2017 Benchmark Testimonials Pour In…

If you’re having doubts as to whether you should order the latest, 2017-2018 Financial Benchmarking Study, read some of the early testimonials we have received in the past few days. This new study is available at a record-setting low, low price of only $115, including S&H. This study is sold on a 100% money-back guarantee. All orders are processed and shipped same day as received. Must be placed by 2 p.m. to be shipped same day.

Now here are some of the kind words offered by fellow printers…

Just wanted to say how good it is to see how my business is compared to others in the industry. Just a quick look at the key profit ratios – gross profit, cost of goods sold, salaries, and net profit and I know which areas of my business I need to improve. This is a great tool to help focus on the key areas to take my business in the right direction.

Manish Patel, Kwik Kopy Business Center
Frisco, TX

John, I have always (when available) used the Financial Benchmark Studies to guide my 33-year-old business. I have found it the best way to keep track of business. How else do you compare yourself to the winners and losers? I watch and follow the winners. And that’s what I consider myself. My net worth is now in the millions and I work two days a week. Working these days keeps my mind sharp and it is almost like getting paid to have a hobby.

Bill Howard, Princeton
Printer of Princeton, Princeton, NJ

While it is difficult to self-examine businesses we are close to, it helps so much to have peer review and comparison to either spur us on or pat us on the back as the case might be. It’s a great chance to come out of the minutia of a day and really get an excellent evaluation of where we are and where we can improve. Thanks for the study. I will review it frequently.

Tom Short, Trademark Printing,
Cookeville, TN

The Benchmark studies help us compare our business to others in the industry. Without it, how do you know if it’s just you having the problem or if your firm should be doing better than it is?

Michael Brown, Sir Speedy,
Havertown, PA

The Financial Benchmarking Study is one book in the Printer’s Bible. When my father passed away back in 1988, I was 26-years-old and didn’t have a lot of experience. I joined NAQP, met John Stewart, and I have participated and grown for the past 37 years because of the benchmarking value in these reports. They are priceless when it comes to knowing where the financial numbers ‘should be.’

Mike Henle, Henle Printing Co.,
Marshall, MN

The Benchmarking Study is the single most important study for success in the quick print industry. The opportunity to see where highly successful and less than successful printing companies are landing in terms of their cost of goods, payroll and their overhead ratios is a tremendous resource to be used to gauge your own business…. Are you charging enough compared to what you are spending on the products that you sell? Is your payroll in line with similar firms in today’s market? These are measurements that are readily available in the pages of the Benchmark Study.

Jeff Swales, GM, XPress Printing, Inc.,
Sisters, OR

I have been running my small print shop for 32 years. During that time I have relied on the Financial Benchmark Study to help keep me up to date with national trends. In my opinion, everyone who owns a print shop should participate, then fully read and understand what our industry is doing nationwide.

Ralph Dunavant, American Printing & Promotions,
Manassas, VA

Running the printing portion of this business is easy compared to doing the financial side. The surveys and ratio studies that John Stewart and NPRC produce are an enormous benefit. Participating and utilizing them will make a huge difference to your bottom line.

Danny Correll, First Impressions Printing & Design,
Springfield, MO

There are few resources for small to mid-size printers more valuable than the Financial Benchmarking Study John Stewart and Larry Hunt generate biennially. We use this report to evaluate where we are as a company as well as being able to to insure we are making the right decisions to remaiin viable as a company. The report shines a bright light on areas that we need to improve and reinforces our belief in what we are doing right. Without this report and other surveys produced by this team, we would be at a significant disadvantage to the larger print providers.

Jim Fairweather, Hudson Printing,
Carlsbad, CA

Turning Printing Firms Around…

Turning Printing Companies Around One Firm at a Time!
By John Stewart… Between the late 1990s and well into the first decade of this century I made my living providing individualized, on-site consulting services to printing firms throughout the U.S. and abroad. I sometimes joke with folks that while my short-term memory has really gotten bad recently, I can recall almost every single detail, including the layout of the shop and the problems encountered, involving the 400+ consulting visits I undertook in those days.

I consulted with printers in almost every state in the U.S. including two separate firms in Alaska. I also traveled to Australia, Brazil and Venezuela, the latter visit being exceptionally memorable because to this day I still vividly remember the press operators using gasoline as a press wash! I was still smoking in those days, but I was not alone – the press operators seemed fine with have a cigarette themselves as they washed up their presses!

I’ve often thought I could put on a pretty interesting seminar about all those consulting visits, and one of the first stories I would probably tell would be one about the owner of a business, who during an early morning conversation, asked me to step outside for some additional privacy.

Once outside, he confessed with a couple of tears running down his cheek that he had a personal crisis on his hands, a crisis so bad in his own mind that he had seriously contemplated suicide. He told me he actually had been thinking about taking this action during the past few weeks and was actually waiting to hear what advice I might have to offer.

“Once outside, he confessed with a couple of tears running down his cheek that he had a personal crisis on his hands, a crisis so bad in his own mind that he had seriously contemplated suicide.”

Someday, I hope to write more detailed account about that visit, but suffice it to say it we were able to resolve his major personal problems far quicker than many situations I had encountered in the past. The solution to his problem was so simple I still shake my head that it took a visit from me to resolve the problem.

The Secret Tool I Used

The problems I encountered during my many consulting visits covered the gamut from brand new owners perplexed as how to proceed with their new business to dealing with cantankerous owners who hated their employees and couldn’t wait to get out of the business. The variety of situations I encountered amazes me even to this day. I recall a couple that broke out into a horrendous argument in front of me and their employees. I remember another owner who had a heart of gold and believed she should clock-in on the time clock just to prove she was one of the team members.

Occasionally, I even found myself being hired by couples who were in the midst of purchasing a printing firm but had no hands-on experience doing so. They wanted a quick primer on the industry and that’s what I often ended up offering – an intense two-day seminar, sometimes in their living rooms, about the printing industry, especially what is often referred to even today as the “quick printing” of the industry.

During those many years of on-site consulting, I had one distinct advantage over other consultants in the printing industry – I had been the co-author of one of the printing industry’s oldest and most beneficial studies of all – the Printing Industry’s Operating Ratio Reports.

As the author and publisher of what is now referred to as the printing industry’s Financial Benchmarking Studies, I almost always brought along a couple of copies to share with clients. I invariably ended up using the facts and key ratios highlighted in these studies to illustrate my observations about achieving high levels of profitability. These studies, especially the benchmarking studies, turned out to be my “secret consulting tools” that I used during my consulting visits.

“These studies, especially the benchmarking studies, turned out to be
my ‘secret consulting tools’ that I used during my consulting visits.”

If the above sounds like a plug for the just-released 2017-2018 Financial Benchmarking Study I guess it is, although it was unintended when first written. I do know, deep in my heart, that the value of the information contained in these studies is unmatched, and I only wish I had the one-on-one time to convince printers that they ought give serious thought to ordering their own copy.

Visit www.printingresearch.org for more information. Remember too that this study is sold on a 100% money-back guarantee. No questions asked.

Key Ratios and Profit Quartiles

During a typical on-site consulting visit, it was not unusual for me to spend two to three hours reviewing some of the key financial data contained in these studies. I would often turn to my favorite section in the studies, the “profitability quartiles,” and point out the kinds of key ratios these folks needed to achieve to succeed in the industry. “You need to study this stuff, just like when you were in school, and commit some of these figures to memory,” I would preach.

By the end of a typical visit, I would leave with them a copy of the benchmarking report with various sections high-lighted with a yellow marker and a number pages with either a paperclip at the top or the corners turned down.

“Look, your payroll costs, compared to the companies in the top 25-35% of the industry, are way out of line. The bottom line is not that you are paying folks too much, but rather you have far more employees than you need to sell what you are selling. If you want to succeed and really prosper in this industry, you need to make some hard decisions before I leave,” I would tell them.

Sometimes, I would really get excited trying to emphasize key industry trends and point out the changes that had occurred in the industry. By the time I concluded a visit, the typical client had been provided an abundance of data indicating the steps needed in order to truly improve their profitability.

I remember one unusual consulting assignment I undertook that involved visiting four firms (all members of a specific franchise) within the course of a single week. I spent one day with each client. By the end of three of the visits, I remember talking to Mary and describing an unusual rash that had developed on my neck.

I described the rash and how it was bothering me, and without missing a beat she said, “You know of course what is causing your rash, don’t you?” I said “no,” and she told me the rash was being caused by all the individual crises I had previously described to her during the week. Every day I would call her first thing in the morning and describe what had transpired the previous day, and unbeknownst to me, I had been describing to her the types of situations that would make many individuals breakout in a terrible rash!

“You know of course what is causing your rash, don’t you?” I said “no,” and she told me the rash was being caused by all the individual crises I had previously described to her during the week.

Sometimes, before I left, we were able to turn raw data taken from these benchmarking studies, into practical action steps that needed to be taken in the next few days. It wasn’t that difficult, after spending a couple of days on site, to determine who were the productive employees that needed to be kept and those employees that were clearly expendable. Tough decisions for sure, but then again making tough decisions is what it takes to run a profitable business.

Sometimes, the problems facing a company were not quite as obvious, but I never recall a consulting visit where I did not feel I had left the owners with sound recommendations as to how they could improve their profitability and the overall operations of the firm. I estimate that 80% or more of the problems I encountered during these consulting visits were directly related to problems uncovered during an examination of their financial statements.

I am still amazed even today at the number of owners who send me financial statements lacking the most basic element of a profit & loss statement – the ratios (percentages) that should appear adjacent to each expense item that breakout the expense item as a percent of total sales.

Leading a Horse to Water
I am sometimes amused when I read some of the thousands of posts that appear on some of the industry listservs to notice how very, very few posts seem to question or deal with financial ratios in the printing industry. It often amazes me to read how many owners are so consumed with discussing equipment selection, solving personnel problems, running kraft envelopes and where to to buy golf shirts while seeming to ignore issues that I think ought to dominate every listserv. Firms that desire to move to the head of the pack need to spend a lot more time analyzing and improving key profitability ratios and spending far less time worrying about sourcing kraft envelopes and ball caps.

Proofing the above paragraph leads me to wonder how I ever attracted any followers or friends in this industry! <g>

“It often amazes me to read how many owners are so consumed with discussing equipment selection, solving personnel problems, running kraft envelopes and where to to buy golf shirts while seeming to ignore issues that I think ought to dominate every listserv.”

Almost everyone is familiar with the saying, “You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink.” Well, that saying is quite appropriate when it comes to convincing printers how important and how valuable a benchmarking study can be to their business and the bottom line.

Ironically, most industries and most of the trade associations that serve them, simply do not publish operating ratio studies, and when they do, they often are under appreciated and rarely get the “rave” reviews they deserve. The printing industry is a case in point. The printing industry was one of the first major industries in the U.S. to publish operating ratio studies, but historically it has always been difficult to encourage printers to participate in the initial surveys or to purchase a study after it was published.

Unfortunately, you can’t make an owner participate in these surveys nor can you make them purchase a study and put into practice what they might discover inside if they spent the two to three hours (that’s really all it takes) required to really master what these studies have to offer.

Ratios Worth Analyzing

There are many ratios worth examining when running a printing business, but if the typical owner just concentrated on learning and mastering three key ratios they could easily surpass the profitability levels of most in this industry. Owners need to fully understand how to control and adjust ratios dealing with (1) payroll costs (all costs, direct and indirect, excluding those attributed to a single owner), (2) cost of goods and (3) overhead costs.

When you can analyze what other companies, similar in size to your own are reporting for these ratios, and when you can look at a breakout of printers broken down into four different quartiles and see what they are reporting you have a plateful of evidence upon which to act. Most of the time, it is not enough to just discover that your ratios are “off,” you need to have the guts and fortitude to make changes based upon what you uncover.

“Most of the time, it is not enough to just discover that your ratios are ‘off,’ you need to have the guts and fortitude to make changes based upon what you uncover.”

The problem with many owners in this industry (my opinion of course) is that they will rationalize to death that the facts revealed in these studies simply don’t apply to them, and furthermore, they will insist that their market is different and they can’t possibly make the changes that would otherwise seem pretty logical to anyone else armed with the same facts and scenarios.

A Closing Thought…

I actually miss writing for Quick Printing magazine, but then again it isn’t the same magazine that I wrote for for more than 25+ years. In those days, most issues averaged 100+ pages in length, and circulation and actual readership was much larger. Today, Quick Printing magazine can be more accurately described as a newsletter as opposed to a magazine. In the “old days” the editors (I went through four during my 25+ years as a senior columnist) rarely imposed strict word counts on my columns. Today, they would have a heart attack with the length of an article such as this.

I might consider bringing back to life my monthly column to this website, if I thought there was enough interest. As many readers know, I love to tell stories and I probably mentioned three or four possible stories just in this column. Your thoughts? Email me at: johnstewart@printingresearch.org

New Net Worth Survey Published!

The National Printing Research Council (NPRC) has released its latest industry survey providing a detailed analysis of the personal net worth of printers. The report was mailed 1st Class and or distributed via email to more than 120 participating firms. The report is now available for sale (hard copies only) in the NPRC Bookstore.

“Successes, regrets and advice section was priceless. I have followed many of those suggestions over the years and it has paid off.”
John Byrd, Bryd Printing Co., Norcross, GA

“I have been in the printing business for over 36 years and always wondered how I was doing compared to other print shops. With this Net Worth Study, now I know. No more guessing.” 
Dan Tiedt Sr., PIP Marketing/Signs/Print,Iowa City, Iowa

Click here to review additional testimonials provided by fellow printers. Read what they have to say about the value of this just-released report.

Retail Price… $225    
NPRC Member Price… $112.50
At the present time, this report is only available as a hard copy. No PDFs.

In the meantime, NPRC has released some preliminary statistics uncovered in the survey:

  • 24% of survey participants report a net worth between $501,000 and $1 million.
  • Average net worth of all participants is $2.2 million
  • Average 2016 sales of participants is $1.5 million
  • Approximately 62% of all owners surveyed indicated they owned their own building. It’s even higher among those with the highest net worth.
  • Estimated average value of building (if owned) is $709,000.
  • 28% of owners indicate they also own other commercial real estate.
  • Approximately 37%  of those surveyed indicated they owned other “non-commercial” real estate such as second homes, vacation cottages, etc.

The National Printing Research Council is dedicated to publishing hard-hitting, fact-based research studies and surveys that directly benefit its members. We employ a full-time executive director with extensive knowledge of the industry, and we are available 24/7 to answer questions about pricing, profitability, wages, key financial ratios, and valuation methods. And best yet, we offer those services and more for low annual dues of ONLY $240!

A special new-member bonus! Printers who join NPRC between now and March 16, 2017 will receive a FREE copy of the above-mentioned confidential report on personal net worth. This is a “first-of-its-kind” report and is sure to spark a lot of discussion in the printing industry. 

This represents data representing the net worth of the average American Household in 2013 (latest available). As you can see, as the owner of a small, closely held business the odds are in your favor of far exceeding the average net worth of most Americans.

More than 120 owners, with sales ranging from $200,000 to $7.5 million, shared highly personal data about their personal net worth and told us where and how this wealth was acquired. This report, which will retail for $295.00, is expected to be released no later than Jan. 31, 2017. No other industry trade organization gathers, analyzes and provides this type of in-depth information.

NPRC Releases Wage Study (See Graphs)

Failing to keep up with wages & benefits can easily cost a firm thousands $$$, and that’s why NPRC decided to move ahead late this fall and conduct its latest industry survey – The 2017-2018 Wage & Benefits Survey.

2017-18wagecoverThe new, just-released Wage & Benefits Study, covering 22 key positions in our industry, is packed with valuable information pertaining to wages, salaries and benefits offered by printers from across the U.S.

Like all surveys published by NPRC, firms that participated in the survey and submitted their survey form by the Oct. 31st deadline received their complimentary copy of the study on or about Nov. 30, 2016. 

You can order this study now by visiting the NPRC bookstore.  Retail Price: $179; NPRC Member Price: $89.50. All publications published by NPRC are sold on a 100% Money-Back guarantee! No questions asked!

Below are a few of the graphs included in this latest NPRC Study. 


The distribution of survey participants by reported SPE is quite similar to what has been reported in previous industry surveys and studies.


Owners were asked to provide their level of profitability. The resulting data was graphed accordingly. Approximately 45% of our respondents told us they were either “above average” or “high profit firms”.


We took the SPE data provided by respondents and ranked it from low to high; next, we divided the list of 280+ firms into four approximate quartiles or quarters and then averaged the result of each quartile. Above is the resulting data.


This chart simply illustrates the number of individual positions for which wage, salary and benefit data was provided. As an example, 125 of our responding firms provided data on the position we described as, “Sr. Graphics & Pre-Press.” Both average and median wage data is provided in this study.




New Digital Pricing Survey Just Launched – Deadline July 18th!

Why Pay $195 or More For This New Study
When You Can Receive It For Free by
Completing* This Key Industry Survey

2016-17DigitalCover-sm NEWPacked with the latest data on pricing digital printing services – This soon-to-be-released study will provide you with the very latest data for pricing products such as booklets, newsletters, flat sheets, business cards, digitally printed envelopes, as well as meter clicks, copier ratings, mark-up practices and discounting methods currently being used in use in our industry.

Best news yet is that this study will be yours absolutely free if you complete our on-line survey and submit it by our July 18, 2016 deadline.

*Deadline for submitting survey is July 18, 2016. Continue reading

Sales Compensation Study!

Printer’s Plan Sponsors New Study

18% Off on Just-Released
Outside Sales Compensation Study*

2015-16SalesRepCover2A brand new 88-page report detailing compensation practices for outside sales representatives in the printing industry has just been released. Printing firms who participated in the original industry survey were notified by email on March 21, 2016 and received a PDF of the entire report.

This Study is not for everyone – This special report involved a lot more time and effort and thus the higher retail price. If you’re a small firm and with no plans to hire an outside sales rep then you probably don’t need this study. (Special Pricing Offer extended to July 15, 2016.) Continue reading