is passionate about finding new ways to quickly break new ground. He founded Find The Edge, to help business owners grow their businesses in a non-hype and down-to-earth coaching environment.

Power Of The Crowd

My husband is one of those glass-half-full kind of guys who doesn’t let anything get in his way. This “go get ‘em” attitude—plus his interest in wine—led him to become a finalist recently for Crowdsourced Cabernet, a program that picks an amateur wine lover to represent the masses in making all wine-making decisions, from when to pick the grapes to what should be blended. It’s a program that looks to the collective wisdom of a large fan base of amateur wine aficionados to make critical decisions for that particular harvest.

It’s a process that puts that power into the crowd. Crowdsourcing is an effective tool that is becoming an important strategy for many businesses, as we explain in this issue ofPromotional Consultant Today.

Whether you own a small business or part of a large one, your business has basic needs—monetary support, a workforce and brand awareness. Crowdsourcing can play a key role in each of these areas.

Fundraising: Do you have a start-up business and need some investors? Instead of looking for one or two large investments, consider crowdfunding, where multiple individuals can pitch in and have a part in your business. Websites like GoFundMe and Kickstarter allow people to invest in your product in return for a product sample or other perk.

Recruiting/Workforce: Do you need specific skill sets for your business? Are you having problems recruiting the right talent but can’t invest in high salaries yet? Crowdsourcing can play a key role. Skill-swapping websites such as Swapaskill make it easy for businesses to exchange their specialties. Other sites, such as Amazon Mechanical Turk, connect businesses with freelancers to perform tasks such as transcribing videos, writing articles and conducting research.

Brand-building: You’re ready to launch your business website, but you aren’t sure how the market will react. After all, you aren’t a professional website developer. Well, look to a crowd for input. You can get help to identify problems on your site through tools like Conceptfeedback and BrandsOfTheWorld. These sites offer feedback and help with ideas, symbols, typography and color suggestions from professional designers.

Whether you are looking for the right words to boost the visibility of your business, need workers to perform basic tasks or are looking for the money to fund it all, turn to the power of the crowd with these crowdsourcing tools.

Source: Miranda Marquit is a freelance journalist specializing in topics related to personal finance, entrepreneurship and investing. She has also done reporting work on topics related to science and technology. Marquit’s work is featured on the web, as well as in print publications.

Ohio Museum Exhibits Early 20th Century Promotional Products

Some of the hundreds of vintage promotional products detailing the history of the industry at The Johnson-Humrickhouse Museum in Coshocton, Ohio.

The Johnson-Humrickhouse Museum in Coshocton, Ohio, is hosting an exhibit of early 20th century promotional products made in the area. The Advertising Art of Coshocton, Ohio, 1890-1950, runs through September 14.

Coshocton’s history in the promotional products industry goes back to 1886 with the launch of Tuscarora Advertising Company. Eventually, 12 industry companies called the city home, including Standard Advertising Company (1887-1901), The Meek and Beach Company (1901-1940), The H.D. Beach Company (1902-1940), The Meek Company (1905-1910), Marshall Manufacturing Company (1907-1954), American Art Works (1910-1963) and The W.F. Smith Company (1910-1918). Two of them, distributor The Novelty Advertising Company (UPIC: NAC) and supplier The Beach Company (UPIC: BEACHCAL), contributed to the exhibit.

A similar but smaller display of promotional products was held at the museum 10 years ago and proved extremely popular. It was decided that one last comprehensive display of these collections was vital to capture the history of the artwork and catalog the items on display. Joe Kreitzer and Bill Carlisle, the collectors and curators behind the exhibit, worked with Patty Malenke, director of the Johnson-Humrickhouse Museum, to put the exhibit together.

Museum-Visit

Kreitzer and Carlisle were given free rein to hang the items as they saw fit. Every piece in the exhibit is totally original, and when the exhibit closes they will be returned to their owners. As a visitor begins his or her trip around the room, the very earliest items are on display along with the history of some of the foundational companies that first formed the industry.

Greg Coffman, president of The Novelty Advertising Company, says, “We were asked to share part of our collection and archives for display and historical purposes.  We worked closely with the curators to make sure a wide array of early advertising products from different time periods and companies were included.  My brother Thad and I were also there for the opening ceremonies to share stories and some NAC history.”

Coffman describes the exhibit as a window into Coshocton’s role in the early days of the promotional products industry. He says, “The museum will not only educate many about our industry, but will help preserve the fragile beginnings and scarce records we have about the earliest days of the companies that pioneered the then unknown territory of a promotional product business. The many innovations, patents and products that were born in Coshocton still affect our industry today. Passing that information on is very important as we continue to grow and innovate today.”

“This exhibit begins to tell the story of early American Advertising and how it began and evolved,” Coffman adds. “I think there could be movie made about all the stories I have heard about the early days of the industry. There were many feuds, secret collaborations and innovations, spying and even a death from falling off the roof of a building during a test run of a newly imprinted kite.”

The Johnson-Humrickhouse Museum’s exhibit highlights the important role promotional products have had in the country’s cultural history. “How we advertise tells us a lot about the different time periods in our country’s history,” says Coffman. “Some of the items in the exhibit contain sayings and products that are not politically or socially accepted anymore, but can give us a crucial peek into the psyche and sign of the times. These historical promotional products showcase the empires of business to the corner mom-and-pop store, remind us of products from our past, and ultimately connect all of us through the genius innovations and colossal flops of American business.”

Printed in PPAI Publications

Money, Money

A Distributor Asks: I am a small distributor, and sometimes suppliers with whom I want to do business will ask me for 50 percent, or as much as 100 percent, of an order’s cost up front. Is this typical of all suppliers, and what can I do to avoid this? I don’t always have the capital to fund an order completely, and I don’t want to ask my clients to pay in full up front every time they place an order with me.

 

 

Michael Crooks
U.S. Operations Manager
Weepuline LLC
UPIC: WEEPULS

Many times, if you are doing business with a supplier for the first time they will ask for pre-payment. This is not out of line. To avoid this in the future, be sure to ask for a credit application. Fill it out and send it back. It’s extremely possible that you will secure terms for subsequent orders. If you don’t, then it is likely that you’ll have to cough up pre-payment for the next order as well. Going forward, look at the vendors you will likely use in 2014 with whom you currently don’t enjoy terms. Contact them and request a credit application now. If you are having trouble funding orders without having your clients pay up front, you may want to consider aligning yourself with an affiliate. While you give up a portion of your commission, these firms handle all of your back-end and fund your projects.

Another tactic you can employ is to tighten up, whenever possible, the terms with your clients. Having come from the distributor side, I offered my clients 15 days net terms. That way, I generally had 10 days between the time my client paid me and when my bill was due with my supplier. Unless you deal with huge firms, net 15 days is not totally out of line. As I have told more than one client, “Delivery is on your terms. Payment is on my terms.”  I understand that you’d hate to lose a sale over “terms.” Do what you need to do, but as the old saying goes: “If you don’t ask … the answer is always no.” Attempt to start all new clients off at net 15 and go from there. Whenever you can do it, it will smooth out your cash flow.

In days gone by, terms were earned. Companies extended terms only to “good clients” as a way of thanking them for their business and solidifying the relationship. This was a practice not just in our industry but across corporate America. Today, terms are simply expected. In effect, you are asking the vendor for a 30-day loan. How much money would you loan to a stranger, and for how long?

 

 

Robert W. McGinnis
Owner
RWM Embroidery & More
UPIC: R530411

I still run into this on occasion after being in business for more than 20 years. As a PPAI distributor, formerly an ASI distributor, using SAGE, we have found products that are available from suppliers we have not used in the database and they require 50 percent or even 100 percent up front as you stated. What I have done in the past is use my business American Express card for the payment requirements. On the occasions where suppliers may not accept American Express, look at acquiring a MasterCard or Visa.

 

Gary M. Murphy, CAS
President
Image West
UPIC: IMAG0007

You might try using a credit card for the factories who don’t supply terms. Also, if you’re paying off these fees immediately, you may receive a cash discount from your supplier. Conclusively, once paid by your client, you can pay off the balance completely. After you go through this exercise a few times with specific factories, you might then establish favorable credit terms on which to build. As a backdrop, it never hurts to ask your client for up-front deposits to help secure both your joint ventures. Honesty works, always.

 

Robert Joseph
Account Executive
I C Group – Promotional Products Division
UPIC: ICGroup

Obviously you do not have enough of a track record or credit record with the supplier(s) that you have chosen. In today’s world, many suppliers are asking for up-front money because they have been burned over the past several years with other distributors who either pay very slowly or do not pay at all. Even with larger companies, many suppliers ask for a deposit if this is the first order.

We use credit cards for most of our deposits, so I suggest you establish a higher line of credit with one or two of your credit cards. This way you can offset having to lay out actual cash and will hopefully be able to get paid by the client once you invoice them.

Cynthia Baker
PR And Promotions Manager
Heritage Sportswear/Virginia T’s
UPIC: HERI0002

Thoroughly search for suppliers that carry the types of items you want to buy and find out what payment options they offer. Many times the information is included on their websites. If a supplier does not have its credit guidelines online, contact the accounting department and ask for a copy of the terms and payment options. (Make sure the credit terms are something you are comfortable with before you place the first order.) Complete the paperwork to establish credit terms, providing as much purchase history with other businesses as possible. Initially, your limit may be lower than what you’d like, but as your relationship grows, so will your credit limit.

Apply for a business credit card in the meantime to pay for orders. Paying by credit card will encourage you to keep the project on-task. Make it your policy to get complete payment on product delivery. This way, as soon as the job is finished, you’ll be able to pay off the credit card tab in full. (Most credit cards charge zero-percent interest if the balance is paid within the month.)

 

Terry Powers
Owner
Gaslight Promotional Consulting, Inc.
UPIC: G531647

As a fellow small distributor, I can certainly empathize with this challenge. The best thing you can do is to make darn sure you pay your suppliers promptly. That way you are building credibility as someone who can be counted on to be responsible with the privilege of obtaining open terms with a supplier.

Next, be sure to apply the 80/20 rule to your supplier base. At least 80 percent of your business should be with a small, core group of suppliers. Since you are paying them promptly, they’ll be more than happy to increase your credit line as needed. They’ll also be more inclined to help you out with special pricing, free spec samples and the like.

When you have to use a new supplier and it wants 100 percent up front, tell them that since you can prove you pay promptly (credit references from your preferred suppliers), you don’t feel that you should take all the burden of financing the order. It’s a partnership after all, and you don’t know them any more than they know you. That’s worked well for me over the years. But the key is paying within terms.

 

John Barber
President
CHH Engraving, Inc.
UPIC: chh

It’s not uncommon for suppliers to ask for a deposit or pre-payment, especially for first-time orders. It’s sometimes avoidable where more than one supplier offers the same product. One resolution that I’ve had success with is offering the supplier a credit card but asking that it not be charged until the order ships. This does three things: It gives the supplier confidence that it will be paid if they are working with a new distributor, doesn’t tie up the distributor’s cash (at least until the credit card comes due) and avoids the hassle of trying to get a refund from a supplier who “guesstimates” shipping, then conveniently forgets to credit the overage back to the distributor. Not all suppliers have been cooperative, but it is worth asking.

 

Lesli Hebert Covell 
Owner
Proforma Extraordinary Promotions
UPIC: ProEP

This is one of the reasons I joined Proforma. I didn’t want to have to come up with a large sum of money to produce an order. And even now, being with a large company, we still have to submit a deposit or a letter of guarantee that the order will be paid. I think our suppliers have been burned so many times they aren’t willing to gamble.

 

Tama Underwood

DIY Performance Evaluations

DIY Performance Evaluations

I often get requests from clients seeking a performance evaluation form so that they can start a new review process in their workplace.  My response, which always surprises them, is “Forget about the form—what are the goals?”

Performance management has very little to do with the evaluation form and almost everything to do with correct goal-setting and measurement. Here’s a dirty little secret: With the right goals, you can use a home-grown excel spreadsheet or even a plain piece of paper and have an amazing performance evaluation form that will suit all your needs. Conversely, you can also purchase an expensive personal management system and form that will do little to improve performance if you have the wrong goals (or no goals at all).

Bottom line:  Before you spend any money on performance management, here are five steps to developing a great review process that will cost you nothing.

Step 1: Set good goals. Set goals that are SMART: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time Bound. For example:

Customer Satisfaction —Customer service rep will reduce customer complaints from 30 registered customer complaints per quarter to less than 10 per quarter over the next 12 months.

As you can see from this sample goal, it is specific (it specifies the number of registered customer complaints).  It is measurable (reducing from 30 to less than 10 registered complaints).  It is achievable (presumably this employee has control over customer complaints and has the capability of influencing them). The goal is relevant (the issue of customer satisfaction ties in closely with this employee’s job function).  And it is time-bound (this goal must be completed within the next 12 months).

Let’s revisit the issue of measurable goals for a moment.  Often we set goals that are difficult to assess.  “I need you to be better organized,” or “You need to be more responsive.” To make these goals effective, make them measurable. For example, “By June you should have moved entirely into the new performance management system,” or “Starting tomorrow, you will respond to all inquiries within 12 hours.”  These goals can be measured and, importantly, agreed to.

It is also important to ensure that measuring the goal doesn’t create a complex administrative burden to the employee or the company. As best as possible, try to rely on analytics that are already in place. And don’t set a goal about number of calls if the number of calls can’t be tracked.

Step 2: Define success.  The more you can set clear examples of what excellent, satisfactory and unsatisfactory performance is, the better your employees will understand your expectations.  For example, if you have a goal about reducing registered customer complaints, you might set the following standards:

Exceeds Expectation – Reduces customer complaints to seven or fewer complaints per quarter

Meets Expectation – Reduces customer complaints to 10 per quarter

Fails to Meet Expectation – Reduces customer complaints to 15 or more per quarter

By setting these expectations, the customer service rep will know what will exceed your expectations and what failure looks like.

Step 3:  Don’t wait a year to check in. A great deal can happen in a year. Often, when we look back on a performance goal set 12 months prior we discover that the goal is either no longer applicable or a new, more pressing or important goal would make more sense. We recommend that mangers have formal check-ins with their employees every three to six months to make sure the employee is well positioned to succeed.

Step 4:  Consider your incentives. Tying performance goals to merit pay or year-end bonuses is always a great idea because it creates a clear understanding of how performance relates to pay. However, during the recent economic downturn many companies have not been able to afford year-end bonuses or raises. This doesn’t mean that you have to give up on providing an incentive.  Instead, during the goal setting process, identify non-financial incentives that would encourage performance.

Step 5: Don’t forget feedback. All too often managers save conversations about performance for the annual performance review. Unfortunately, performance successes or failures that happened earlier in the year have usually long been forgotten. If you are truly motivated to improve performance, make it a practice to observe and comment on performance every week. And when doing so, make a habit of observing and commenting on all of the good behavior you see. Reinforcing good behavior and performance will ensure you see more of it.

When you really get down to it, managing performance is more about clear communication and open and ongoing feedback and less about process. The form is not important, but the clearly defined expectation of goals and measurements is. But, after considering all of the above, if you truly feel you need a form, give me a call and I’ll send you one.

Claudia St. John is president of Affinity HR Group, LLC, PPAI’s affiliated human resources partner. Affinity HR Group specializes in providing human resources assistance to associations such as PPAI and their member companies. To learn more, visit www.affinityHRgroup.com.

>>Q&A With Claudia St. John

Send your human resources-related questions for Claudia St. John to ppb@ppai.org. Select questions will be answered in future issues.

Q:  A few of my employees have shown up at work sick.  I really appreciate their dedication but I’d rather they not come to work when they are sick and get the rest of us sick. Can I send them home and require that they use their sick leave?

Yes, you can. Recognize that there may be reasons why employees are showing up sick that might include:

  • Not wanting to use sick or paid-time-off leave
  • Not being able to afford the lost wages due to illness
  • Fear that the workload will become overwhelming if work is missed
  • Fear of disappointing the boss

If you do send them home, reassure them that you want them to take the time to recover and that you will help to ensure their work gets done. Remind them that sick leave is offered so that they will stay home when they are sick. And if they are worried about lost wages, try to identify ways for them to make up the time once they return to health.

Q:  What is the policy on closing the office due to bad weather?  Do I have to pay my employees if we have to close the office?

How you set up your inclement weather policy is a matter of preference and should be spelled out in your employee handbook. Generally, non-exempt, hourly workers do not need to be paid for the time not worked. Should you wish to pay them, since it is a circumstance beyond their control, you can certainly do so. For exempt, salaried employees, if you close the office you cannot dock their pay for time not worked but you may be able to request that they take paid-time-off.  If they do not have any leave remaining, you must pay them for the time off.  Under either circumstance, if the employee is working from home he or she must be paid.

 

Claudia St. John

Message Matters

Message Matters

Actor Tom Selleck said it most eloquently in the ’80s classic movie Three Men and A Baby: ‘It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it.’ And for 70 years, the decorating experts at supplier Finn Graphics, Inc. (UPIC: FINNLINE), in Cincinnati, Ohio, have helped clients bring messages to life through time-tested and cutting-edge printing processes, creating products that leave lasting impressions on recipients.

The supplier decorates more than 300 types of promotional products on-site, the simplest being a sticker involving a single-spot color printed on a square-cut rectangle of adhesive-backed material that has a liner slit for easy application.

“Complexity always entails more departments needing to perform operations, because each additional operation has its own limitations (i.e., minimum and maximum sheet size and thickness, surface for ink bonding, etc.),” says Dan Finn, president of Finn Line. “A good example of this would be parking permits with lots of color coding and copy changes, printing on two sides, a security holographic stamp and a die-cut shape.”

Proofs for an order are prepared. Once proofs are approved by the client, the art heads to production.

And because print-craftsman training is becoming more difficult to find in schools, Finn Graphics employees are trained in-house to ensure quality standards are maintained.

“Our products are really all about the message. This is because so much of the product—100 percent in many cases—is available to display the message,” says Finn. “We therefore take great pains to use the best imprint technology and craftsmanship to make that message stand out.”

All this means offering multiple imprint technologies to best fit the imprint and product requirements.  For instance, he says, durable imprints for yard signs and license plates are done via screen printing.  However, imprints with halftones can look quite different from the computer display when they’re screen-printed because of lower resolution.

“These issues are evaluated on an order-by-order basis, and the best solution for each case is devised and, if necessary, communicated to the customer.”

An imprint technology used frequently at Finn Graphics is offset printing. “One thing screen and offset imprinting have in common in our application is light,” says Finn. “Both use intense UV lights to cure the imprint inks. In fact, the imprint inks will stay wet indefinitely unless they go through these UV lights.”

An order is bathed in ink during production at Finn Graphics. Finn employs screen and offset printing, both of which use inks that require UV light to be “cured.”

Finn says these inks are a great improvement over previous inks, which use evaporative solvents to accomplish the same task. “Much lower VOC emissions (volatile organic compounds), less hazardous waste and safer finished products result from the use of these inks, not to mention better-looking [glossier] and more durable imprints.”

Customers are increasingly requesting four-color process imprints for their messages, so digital printing was added to Finn’s imprinting toolbox. He says a digital press lowers the price dramatically for smaller order quantities, allowing for the use of photos and high-impact, four-color process imprinting regardless of quantity. Special attention was paid to customers’ need to print on thick materials—Finn Graphics says it has the only press in the country adapted to print on materials that are nearly as thick as a credit card.

“Multiple printing options mean that we can offer the absolute best solution to these types of problems regardless of the challenges presented by the imprints submitted,” says Finn.

>>Print It And Cut It

Arriving orders that aren’t catalog priced are first matched with a quote and with any artwork that may be supplied or referenced. Artwork is verified and saved before being matched with orders, after which order entry and scheduling begins.

A proof loop follows scheduling; prepress prepares the email proof, customer service sends it and receives approval from the client. Any necessary tooling is ordered, then the client’s order is released to production—it will have necessary departments named and sequentially numbered, and completion dates will be established.

Back at prepress, submitted art is color separated and trapped per the requirements of the print process. Imposition, or electronically copying the art to fill a sheet, also occurs before printing out the press-ready media, which is either film or metal plates depending on the imprint process.

After the imprinting, finish cutting is accomplished with a die-cut press or power guillotine. Two types of die-cut presses, clamshell and cylinder presses, are used to handle the wide variety of materials that are decorated. The bindery then takes care of the final assembly and packaging while performing the final quality check of the finished product.

 

About Finn Graphics

Founding date 1941

Principals Bob Finn, Dan Finn, Brian Finn

Size of facility 35,000 square feet

Number of employees 42

Number of orders produced per year More than 9,000

Most popular products Small, adhesive-backed calendars; point-of-purchase static-cling and adhesive window decals; plastic hangers; signs; foldable table tents

Types of specialized equipment Screen, offset, letterpress, thermal transfer and digital process printing

Notable accomplishments Finn Graphics has earned top rankings for customer satisfaction through SAGE and ASI

 

Jen Alexander McCall