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Business + Management: Marty Mcghie

Delivering Price, Speed, and Quality

The customer demands all three–and probably sooner than later.




Many years ago, I observed a sign in a small shop that read:
“Price. Speed. Quality. You may pick two of the three.”

At the time I read that sign, our company was quite small,
struggling to keep our key customers happy and grow market
share at the same time. We discussed this as managers and
decided that this could be a worthwhile credo to live by. If, in fact,
we could get our clients to make a choice of two out of three, we
could certainly service them well. For example, if they want the
best price and the highest quality, they would have to live with a
longer than usual timeframe. Or, if a quick turnaround was necessary
but quality still had to
be high, they'd better get out
their checkbooks. And lastly,
if they wanted it fast at the
best price, they would have
to sacrifice quality.

Looking back, we were
na??ve. We soon discovered
that, amazingly enough, a lot
of our customers”?usually
our best ones”?wanted all
three: the highest quality,
produced within the necessary
time requirements, at the best price. And with the development
of the digital world, our wish to provide the “best two out of
three” program completely disappeared.

Today, we all understand and accept that the customer
demands all three. Indeed, if you are unable to provide your customer
with the best product, when they want, at the best price,
you will lose your client”?and probably sooner than later.

Price and the technology factor

Pricing products is one of the most difficult challenges we face.
Technology plays a huge role in your pricing decisions. You may
own brand-new equipment that produces high-quality output at
amazing speeds, which, by itself, would seem to be a great
advantage. But alas, this equipment is probably quite expensive
and your pricing structure needs to take into account paying for
the technology. Conversely, you may find yourself in a price war
with competitors owning old (read “cheap”) technology, which is
perhaps less efficient but is already paid for.


It's difficult to know which circumstance would carry the
pricing advantage”?both can be effective. Regardless of which
situation you may be operating within, pricing has as much to do
with understanding the price points in your market and knowing
what each of your key customers is willing to pay.

The best scenario you can work for is to provide a highenough
level of service to your top clients to ensure that they
will let you know when your price is too high. This allows you the
chance to adjust price and still produce the job. Of course, this
situation is contingent upon your ability to perform well within
our other two arenas”?speed and quality.

Speed within realistic frameworks

If you wish to compete in today's graphics world, the bottom line
is that you must meet your customers' deadlines. It doesn't
really matter how unreasonable they may seem; the fact is, if
you aren't willing to meet their demands, there is a competitor
out there who will.

Granted, sometimes there may be some negotiation as to
timeframes in order to meet reality”?I'm tempted here to
expound on some of my customers' versions of reality. But you
have to build a business model suited to quick turns and on-time
deliveries in order to survive.

Quality, regardless


After more than 12 years in the business of producing graphics,
I'm still amused when we work to meet a “hard” deadline for a
customer, only to find that there is an issue with job quality and
it has to be redone. Suddenly, the deadline has become a lot
more “flexible,” providing ample time to produce a redo.

Attaining the necessary quality when battling time and price
can be an exercise in frustration. But, again, today's customer
demands the right to expect top quality regardless of price and
turnaround times. Tough experience has taught us that it never
works to send out a job produced with inferior quality in order to
meet a customer deadline. A better solution is to discuss any
quality issues with the client, even if it costs some time”?this
ensures that they are paying for the best product possible. Customers
can usually live with the latter case.

Best at all three

From time to time I still think about the sign I read way back then.
I chuckle that we believed we could have it that way. These days,
competition for your clients is tough. Not only do you need to provide
your customers with the best-quality products, produced on
time, at the right price”?you had better be the best at all three.

Marty McGhie ([email protected]) is VP finance/
operations of Ferrari Color, a digital-imaging center with Salt
Lake City, San Francisco, and Sacramento locations.




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