Chasing profitability in 2020

Financial experts are ‘cautiously optimistic’ as we explore predictions and issues that will affect your business decisions
Deloitte’s economic indicators for 2020 and the Royal Bank’s Economic and Financial Market report, reveal a cautiously optimistic economic outlook for 2020 that will set the stage for continued yet moderate growth. Both agree, however, that the Canadian economy will still remain susceptible to external shocks, especially political and trade risks. So, if you’re pondering expansion into foreign markets, check the political situation and cultural norms. Also, it won’t be until early 2020 when the impact of Canada’s 43rd parliament will be felt, and Canadians will have a better idea of how much money will be left in their wallets. Here are some predictions from experts and a look at some key issues that could impact your business decisions.
Debt. Debt-laden Canadians will keep their wallets open a bit in 2020. But, with threats that the Bank of Canada might increase interest rates, business owners need to remain vigilant. Shop owners with capital who want to expand, may choose to purchase complementary businesses to capture more market share. Plus, increasing revenue in 2020 will likely continue to be in ‘the details’ – that is, variable data printing and digital customization.
Expansion. Jay Mandarino, an expert on mergers & acquisitions (M&As) and President and CEO of C. J. Graphics, noted that because growing a business organically (one new client at a time) is becoming more difficult, expansions and M&As are booming. Upstream, printers are adding web-to-print, design, and data-management services. Downstream, they’re adding kitting, fulfillment and distribution services. But Mandarino cautioned: “The reality is that about 75% of M&As in the printing industry fail.” That’s because M&A’s are complicated. Beyond the financial due diligence that needs to be done, there are organizational, cultural and human-resource issues that must be addressed. If you’re contemplating a merger or acquisition, hiring a business professional with proven M&A experience to be ‘the middleman’ is a necessary move.
Employment. Steady economic growth should continue to keep our unemployment rate hovering at a low of 5.7%. The high demand for highly specialized employees will continue, yet many employers will delay hiring until the ideal employee is found. Canada’s federal and provincial strategies to boost its dwindling manpower with immigration will not be without its challenges. Accommodating new cultures will require that businesses incorporate a broader set of values into their organizational culture. A more diverse workforce will compel owners to radically re-think how they approach, deploy, develop and retain their most valuable resource – their employees. 
Technological change. The advancement of robotics, artificial intelligence and machine learning will change workflow patterns. Robotics will continue to muscle its way into pressrooms and shipping departments, taking over the ‘heave-and-haul’ jobs. On the other side, these technology shifts will require employees to possess more hands-on skills. Press operators will continue to need higher levels of education and advanced learning to be able to run, program and monitor these sophisticated machines. 
Management and leadership. As advanced technology becomes the norm in the workplace, shop owners and supervisors must step up their skill levels to ensure success in the digital age. At the most basic level, they must be able to lead others, delegate appropriately, make sound decisions and have outstanding problem solving and negotiating skills. They must also have a deep understanding of the major trends that are influencing, and will influence, their industry. They must be tech-savvy while constantly assessing new and updated technologies for their applicability to their business model. Today’s leaders must also be lifelong learners willing to take courses to upgrade their skills. Leaders must be mindful of building and maintaining their personal reputation and business brand.
Finally, be forewarned! Recent research (Weikle, 2019) suggests that two out of five Canadian professionals quit a job because of a bad boss. Mike Shekhtman, Regional VP for Robert Half, sums it up this way: “It’s not about controlling people or things. It’s about inspiring.” Owners and pressroom supervisors have an incredible amount of influence in creating and cultivating a print shop’s culture. They can create either a happy environment where employees look forward to coming to work each day, or a toxic workplace that’s unproductive and full of daily strife.

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