Baseball and Business

Posted in Business Philosophy on July 27, 2014

TonyLaRussaYou may know that Tony La Russa, one of my all time favorite baseball coaches, is being inducted into the baseball Hall of Fame this year (2014). Tony was interviewed on NPR and had the following to say about his management style:

“Our style is very relationship driven, hands on, earning respect and trust, and showing players you cared for them . . .”

“We had a responsibility to, each year starting at zero, earn the respect and trust of our players. You know, you’re honest because that’s how they trust you. You have helpful things to say because that’s how they respect you. And you care for them, care what’s happening with their family and their private life, to the extent they open the door, and you care about what’s happening to them as a teammate. Then, by the way, that’s what they’re expected to do with each other.”

At PPI, we aspire to trusting, respectful relationships with employees, customers and suppliers, and we hope to inspire passion in those relationships. What better role model than Tony La Russa!


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Ugly Logo Contest

Posted in Business Philosophy / Design on May 10, 2014

SwissCommLogoMy wife and I were traveling in Switzerland last year and we were frequently confronted with the ugliest, most visually disturbing logo I can remember; the logo for SwissCom, the Swiss telecommunications giant.  The graphics committee (it had to be a committee) responsible for this should be lined up and shot.

Ideally a logo is a simple visual description, generally with the following design objectives:

       Visual clarity with bold, simple design elements

       Visual impact in 1 color or full color

       Works in all mediums (paper, banners, internet, etc)

       Maintains visual elements when reduced or enlarged

       Ideally conveys

o   What business you are in

o   Image (eg old fashioned, cutting edge, honest, high-end, successful)

o   How your business is different

Now I’m not suggesting this is an easy process. In fact, it can be a hard intellectual and visual mountain to climb. It is a wearying and expensive process so we are easily seduced by inferior ideas.

In my experience, the best insurance is a faithful pit bull designer that won’t let go, chewing and chewing until a brilliant idea takes shape.

As a practical matter, most of us are not SwissCom with thousands of dollars at our disposal for logo design.  On a budget, I suggest engaging an experienced graphics designer (we have several to choose from). Meet with the designer armed with concise answers to the above questions: “what business”, “image”, and “differentiation”, and examples of logos you like. Hint: Google logos or logo design.

If you have entries for our ugly logo contest, please email an image and where you encountered the monstrosity.


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Posted in Business Philosophy / Printing Products on March 10, 2014

why“To fulfill a dream, to be allowed to sweat over lonely labor, to be given the chance to create, is the meat and potatoes of life. The money is the gravy. As everyone else, I love to dunk my crust in it. But alone, it is not a diet designed to keep body and soul together.” Bette Davis


In business, we often talk about what we do or how we do it, but we don’t often talk about why.


At PPI, this is the why:


We enjoy and embrace the challenge of a demanding and often treacherous business and economic climate. To grow and thrive requires us to throw out the status quo, to continuously ask “How can we do that better, cheaper, faster, more efficiently?” or “What can we do to make our customers more successful?” or “What will make our customers happy, or even wildly enthusiastic?”.


We thrive on the satisfaction of achievement in work, the satisfaction of cooperating with each other, and the satisfaction of participating in the growth and maturity of the business.


What an incredible privilege it is to live in a country where we are free to pursue our dreams, where we are limited only by our imagination and our willingness to work hard.


Shameless SEO plug for our business: We can help with your packaging requirements: product cartons, inserts, labels (product, carton, barcode), plastic bags, shrink sleeves.



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Electronic Invoicing, Fool’s Gold?

Posted in Business Philosophy / Printing Products on February 09, 2014

flyingmoneyI have been vindicated! I get testy with vendors that send invoices via email. They go to spam, they go to the wrong person, they fall outside the normal flow of our invoice payment processing, and frequently we have to answer phone calls regarding non payment of these invoices. In other words, they become exceptions and in our business we work hard to minimize exceptions.

A recent post at,, documents an excellent study by Danish company Natur-Energi that concludes “it cost the company $3.25 per customer to get paid by paper invoice and $5.75 per customer billed by e-mail.” This, despite the fact postage in Denmark is almost twice United States postage.

Read the post for the complete backstory, and keep those postal invoices coming.


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Service: The Truth Exposed

“Everybody’s excited about the new service economy, even though there is no
actual service as near as I can tell.” – Ian Shoales writing in Intelligent Enterprise

We see the word “service” throughout business literature and jargon, yet never
a clue about what it means. For example, the expression “service is our business”.
What the heck does that mean?

At PPI, we want our employees and customers to know exactly where we set the bar,
so following are our service aspirations:

  1. Prompt estimates with thorough specifications. We’ll honor urgent requests. Otherwise,
    4 hours for a simple estimate, 24 hours (occasionally longer) for complex estimates.
  2. Prompt, within two hours, response to emails or phone messages.
  3. Regular communication:
    • When you can expect an estimate.
    • When your project will be complete.
    • Status updates for lengthy projects.
    • Follow up after completion.
  4. We take the time to thoroughly understand your project and make recommendations
    when appropriate.
  5. Meet expected completion dates. Our on time delivery rate is 99.9%+.
  6. We keep our promises. If we make a promise you can take it to the bank.
  7. Resourcefulness. We take pride in finding solutions to unusual or demanding projects.
  8. Most important of all, to carry out your service expectations, we are committed to
    finding and keeping the most knowledgeable and professional people in our industry. I
    think you’ll agree that we have great folks at PPI.

Of course, we’re constantly looking for ways to improve. For example, we are currently
implementing software that will provide faster and improved estimate communications. And
we’re careful to listen to our clients for suggestions, or even criticism. I appreciate the
opportunity to learn your service expectations.



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Screamin’ Small and Cheap

Posted in Printing Products on October 01, 2013


I started my first business (financial consulting) in 1981 with meager savings, a wife and 2 small kids at home, and a relentless mortgage payment. I was scared. Even so, I spent a large chunk of my startup capital on professionally designed and printed stationery. Working out of a home office, it was important that I project an image of credibility and trustworthiness. And it worked! Prospects took me seriously and I managed to build a successful business.

Businesses, particularly service businesses, are as much about psychology as they are about products and prices. The reason I say this is because research has repeatedly shown that buyers make decisions based on how they feel, and then attempt to back up their decision with facts. Buyers want to feel good about doing business with your company. They expect good products and services but they also expect professionalism, integrity, cleanliness, a successful image, good communication and good organization.

Take a look at your image with fresh eyes, everything from logo and stationery to forms to your office carpet. Is it screamin’ small and cheap? Is it tired, stodgy, or dated? Or does it project energy, cutting edge, stability, efficiency?  Is it saying: I’m ready to do business?

As a young accountant fresh out of college, with parents barely removed from the farm, I was something of a rube, a hayseed if you will. Nevertheless, I was brash and competitive and trying to make an impact on the business world.  I didn’t know the ups and downs I would take along the way, but hey, that’s part of life.

Someone recommended the book Dress for Success by John Malloy. I got it, read it, and a light came on. If I expected others to see me as successful, I had to not only be the part, but look the part.  After reading that book, I finally had the knowledge to dress appropriately.

Every contact with a client or prospective customer is an opportunity to make a statement about your business. For example, I went in a doctor’s office the other day and of course they gave me a multi-page form to complete. The form had been copied so many times that it was barely legible and was skewed 1/2” on the page. It made the clinic look CHEAP and made me feel that my information was not important.

“For good or ill, your conversation is your advertisement. Every time you open your mouth you let men look into your mind. Do they see it well clothed, neat, businesswise?” ~ Bruce Burton ~

Every form, phone call, invoice, delivery, email, website visit or other contact reinforces your company’s image, for better or for worse. How is your business being perceived? Small and cheap, large and impersonal, unprofessional or professional, disorganized or organized, technologically sophisticated, on a fast track, growing or stagnant, old fashioned, warm and friendly, sense of humor, expensive. Well, you get the idea.

Particularly important is that first contact where the recipient will, very quickly and very subjectively, slide you into a category.  If you are involved in developing new business for your company you know how difficult it is to overcome any first-contact negatives. First impressions do make lasting impressions- remember that.

Checklist for written communication:

 “The shape of your sign, your logo, the type style used on your business cards will have a significant impact on sales whether you care to think about it or not!”  ~The E Myth Revisited by Michael Gerber~

The starting point for written communication is your logo and stationery layout. Amateurish design is painfully obvious so please consult a professional graphic designer. They should show you a number of ways to graphically tell the story of your business in a visually interesting way. A logo might be out-of-date due to old-fashioned design or possibly due to a change in objectives of the business.

Take a fresh look (or have a graphics professional take a look) at every form, brochure, e-mail, or any electronic or paper communication used in your business. Make sure they are accurate, professionally designed, and a positive reflection on your business.

Grammatical and spelling errors are pet peeves with me, and I suspect many others. We often call to double check spelling of the recipient’s name before we mail (or e-mail) correspondence. Spell checkers are painless and anyone that doesn’t use them should be bludgeoned.

Thanks for taking the time to read my blog. Until next time, Gerald.


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Work Like You Don’t Need the Money

Posted in Human Resources on August 17, 2013

dancing“Work like you don’t need the money. Love like you’ve never been hurt. Dance like nobody’s watching.” – Satchel Paige

I got to thinking about what that means, to “work like you don’t need the money”? To me, it means to be:

       Fearless. You’re not worried about losing your job, so you work with courage and conviction.

       Passionate. You’re working because you like it so you’re likely to have fire and enthusiasm.

       Confident. Your value is tied to knowledge and hard work.

       Positive. You find reasons to like and enjoy work and it’s obvious by the smile on your face. 

Those are high standards and I hope you are fortunate enough to meet them because I believe they are also the keys to success and happiness.

Now, if my wife will just let me “dance as if nobody’s watching”. . .


Shameless plug for our business:

Over the last couple of years we have been outfitting our sales reps and executives with Cutter & Buck shirts embroidered with our company logo. We are crazy about the shirts because they are well made, fit great, and have lots of little touches that improve wearability and longevity. Try Cutter & Buck and you won’t wear anything else.


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Growing Up

Posted in Business Philosophy on July 08, 2013

“The only way that we can live is if we grow. The only way that we can grow is if we change. The only way that we can change is if we learn. The only way we can learn is if we are exposed. And the only way that we can become exposed is if we throw ourselves out into the open.”
C. JoyBell C.


growing-up-is-never-easyGrowing a business is a lot like raising kids. Every stage of development is exciting, and another test of management, or parenting, skills.


So I’m excited about the investment we’re making to increase direct sales efforts. Our plan is to hire a sales manager and two additional salespeople over the next 12 – 18 months. In the interim, Dave Fellman, a nationally recognized sales management and sales training expert, is working with our sales staff.


Like most growing companies, we have to be smart about how we invest our limited resources. We’re very cautious about adding management but in order to continue growing it’s time we moved beyond my limited sales management skills.


For our customers, we expect salespeople to be accessible, to be knowledgeable, and to be up-to-date on technology.


If you know anyone that might be a great fit for our sales positions (Memphis and / or Tupelo), please ask them to check out:


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A Warm Thank You

Posted in Printing Industry / Printing Products on June 30, 2013

Thank YouIt’s human nature; we all want to feel appreciated, we all want to feel that we are important to those we care about and respect. The warmest and most unique way I know to express your appreciation, sympathy, admiration, encouragement and thanks, is with a handwritten note.

Making time in your busy life to pen a few lines to a friend in a handwritten note, sealed inside a hand-addressed envelope, has the power to impress, or to caress, in a way no other form of communication can.

And don’t think these touches are lost on the young people in your life. Despite email, texting and social networking, mail that is written and addressed specifically to them is appreciated.

We have printed thousands of custom cards and envelopes for businesses, churches, non-profits and individuals, but (I can’t believe I’m writing this) handwritten notes don’t have to be on nice stationery. In fact, it can be fun to pen a note (perhaps including some witty comment) on a napkin, a popsicle stick, book of matches, or anything out of your junk or memory drawer that you can write on.

If you do choose to have note cards and envelopes printed, make sure your name and address (and logo if applicable) go on the flap, not the face of the envelope. If intended for business, please make logos and other branding subtle. Stick with standard sizes such as A7 and rich papers for a very personal feel.

More tips:

Don’t worry about your handwriting, just slow down when writing.

Keep it short and conversational.

Make it a habit. You will be well rewarded.

Warm regards,



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I Am the Human Resources Department

Posted in Human Resources / Printing Industry on June 15, 2013

HRToonOur companies are large enough (22 employees and growing) that we are constantly hiring, evaluating, motivating, and yes, occasionally even firing. It is time consuming and hard work but absolutely critical to our future success, so I do it myself.
Despite a rigorous hiring process, I sometimes (more often than I like) hire the wrong person, and that is discouraging.
But the favorite part of my job is when it works. When we hire a “star” who thrives on the challenge, appreciates our coworkers, and comes to work with a smile on their face and a song in their heart. It is such a joy to watch them blossom, gaining confidence and the respect of coworkers.
I can’t take the credit because many of our “stars” were here long before I arrived, but it is so rewarding, a lot of fun, and such an honor to be part of our great employee group.
I hope you are already a member of our PPI family but, if not, I hope you have the opportunity to get to know us. You’ll be warmly welcomed.


Obligatory comments to boost SEO:

We are dedicated to being experts in the graphics industry. Many of our customers expect us to be knowledgeable about everything from pencils to books, brochures to banners, and design to distribution.

Some of our products: note pads, catalogs, mugs, post cards, calendars, brochures, lanyards, table tents, business cards, displays, pens, pocket folders, highliters, banner stands, invitations, note cards, hardbound or softbound books, invoices, binders, retail price tags, envelopes, manuals, lapel buttons, door hangers, menus, labels, car magnets, stickers, newsletters, cups, prescription pads, pallet sheets, sell sheets, banners, dividers, bookmarks, flyers, shelf tags, greeting cards, signs, vehicle wraps, dvd covers, letterhead, booklets, badge reels, forms, t-shirts, stationery, statements, tear off cards, product tags, posters, and much more!

Some of our services: layout and design, database maintenance, mailing, fulfillment, distribution, kit building, photography, email marketing, branded web to print storefronts, print management, and much more!

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