Published by malcontents for the blissfully unaware

Volume V Number 3 — February 11, 1990

Old Business

A Profit Shall Come

At the company meeting held at Marie Callender’s last year, we heard that money would be tight because the profit on typesetting is only five percent. According to the management, the backlog of debt facing the old Skil–Set and Alpha Graphix companies means the new corporation is not going to have much financial leeway.

What went unsaid was that at five percent profit, typesetting is relatively lucrative. Consider, if you will, other average profits. Taking the management’s figures at face value, Skil-Set/Alpha Graphix is 25% more profitable than Marie Callender’s (site of the meeting), as restaurants typically see about four percent profit. If we had prepared our own feast with food bought at a supermarket, we would have been patronizing a business that is only about 20% as profitable as typesetting (supermarkets are lucky to get one percent profit).

Most of us traveled to the meeting via our automobiles. If your car is a Ford, you may be interested to learn that Ford is considered wildly successful for an automobile manufacturer at 5.7 percent profit. If you had stopped to refuel at a service station run by acknowledged petro-chemical giant Exxon, you would have contributed to the 3.9 percent profit realized by that company in 1989.

What does all this mean? A couple of things.

First, it means that not everything is as it appears. Second, it means that if Skil-Set/Alpha Graphix can manage five percent profit, we should be in Fat City. Third, it means that if the company does not realize a five percent profit (or more), there are deep-seated problems in the operation of the company.

So where does profit come from? Each sector of the company makes a unique contribution. Management must keep costs down by establishing and enforcing procedures that ensure a smooth work-flow through the shop, and they must keep quality up by supplying happy and well-trained employees with the proper equipment in good working order. They must also set prices high enough to guarantee the needed profit. Production must strive for efficiency and accuracy and should be on the look-out for ways of improving both. Sales must help generate enough work that — with the profit percentage guaranteed by management policies — the dollar amount of the profit will be sufficient to make it worth everyone’s while.

More Old Business

Get a Job

Another unfortunate misstatement that went unchallenged at the company meeting was that we should all work hard at making the company profitable because it wouldn’t be easy for any of us to get new jobs if Skil-Set/Alpha Graphix were to fold.

Let’s examine the thinking behind this for a moment. If we really believe that Skil-Set/Alpha Graphix is a top type house, it follows that it must be so because of the production staff. If we have a production staff capable of generating such a high-quality product that we command the respect of our clients and peers, it stands to reason that if Skil-Set/Alpha Graphix were to fold tomorrow, at least some of us could find jobs without difficulty.

If, on the other hand, the production staff are all slackers, layabouts, n’er-do-wells, and societal dregs, we should be fired and replaced instead of being lectured about profits and communication gaps. (Need we point out that the only reason for not firing incompetent employees is if there is a shortage of hireable people? If this is the case, we could still all get jobs immediately in the case of the company folding.)

Would it be a hardship if the company folded? Of course it would. However equal we may have been created, we are not now all equally marketable. And even if we were, who needs the hassle?

The approach should be, however, that we do our jobs because we have pride in ourselves, in what we do, and in the way that we do them. Few people would wish to have co-workers whose only motivation — due to their inherent undesirability — is to keep from being fired from their present (and perhaps, final) job!

Old Bad Business

Tragedy Strikes Access Publishing

Virtually the worst thing that could happen to Access Publishing did happen: it made a profit for the month of January.

Normally, making a profit is desirable. In the case of Access, however, making a profit merely allows the management to leave unanswered most of the dozens (hundreds?) of questions regarding the near-total chaos surrounding Access.

The litany of ills within Access is almost too lengthy to imagine. Yet, it grows longer each day. Virtually everyone at Skil-Set/Alpha Graphix who has depended on Access has been shocked when reality strikes home. One-hour projects take four hours. Four-hour projects take two days. Week-long projects take a month, often becoming partially or completely lost in the process.

Lack of organization runs straight to the marrow of Access Publishing. Valuable master disks are either scattered or just plain lost. In-house and customer disk files representing hundreds of hours of time and effort are in daily jeopardy of being thrown out in order to make way for the new. The paperwork flow is grim at best, and at worst, jobs become strewn around in such a way that it is virtually impossible for anyone other than the operator to determine what is yet to be done.

Scary? You bet. Yet this is just the tip of the iceberg.

This incredible disorganization results in so much wasted motion that employees must work at peak efficiency to get the work out even on normal days. When special jobs come in that require prolonged attention, you almost have to see the disruption to believe it. Without massive overtime on the part of most Access employees (one employee has matured enough to realize that throwing one's body into the clockwork does not halt the progress of time), Access Publishing as a whole would be crippled. After several days of massive overtime, however, operators get burned out, start making disastrous mistakes, and sometimes simply walk out in the middle of critically important jobs, leaving others to clean up the mess.

The truly unhealthy aspect of this whole scene is that last month’s profit is being used as a bludgeon to silence critics, of which there are many. Profits do not equate to good management. If Access does not get into the habit of making good decisions while the money is coming in, it will be doomed when the tides turn and times get rough. Then, with no history of good management to fall back on, Access will be forced into a painful reckoning of its own devise.

The one bright side to this sordid affair is that it should now be clear to all that there is money to be made in typesetting. If Access can do it, anybody can.

From the Mailbag

One Satisfied Customer

Dear Skil-Set/Alpha Graphix —

I wish to convey to you my thanks for a job well done recently. With your help, everything went so smoothly that I almost forgot my Valium.

I do remember one thing. It took hours and hours, and by the time I was done with it I was so involved, I didn’t know what to think. I carried it around with me for days and days, playing little games. Like, not looking at it for a whole day. And then, looking at it — to see if I still liked it.

I did.

I repeat myself when under stress. I repeat myself when under stress. I repeat myself when under stress. I repeat myself when under stress. I repeat myself when under stress. I repe… —

The more I look at it the more I like it. I do think it’s good. The fact is — no matter how closely I study it, no matter how I try to tear it apart, no matter how I break it down — it remains consistent. I wish you were here to see it.

Bernie Burnout
dba Design By Accident

The A-Team

The A-TEAM is published by Axes Publishing, publishing for those with axes to grind. It is presented in lieu of a Director of Corporate Communications, the conspicuous lack of which is shameful in a corporation the size of SS/AG.

Publisher: Axes Publishing

Editorial Director: Mel Content

Managing Editor: Fweepa Weepa

Associate Editor: Don G. O’Vanni

Feature Editor: Richard Head

Editorial Contributor: Johnny Hunkmeister

Graphics Director: Anita Break

Art Director: Artie Rector

Sousaphone: Blimpo the Chimp

Ad Sales: Norm Funk

Fat Lady: Carole Sing