I was sitting in the office of my biggest competitor here in Fargo as we were preparing to sign the sales contracts that would finalize the sale of his company to me. I was trying to make some small talk, and I asked him, “Where do you keep all of your printing magazines?” Over the previous few weeks I had the opportunity to tour the facility several times and had noticed that there weren’t any printing industry trade publications laying around anywhere. When he answered me, he said, “I don’t allow any books or magazines at all, of any kind, inside the building — I don’t want my employees getting any ideas.” When he said that, it caught me totally by surprise, and I remember sitting there in stunned silence because I didn’t know what to say. In all the years I’ve been in printing, I think it was the oddest thing a fellow printer has ever said to me.
Well, fast forward a few weeks to the time after the buyout was completed and I had moved my office into the new building. One day, I was having a casual conversation with a few of my new employees. I asked them if they knew why the previous owner wouldn’t allow any printing industry magazines or books in the building. The three employees I was conversing with were all in their mid-20s. These three said they’d never seen a “printing magazine” and didn’t know they existed. It was kind of humorous in one way, but kind of sad in another way to discover they had never even heard of American Printer, Quick Printing, or Printing Impressions magazine. Later that day, as I thought about our conversation, I made a decision to immediately subscribe to every printing and graphic arts publication I could find for the employees at my new location.
Through the years, I myself have learned so much about the printing industry by reading articles in our various printing industry trade publications. I’m sure that most of you feel the same way. Don’t we all want our employees to know as much as possible about the printing industry? Shouldn’t we do everything within reason to encourage our co-workers to read, study, and learn more about our industry? Knowledge is good for them, good for the company, and helps them provide better service to our customers.
When I started to systematically subscribe to all of the printing magazines and design magazines, there were actually more of them available than I realized. Truthfully, as time went by, I realized it was a little bit complicated to keep track of it all. So I set up a simple system to help keep it organized. It was easy and didn’t take much time. All I did was put some brackets on the wall of our employee lunchroom. On the brackets, I installed slanted shelving that made it easy to display the magazines so the employees could see them. When new magazines arrived, we knew exactly where everything went. It was a simple system of organization that made it very easy to keep track of the 20 to 25 magazines I subscribed to each month.
I installed our “magazine library” on a Saturday, and I can still remember how excited my employees were when they arrived for work on Monday and saw this gorgeous display of magazines in their lunchroom. They thought it was so-o-o-o cool. Through the years, we’ve kept utilizing this idea. It is one of the best things we’ve ever done. It is a low-cost, high-benefit idea because many of the magazines’ subscriptions are complimentary, while others can be purchased using what’s called a “professional subscription,” which provides deeply discounted subscription prices. I would estimate that the entire annualized cost of my magazine library is between $250 and $300 a year.
That is a very small investment for the tremendous amount of education and learning potential that is available for you and your co-workers.
I know this isn’t a marketing idea, but it has worked so well for me, I wanted to share it with you. The photo at the top of this blog post shows our current magazine library and the magazines we subscribe to. For an enlarged version of the photo, click here.