Print, Generational Perspective and the Perfect Storm

I recently read two articles from April that made me think about how the environmental changes described in both will impact us and how we can react and plan. The […]">

I recently read two articles from April that made me think about how the environmental changes described in both will impact us and how we can react and plan.

The first is Dr. Joe Webb’s article Under the Radar: The Generational Change in Print Business Leadership  in which he talks about how when someone was born and the economic climate and work experiences they faced shapes their outlook and business strategies for years to come.  He cites examples from print executives of the baby boom generation and some of the major factors impacting their approach.  He also describes how those born 30 years later have been shaped by a much more competitive and rapidly changing market.  One key point he makes:

“When you ride a rising economic tide, it’s easy to believe you’re a business genius. In retrograde and muddling economic times, with a barrage of new competitors, you actually have to be one.”

The second article is  Dr. Gary Ampulski’s There’s a Perfect Storm Approaching for Exiting Business Owners  which presents staggering data on what is happening as the baby boomers reach 65 and the impact that will have for many years to come. He also cited US Census Bureau data showing that 70% of all privately held businesses (with more than 1 person on the payroll) are owned by people over 53 years old. This presents a potential glut of businesses for sale as baby boomer owners move to transfer those businesses as they approach retirement age. Ampulski says, “Boomers have been a driver of economic growth and consumer spending even before the early eighties … when they started to reach their peak earning years. This demographic group turbocharged rates of home ownership, consumer spending and, most important of all, employment. Almost everyone has either paid or benefited from the taxes they have generated. Will their business ownership legacy be another boon or a victim of a perfect storm?”

Since printing organizations are predominantly privately held businesses, these articles made me wonder how this will all shake out going forward. Further, with print already struggling with price pressure and reduced volumes, it seems that both the potential sellers and buyers of these operations must consider the impact to the future of print businesses:

  • Will there be a market glut of print businesses for sale in the near future, or can businesses be transitioned through generational transfers, Employee Stock Ownership Plans or other models to avoid market saturation?
  • If businesses are to be prepared for sale or transition, current ownership must consider that new executives will likely be of a different generation. How can the business be made more appealing to buyers with a different “generational experience?”
  • Even if a company is not for sale, how can owners and executives benefit from a “multi-generational” perspective to improve their odds of success?

Both of these authors offer some additional insight and I encourage you to read both articles for yourself. One factor that seems clear to me is that the future and challenges we face will continue to evolve at a rapid pace. It would seem those who plan and utilize all the resources available internally and externally will have the best chance of succeeding.


About Richard Losch

Richard Losch specializes in driving operational efficiency through technology implementation and exchange, as well as strategic business process analysis. Things that don’t work well really get under his skin, so he enjoys fixing problems. Persnickety perhaps, but that’s what makes him so good at helping customers in the business communications industry to improve operating margins and quality and to integrate manufacturing, distribution, and service operations. Learn more at