Relationships – Do They Matter?

Relationships Do They Matter for Printers and Publishers? 

The short answer, for those entrenched in the daily rush of activities that can only spare a few seconds of reading time, is YES.  Now go about your daily duties and catch up with your reading later.

For those that have completed the daily grind of activities, the golf course is not open today or just need something to read to pass some time, the answer is still YES but deserves a longer explanation.

I don’t need to tell you that the printing and publishing industry is changing, you know that (or at least should have some idea it is).   Nothing is the same today as it was a decade ago, a year ago, or even a week ago!   The players are changing things up, publishers fight to deliver content in the most profitable way, digital forces continue to creep into the territory of the printed piece, the sources of paper substrates are under immense cost pressure, transportation regulations and driver shortages are compounding, by now you get the picture.

Once competing organizations are now merging and acquiring just to stay alive.   Read the news daily and you’ll see this all around you.  Everyone knows that all paper machines always make paper, right?  Not anymore.    The remaining mills have had to reinvent themselves in the declining markets they serve.  Exploring options to create new sales platforms with additional value-added products, shutting down machines, closing entire mills, ceasing operations with little or no notice!  If you are in the printing and publishing industry and missed the last 12 months of mill announcements you really should cry help!  If you think the decisions at the paper mills are made by pure paper makers, think again, they are made by the investors and their desire to position themselves for the future.    They must just to survive!  If you have noticed lately all the pricing increases in the paper markets?  What is driving all of those, how do you stay ahead of it, how do you protect yourself from accepting every announced increase?

Logistics is changing just as fast.  New regulations and requirements are now in place, driver shortages, cost of fuel, all impacting their ability to get the product to the printer and once the project is complete out the door to your customer.  Hopefully you clearly understand your stellar printed piece isn’t servicing your customer if it isn’t delivered on time.  How do you control logistic costs, how do you ensure timely delivery of your product, how do you make sure your carrier isn’t going to sit on your product once in their hands?

Simple:  Relationships.  Most times we lose track of what is the most important factor when working with your key suppliers. Is it relationships, and I mean real relationships, or is it the cost?  It’s not the price, since price and cost are two different things, (we’ll save that explanation for another blog).  Some buyers focus entirely on the price, some buy their products strictly on the relationship.  I once had a purchasing manager tell me they worked with many suppliers, so they could get more “free lunches” from their suppliers each month.  Really, you would pay more for their goods and services to get free pizza?  Don’t get me wrong we all love to eat, but that’s an expensive way to eat more often.  Some focus only on the “price”, yes you read me using that forbidden word again.  If you only focus on the price, then you are not truly in tune with the cost.  Did I just say that? Yep.

So how do you couple relationships with no desire to pay extra for their product beyond it’s market value?  Simple, you cultivate a relationship and expect the lowest cost from the same supplier!

Suppliers have goods to sell that you need, your organization has a need to produce a product and make money.  I don’t know of any company in the business to deliberately lose money.  That includes printers and publishers.  Once a supplier realizes you value the relationship as much as the cost, it will change the atmosphere. It will provide lower costs and a partnership, both for your needs today and in the future.

A Gold Star for you if you have read this far and stayed awake!


Lots of fuss over relationships, really?  If you remember I told you how fast the markets and environments are changing.    I wouldn’t be surprised if another announcement was made by the time you read through this article.   Bury your head in the sand over the price and I assure you long term you will position yourself in a not so friendly place in the future and your price will go up.

So, what do you do about it?  Start building relationships that are coupled with a fair market cost for the products and services your organization needs.  Yes, be greedy, expect and desire both.  It can be done.  Publishers, now is the optimal time to cultivate a relationship with industry experts that can help pull those pieces together.

Need help with supplier relationships in the Printing and Publishing Industry?  We’ll help you for free (of course there is a catch but really no help, no cost) Contact us for more details at