Top survival tips

At the start of the year Lewis Pearce, CEO of Burnley-based CMYK – Design Copy & Print, had never printed a floor graphic. Yet by the end of the summer with the economy beginning to reopen, he had printed over 30,000 social distancing graphics.

In light of his success, Lewis has provided his top tips for not just surviving lockdown but growing rapidly and sustainably.

1) Don’t be afraid to change your offering

Pre-lockdown, the wide format side of our business was steady. We did well providing smaller print items such as business cards, vinyl prints and banners. But we’ve since complete transformed. With social distancing being enforced, we quickly saw there would be high demand for floor graphics and stickers and decided to capitalise on the demand and diversify our offering.

2) Build your digital presence

I knew it was vital to have a strong online presence so invested time and resources into the website and social media advertising. By focusing on SEO, I quickly became number one on Google for ‘social distancing floor graphics’, ‘social distancing floor stickers’ and ‘social distancing stickers’.

3) Invest in the right equipment

They say a tradesperson is only as good as their tools and I couldn’t agree more. For six years I used a Roland VersaCAMM SP-540i. It was solid, reliable and never broke.

To deal with the increased workload I invested in a Roland TrueVIS VG-540 printer/cutter. The new recruit couldn’t have arrived at a better time and it was instantly put through its paces by effortlessly printing 100 metres of stickers per day. Having an infallible machine means I can spend my time running the business rather than worrying about broken equipment.

4) You don’t have to reinvent the wheel

Floor graphics are hardly new products. They’ve been around for years but demand has been limited. By simply finding a new and timely application for an old product, we have been able to up-level our business. Between April and August, we printed over 30,000 graphics and shipped them across the entire country.

5) But you won’t always get it right first time

To be completely honest, at first, we were unprepared for the surge in demand. We were sending our products out without packaging to meet orders. Our customers understandably were calling asking, ‘what do I do with it?’, ‘how do I put it on?’, ‘it’s not sticking properly’.

Rather than beat ourselves up about it, we created an instruction sheet with photos explaining how to clean the floor, make sure it’s dry, make sure there’s no debris on the floor and how to apply. It’s sent out with every order and customers are delighted.

6) Determination is everything

When lockdown happened, despite the initial drop in business, I still came to work. I knew only hard work would give the business the best chance of survival. Within a week the foundations had been laid for the business’ pivot and since then we’ve had to work 14-hour days seven days a week to keep up. But when the sun is shining, you must make hay.

7) You may need to get creative

The first-floor position of CMYK’s workshop comes with some serious challenges. We simply couldn’t get the Roland printer into the office but by thinking outside the box and using a forklift truck, we finally managed to squeeze it through the window!

8) Keep an eye out for opportunities to expand right under your nose

You are never too far away from a busines growth opportunity. At the start of the year we had a spare office that we rented out to a sign writer. He was outsourcing all his wide format prints before I thought ‘hang on a minute – we’re missing a trick here’. We then started a partnership that benefited us both.

9) Think about what you want to achieve and plan for it (if you can)

My advice is to plot out your business’ goals and then carefully plan how to invest scarce resources accordingly. Yet, if the pandemic has taught us anything it is to adapt quickly and expect the unexpected.

For CMYK, I am determined to grow our wide format business and expand our stickers and signage offering. To make that a reality I will be investing in additional equipment. In fact, I already have my eye on a printer with orange or green ink, because I think the colours would be just unbelievable.

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