Thursday, April 1, 2010

At this year's IRGA Convention - the reprographics business and industry - "Future" - "Survival" - "Post Recession"

The IRGA annual convention will be held in Palm Springs, CA, May 19-21, 2010.

I will be attending this year’s convention. I hope to see some of you there.

I’ve been told by friends that attendance at this year’s convention will be down, compared to previous years. I had remarked, in a post I did about the 2009 convention (the one in Pittsburgh), that attendance at that convention was light, compared to previous years. Even though business is down, I encourage you to attend the convention, even if doing so is only so that you can network with others in the industry; this to talk about strategies for now and the future.

When I looked at the list of “presentations” and “educational breakout sessions” for this year’s convention (which you can find at, I was hoping to find at least one “breakout session” that would be kind of a real debate about “the future of the reprographics business and industry.” Even though there are a few presentations/sessions that look like they are going to talk about “future” and “survival” and “post recession”, I am sad to say that, apparently, NOT ONE OF THEM is really going to provoke the real debate that owners of reprographics businesses should be having … that debate being: the future of the reprographics business and industry from a sales and profitability perspective – especially considering future revenues from “prints-on-paper”, which, for most reprographers, represents 85% or more of their revenues.

Just a guess, but I would imagine that that particular topic is one topic that everyone dreads, and the one that no one really wants to debate or discuss. (Why not just bury our heads in the sand; whatever is going to happen, will happen, no matter what we do, so why bother to debate or discuss it? Or, As Alfred E. Newman might have put it, “What, Me Worry?”)

Here are the presentations/break-out sessions planned for the IRGA:

Paperless and Virtual – Future of the AEC Industry and Reprographics,
Bob Middlebrooks, Industry Programs Manager, Autodesk
Adapting to change and becoming an extension of a firm's every practice, with a strong portfolio of support options, is the key to future survival. Understanding the impact of these virtual technologies, the demographics of the market, the future needs of the design professional, and the future of a collaborative AEC industry will help you position yourself for those opportunities.

Joel’s comment: Well, even if one understands the “portfolio of support options” they should offer in the future, is that really going to be the “key” to their future survival? The “key” to future survival can be expressed much more simply: How, in the future, can I, and will I be able to, generate revenues that exceed my total costs?

Survival of the Reprographics Industry... Evolution
Shaun Meany, The PEiR Group
In this session Meany will discuss five effective strategies for positioning your reprographics business for success in the new economy. Owners and managers of reprographics companies are aware of many of the trends that are forcing the evolution of the reprographics industry but many do not know how to take advantage of these trends for maximizing sales, market share and profitability.

Joel’s comment: Well, Shaun is one of my favorite speakers. But, Shaun, survival will depend not just on taking advantages of trends and maximizing sales, market share and profitability, but on “the total sales” a company will need to generate in order to generate the total amount of profits the business owner will need to earn a decent living (and, someday, be able to afford to retire.) We cannot spend percentages, we can only spend dollars. If, in 2007, I had 180 employees and was doing $23 million in sales (and earning very decent profits), then even if, in 2011, I have twice the “profitability (percentage-wise)” that I had in 2007 - but my total profit dollars, for 2011, are well under what they were in 2007 – how is that survival? In other words, even if I adopt the five effective strategies Shaun is going to talk about, how am I going to survive if my prints-on-paper revenues decline by 50 or 60%? (unless, of course, I’m willing to seriously down-size my printing capabilities, my production facilities and my manpower, which is what the “real debate” should be about.)

The Amazing Race: What the Data Says about the Post-Recession Economy
Anirban Basu, Sage Policy Group, Inc.
The focus of this presentation will be the respective outlooks for the global and U.S. economies and implications for the reprographic industry. Particular attention will be given to the business performance, labor markets and risks to the economy.

Joel’s comment: I hope this speaker understands that reprographers are not just suffering, sales and profit-wise, because of the huge downturn in the design/development/construction industry, but are also suffering from two trends – “distribute-then-print” and “printing to CD’s and DVD’s instead of printing to paper” – that are serious and expected to accelerate in the future. If all this speaker is going to talk about is “when” the design/development/construction industry is going to come back to life, well, we all know that that rebound will happen, eventually. But, just because we see that rebound, does not guarantee that our industry’s revenues will pop-back-up commensurately (as was always the case when past recessions ended.)

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Joel’s last comment for this post: If you are going to be attending this year’s IRGA and want to get into a debate/discussion with others to debate the real question that should be debated this year – “what is the future of the reprographics business and industry and what will I need to do with my business in order to survive in the future and make enough money to warrant being in the business in the future?, well, then, I would encourage you to gather up people at the networking reception on Thursday night, then retire to someone’s hotel room or suite to get into this debate/discussion. I’d be happy to host such a get-together.

1 comment:

  1. Joel, as a Board Member of the IRgA, the Chair(wo)man of the IRgA Education Committee and Convention, I wanted to respond to your post. First, thanks for promoting IRgA Convention Attendance! We are working hard to make this a valuable and memorable show. Thanks, also, for highlighting some of the scheduled sessions - there are quite a few more that we are very excited to bring to our Membership.

    But specifically, I want to address this statement:
    'I was hoping to find at least one “breakout session” that would be kind of a real debate about “the future of the reprographics business and industry.'

    I am VERY excited to tell you and your readers that we are taking your idea of a 'debate' to a whole new level! We will employ a meeting technique called Open Space Technology. It is a forum for discussion to tackle exactly the topic you are asking for.

    Here is the description of the session, from the IRgA website ( Feel free to contact me anytime to discuss this concept.

    IRgA Presents "Open Space Technology"
    The Future of Reprographics: Where it is going and how can we change with it?

    1:30 p.m. - 3:30 p.m.
    At this year’s convention and for the first time, IRgA will host the innovative meeting concept known as "Open Space Technology" (OST). This simple yet productive session will focus on the topic: The Future of Reprographics: Where is it going and how can we change with it?
    This session is your opportunity to gather and discuss, from your unique viewpoint, how you view the industry as it emerges from its current paradigm shift of being a print provider to a technology service provider.

    The rest of the description can be found at the bottom of this page on the IRgA website:
    I'd love to discuss this with you more!
    Thanks Joel - as always, I enjoy your blog.