4 Wide Format Lessons from the Olympics

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Feb 6, 2014

The Olympics are starting soon and it got me thinking about some of the ways that competing in the Olympics parallels competing in the wide format digital printing market. I can think of four:

1. Prepare
People that compete at the Olympic level train for years for the games. Speed skaters work out 8-10 hours per days for months leading up to the games in anticipation of an event that may last for minutes if not seconds. Bode Miller, one of the most successful U.S. men’s downhill skiers of all time, was born in ski-country in New Hampshire, went to a ski academy in his youth and basically trained to be a downhill skier more-or-less his whole life. Many Olympians are like that. The point is that to compete at the highest levels they prepare at the highest levels, they don’t go in lightly. Print shops that invest in wide format technology and don’t have a committed strategy to make that a successful part of their business are not likely to find success in this competitive market.

2. Go Boldly
My favorite event from the winter Olympics is the ski jump. Every time it’s on I watch it and think about how crazy/brave the men and women that do the ski jump are. I try to imagine the first time they stand at the top of that hill where they can’t see the place where they will land, they line up, step off, start accelerating quickly, take the most aerodynamic form they can, identify the launch point, tuck for the jump, and propel themselves into the air with their landing spot hundreds of feet away. I try to imagine it, but I can’t. They can do it because they trained properly, they are ready for adjustments based on conditions, and they know what to expect. Having done all that, the ones who execute best will win the medals. Even if they don’t win the medals I’ll bet ski-jumping is a ton of fun for those who are ready for it. I’ll bet it’s not fun if you’re not ready for it. Competing in wide format is the same way. This is a $16 billion market, you can boldly go for it and be successful if you have properly prepared.

3. Be Flexible
American LoLo Jones won national and world championships in track and field and was favored to win the 100-meter hurdle event at the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympic Games, but she fell on one of the last hurdles and didn’t medal at all. Jones has since trained and worked to join the American Bobsled team as a brakesman. She adjusted to her circumstance while keeping her eye on the prize. You have to always be ready to make adjustments in the wide format business as well in order to serve customers the best way, whether that means adding additional services or investing in new technology. Yes, wide format is a big market, and yes, there is room to grow into it, but those in the wide format market know that it is a competitive business that requires constant adjustment.

4. Be Quick
In the 2010 winter Olympics Swiss Men’s Downhill skier Didier Défago won the gold. Austrian Mario Scheiber came in .21 seconds later … and came in fourth. No medal. The lesson there is that you have to prepare, you have to execute, you have to be flexible, and you have to do them all quickly!

Our research indicates that many print shops are considering investing in wide format digital printing as an additional revenue stream. The shops that go into wide format with a well-developed plan for sales and marketing that accommodates fast and flexible production are the ones that will prosper in new areas such as wide format and a variety of other emerging application and service areas.

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