How to improve everything

Publishing businesses are under continuing pressure to reduce costs, in a competitive market. But there’s no need to do it all yourself. Instead, take advantage of innovations happening outside your business.

I don’t much like the word ‘innovation’, but it’s all the rage. The idea is that trying new things is the only way to improve your business – if what you’re doing now isn’t working as well as you’d like, clearly ‘new’ is the order of the day!

The problem is, I believe, that ‘new’ isn’t what is needed. Novelty for novelty’s sake helps no one.

Rather, what we’re all looking for is ‘better’. So, rather than innovation, I much prefer to talk about ‘improvement’.

The hard ways When faced with a demand to make things better, most business are tempted to follow one of two routes.

  • Build it yourself.
    The first temptation for many businesses is to try and solve the problem themselves. Assuming you clearly understand the problem, this can be a good option, but it takes a lot of time, effort and (of course) money. All of this distracts from things your team could be doing that actually earn money for the business!
  • Buy a solution from the big guys.
    When that option seems too daunting, when you don’t really understand the problem in the first place, or when you’re trying to keep your team ‘on task’, it’s very tempting to go the big suppliers and buy their ‘off the shelf’ solution. The problem here is that the solution they sell probably won’t fit your business. You’ll have to make a lot of changes to fit in with how the ‘solution’ expects you to work.
    Worse, these big solutions usually try to solve everything that your business does. This means that you often have to make lots of changes even in places you weren’t actually trying to improve at the moment. So, the new finance system can affect the operations and sales teams. The new production system can affect marketing and customer support.

The smart way

Fortunately, there’s another option. It takes more effort than buying a black box from a large supplier, but far less than building something yourself. It lets you solve one problem at a time, without affecting other teams unduly, without needing your staff to spend months building specifications and testing in-house solutions.

  • Meet the Innovators.
    OK, so I don’t like the word ‘innovator’, but there are a lot of startups, suppliers and sundry small businesses out there who can help you solve your problems in a more targeted way. They can help you articulate your problem – either because they’ve experienced it themselves or by providing targeted consultancy. And they can provide svelte, well-engineered solutions without trying to make you replace your entire IT suite at once.

Obviously, if you are looking to save time and money on your proofing process, come and talk to us about Futureproofs.

But, if you’re at the London Book Fair next week (14-16 April 2015), take a look at those small stalls tucked away in the corners. Or drop by stand 6E10 with the Independent Publishers’ Guild and ‘Meet the Innovators‘. They’ve gathered ten varied small companies who are addressing everything from design to workflows to datafeeds.

Use the right solution for the right problem, don’t buy that save ‘one size fits all’ platforms that won’t actually fit in reality and will probably just give you buyer’s remorse. Find someone who understands what you’re trying to do and will help you do that, without trying to sell you fourteen other things along with it.

Because it’s hard enough to be a successful publishing business. Don’t make things harder by using the wrong tools.

Posted on 7 Apr 2015
Written by John Pettigrew

Hat wearer, recovering editor and now CEO & Founder of We Are Futureproofs, John Pettigrew has 20 years of experience in educational, illustrated and academic publishing, and a history of successful print and digital product development.