Are You a True Print Entrepreneur?

Since the dawn of printing, we have all thought of ourselves as entrepreneurs––industry leaders who provide a specialized service to fulfill a market need and make a decent profit. In the past ten years, however, we have seen a drastic decline in the global revenue of printing. Regardless of the state of the current economy, I can’t help but ask, are we really entrepreneurs? Are we doing everything we can to provide services that will generate revenue? Or are we just doing what we know best and hoping that it all comes out OK in the end?

Well, my recent trip to Greece opened my eyes to what a real entrepreneur or salesperson can be. Maybe they don’t know all the sophisticated sales techniques that we are taught or possess the sophistication of current technology, but they get the job done and they make a profit. Here are two examples:

The first took place at a wedding. We were all sitting down for the reception, having a marvelous time eating our souvlaki and tzatziki, when something bright happened. A photographer demanded everyone pose for a quick picture––in groups or alone––and as the table was circumvented by her flash, in that same instant, she was gone! A foreigner like me would think nothing of it and chalk it up to a pushy wedding photographer. But I was wrong. I followed the photographer around and then outside to her car when she finished. After taking a picture of everyone at the reception (nearly 800) she proceeded to print directly from her camera to a quick inkjet printer in her car running off a power inverter to convert 12 volt DC into 220 volt AC. It was brilliant. She shot and printed almost 1,000 photos in under an hour or two. The photographer then proceeded to go table to table trying to sell the photos for five euros each. I figured she would have to sell at least 15–25% of her photos to make a profit, but she did much better than that, arriving with a stack that two hands could hardly hold and leaving with less than a pinch in one hand!

I witnessed the second example of Greek entrepreneurialism while driving through Kavala. We were coming home after a morning of shopping (my least favorite activity), so I was naturally in a less-than-decent mood. But who knew that two men, a motor scooter, and a laser printer could change my mood faster than the smell of ink in the morning. While we were driving through the center of the city at about 50 KPH, a motor scooter flew past at over 80 KPH carrying two men, one driving and the second grasping an office laser printer. Now, I know this really has nothing to do with the printing industry, but it shows the ambition of people with a slight relationship to the industry. I for one would never dream of transporting a laser printer this way. But these two men had a need and came to a very quick solution. I pressed on in my 1.4-liter Nissan Note to try to keep up and see where they were headed. But the maneuverability and speed of this printer-boosting duo was no match for my car nor my ambition. I can only imagine that if they were so inclined to use this form of transportation, it was for a good cause.

So, what’s my point? Well, for starters, it’s eye-opening to see what people on the other side of the world will do to generate revenue. And, secondly, it’s to inspire all who consider themselves entrepreneurs to find new, interesting techniques. I only hope that this was mildly inspiring and greatly funny for you to read. As I write this on the flight home while my wife and baby are sleeping, after spending three weeks with them and the in-laws, this has proved to be quite possibly the most fun I have had on this “vacation.”

So, what international experiences can you share that have inspired you to be a better entrepreneur?

Author: John Mehl


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