One of our largest clients recently asked us to take on the print work they had been outsourcing to another supplier. Very tempting. We already had a good relationship with the client and the opportunity to do more with them was very appealing. After due consideration we accepted the proposal. One of the conditions of the agreement was that we were to compensate the other supplier for inventory and intellectual property. We did so. The printer sold off his equipment, ended his lease and closed the doors. We took over his email address and his phone and fax numbers. We took it on because it sounded like a great opportunity and indeed we are confident that it will prove to be so. However the transition has been exceptionally difficult.
The supplier we replaced was a very traditional printer. He communicated primarily through phone calls and faxes. His print process was one or two colour on small presses; he had a cumbersome assortment of products based on his print process ability. Our challenge was to not only streamline the assortment but also to change the mindset of our client’s members. Instead of scrolling through reams and reams of products we reduced the assortment to a fraction of the ammount. We are building a web portal to enable each member to keep files and a history of purchases. We have introduced online ordering and instead of faxing we email digital proofs. Almost all our work is custom and print on demand.
We knew that the benefit to Cats Media would be the additional business and new relationships formed but we had to satisfy ourselves that the following questions would have positive answers: Does this opportunity align well with our strategic plan and mission statement? Is there real benefit from this opportunity? Will we learn or experience something awesome? And finally, will we make money or be in a better financial position because of this opportunity?
This experience is proving to be very exciting! We are helping our client take the leap that fundamentally changes their industry, their processes and the way they do business. Technology will take our services to the client, not the client to our services. It takes strong leadership to take those leaps and strong leaders who are committed to making a difference. Insisting that change happens is the difference between ordinary and extraordinary.

Extreme New Future

According to the *Institute of Global Futures the following are
the top ten trends of our ‘New Future’:

1. Business and technology have fused into one system, one conversation, and one strategy, for one world. This is central to understanding the New Future.

2. Innovations are about new business models, enterprise and marketplace collaboration, new leadership and knowledge engineering.

3. Knowledge engineering, the formation and networking of knowledge-that which creates results, is the true asset of the 21st century.”

4. The capture and analysis of customer information about product/service use, needs, wants, desires and behavior is critical to the enterprise.

5. The integration of customer touch points across all channels is essential to future success. Watch out for the breakdowns.

6. The capacity of an organization to understand the key trends that will shape the future of technology, customers, society and the marketplace will determine the survival of the enterprise.

7. More disruptions are coming in the form of emerging markets, electronic exchanges, security breaches, and changing customer demographics.

8. Human capital, the value of talent will be the most valuable resource in the 21st century.

9. Entirely new industries will be formed by innovations yet to be brought to market. Look for the health enhancement, interactive TV nanotech, and on-demand supply chains to emerge.

10. The New Future will need New Leaders that are aware of how to attract talent, manage innovation, set high visions and execute profitably.

There is a new paradigm about leadership that is emerging.

*Excerpt from


Clients are more likely to respond favourably when they look for and find information using their own initiative. You can’t force a potential client to read your material, try your service or notice your product. Learning is not compulsory; you cannot force it. Therefore it makes sense to deliver information in ways that can be absorbed voluntarily in order for your target market to learn about your company

When marketing a service or a product it is important to consider the various ways in which people relate to information. We live in a busy culture and we are constantly bombarded with information. Messages are coming at us from everywhere. Obviously you want your clients to locate and absorb the messages you are sending them so the important question is how to deliver it effectively.

At Cats Media we concentrate on three distinct types of learning styles or abilities: Visual, Verbal and Physical.

Visual learning
Visual learners prefer to use images, pictures and colours to organize their thoughts. They never forget a face but aren’t necessarily good at remembering names. They visualize objects in their mind’s eye. They will draw graphs and flow charts to better communicate with others. They will use ‘visual’ phrases such as ‘let’s see’, ‘I can’t picture that’ and ‘we need a fresh perspective.’

Visual learners need visual representations of concepts and ideas. Pages and pages of text will not appeal to them. Lots of words with very little white space and no pictures will make their eyes cloud over and their brains shut down. Visual learners need graphic information. They need colour and pictures and flow charts and graphs. They respond well to visual stories in info graphics and enjoy ploughing through information that is presented to them that way.

Verbal learning
The verbal style of learning involves both the written and spoken word. They love reading and writing. Verbal learners find it easy to express themselves in either medium. They understand words. They know the meanings of words, enjoy playing with them and love researching and using new ones. They tend to use phrases such as ‘let’s talk’, ‘spell it out for me’ and ‘in other words’.

Verbal learners, respond well to marketing that involves speaking and writing. Presentations to boards with supporting documentation work well. The documentation needs some lift to the text; repetition or the introduction of new terminology encourages better recall. The use of rhyme and rhythm also enhances the user experience. Verbal exchanges work well. If they read it then say it they will remember it.

Physical learning
Physical learners enjoy tactile experiences. It is important for them to walk through a project, ‘get their hands dirty’ and build or play with a model rather than read about it. They like touch, action and movement. They use phrases such as ‘get a grip’, ‘stay in touch’ and ‘this feels right’. They like to feel the vibrations of an engine or pressure on their hand. They notice texture and layers.

Physical learners respond well to constructing and deconstructing models. Build a kit that can be taken apart and put back together to show how your product works. Printed materials or documentation must be interesting, with different textures, tabs and formats. Most importantly, a physical learner will respond well to walking through a site tour, touching the product, switching a lever and shaking hands.

Visual, Verbal, Physical Marketing

Marketing materials must appeal to all three of these learning styles. Needless to say the materials for each style will differ. Strong branding with colour, info graphics which tell a story and brief bursts of messages through brightly branded rack cards appeal to the visual learner. The verbal learner needs detailed text supported by oral presentations. This learner requires an in depth analysis and needs to participate in a question and answer period. Physical learners need a tactile experience. They want to take a model apart, touch all the elements and feel the engine running. If you hand them written material make sure it is on textured stock and has tabs they can play with.

Marketing, just like learning, is a process. It does not happen all at once but builds upon what we have already experienced. Encourage your clients to participate in their own experiences. Having clients actively engaged in your marketing materials and allowing them to take control of the experience gives your company a huge advantage.

The Story So Far

As we begin the fourth quarter it is important that we assess our companies and determine how and if we have progressed and if we are on track with our financial and strategic plans.

Financial Results
Sales and their resulting profit is the only place to start evaluating a company’s efforts. Are you achieving your financial goals? If you aren’t you may not have a company. If you are like me you probably developed aggressive sales and profit targets. At Cats Media we haven’t totally achieved our sales targets but we are substantially ahead of last year and substantially ahead of industry trends. We focused heavily on increasing our profit margins this year by encouraging growth in higher gross services such as fulfillment and mailing, and we continued to expand our service offerings away from traditional price sensitive commodities. We have also tightened our financial control of billing and receivables.
As a result we are reaping the benefits with a healthier profit for the year. I do believe, however, that we still have lots of opportunity to improve our results.

Client Relations
To achieve your sales and profit goals you have to have a great relationship with your clients. We make regular quarterly visits to our biggest clients and provide them with one page summaries of their projects and give them an opportunity to discuss upcoming plans, new projects or to deal with other opportunities. Niche and small business clients are offered in-house seminars and breakfast sessions. We are building sales teams who are developing business plans for our clients and partnering with them to help them become more successful. This is resulting in a deepening of relationships and increased customer loyalty. Our company is benefiting in many ways as a result of an effective sales approach.

Marketing and Branding
Our marketing is consistent, simple and effective. The plan is laid out a year in advance through our annual calendar; we are currently finalizing our 2013 plan. Each month’s message is reinforced with unaddressed ad mail in our local areas and eblasts to our existing data base of customers and prospects. Room is left for new items and new technology. We use a combination of push and pull marketing techniques. We have room for a more complex social media presence and will endeavour to work on that throughout the balance of this year and into next. Our brand image is constantly being reinforced by our associates who professionally represent our brand, at every level, through community involvement.

Cats Media has identified growth as a priority through our strategic plan. We are a small company and determined that we must grow in order to better serve our clients. We are at the point where we need to become specialists. We can’t just ‘wear lots of hats’ all the time. We also need to ensure that we have new business coming in to ensure double digit growth. Our strategic and marketing plans clearly determine that we spend 20% of our time, energy and resources on new business. Company growth, although planned, should be organic. In the past we have grown through a combination of adding new services, developing new business and making a few small acquisitions.

The Assessment
Having reviewed our strategic plans, I have been able to identify key areas where we are not performing well and the many key areas in which we are. We are not performing as well as I would like in the organizational part of our plan. Although we have improved we still struggle to formalize our internal communication and organization processes. We have implemented a Management Information System (MIS) with which we are trying to establish a comfort level, at the same time trying to understand the system and the reporting we can generate from it. We also continue to struggle with our own research and development. Cats Media’s creative innovations will set us apart from our competitors but in many respects we are still giving them lip service. Although well intentioned these programs get put on the back burner while we deal with client driven tasks. It is imperative that we make our ideas reality so that we will become a stronger company.

PHAI; It’s like getting the Olympics!

Port Hope is in the unique position of being host to Canada’s largest ever clean up of low level radioactive waste. The project is essentially a billion dollar construction project that will span approximately 10 years beginning in 2013.

That’s the simple explanation. The reality is that this is a vast and complex project. It involves government at all levels, combined with a myriad of intricate public and private partnerships, engineering expertise and technical innovation. It is of interest to the nuclear industry across the globe. Port Hope may soon become one of the most watched communities in North America.

I see this phenomenon as comparable to ‘getting the Olympics!’ Getting the Olympics requires a long and expensive commitment made by the host community. It is difficult and complex to manage. The positive and negative aspects of the Olympic Games on a host community need to be weighed. The public needs to be consulted. There is always opposition. The build time for the Olympics usually spans seven years and can produce tangible benefits for government and business. Often, a community can be unprepared for the inconvenience and disruption associated with the build. The goal is for sustainable permanent improvements to buildings and infrastructure that will make it all worthwhile.

Similarly Port Hope has been through a long and extensive period of preparation, including lengthy community consultation with stakeholder groups, indigenous communities, and watchdog and fringe groups. The build time will be closer to 10 years, bringing with it a swell in investment and business opportunities. It will create close to 2000 jobs over the 10 years. This will result in an economic spin off throughout the service industry to accommodate the additional workers: restaurants, accommodation and entertainment. The retail sector will also benefit from this increase in the Port Hope population.

Undoubtedly the political landscape of Port Hope will be transformed during this decade. The politics will be complex, involving local, national and international relationships with government, business, media and interest groups. Perhaps we will become better at public relations, learn how to listen more intently to our electorate and be more transparent in our processes.

Having endured the stigma and negative press of previous years, Port Hope deserves the positive economic benefit of this project. It is time for good news stories in the press, both local and national.

I look forward to seeing some of our heritage buildings being restored for accommodation or new office space, to a redevelopment of the waterfront and downtown, to new investors moving into our community and to the fresh ideas they will bring with them. Perhaps some of the many visitors and construction workers who come and go will decide they want to stay. And when we come out of it we will have improved infrastructure, restored buildings, some of them with new uses. We will have created a diverse population and achieved a strong image of a technologically innovative and forward thinking community.

It’s a win-win, and I personally am excited by the Port Hope version of Getting the Olympics!

You are your own Economic Recovery

The economy has changed and will never go back to what it was.  Which means that even if we do experience some form of economic recovery it will not fix our problems. The business world has also changed and will never be the same again. It is our responsibility to lead our organizations to embrace these changes, because the cold hard reality is: ‘economic recovery will not fix things anymore’.

As leaders in our businesses we must strive to continuously improve and constantly challenge our successes.  Organizational cultures must change and to do that, governance models must be adjusted. Staff must be empowered; exceptional talent must be hired and regarded as an investment in our future. Profit will come as a result of our intellectual capital.  We, as leaders, must become advocates for the organizational courage required to make change.

If we remain traditionalist in our mindset we will fail.  The National Association for Printing Leadership believes that two out of every ten executives in the communications industry will not be able to make the transition from printer to marketing services.  That’s a staggering 20%.

Now that we are emerging from a recession the gap is widening between industry leaders and the rest.  Those leaders who have redefined the culture of their organization in order to embrace change stand apart; they are ahead of the pack.  My industry market is forecast to grow a mere .5%, so exponential growth must come from claiming market share.  I think that is true for most industries.  It doesn’t matter what your business is; if you want more you will have to take it from someone else.

As leaders we must understand our clients and know their businesses every bit as well as we know our own. New services need to be offered, understood and embraced.  New people with new skills need to be hired, nurtured and developed. We need to change the operator/thinker ratio of our work force. The entire culture of our organization must be redefined and once it does, change will become the catalyst for growth.

Just when you think you can relax and take a breath you discover you can’t.  Once the culture changes and in order to become world class, we as leaders must embrace new programs and policies.  It is one thing to embrace change; it is another to make money at it.  Once we have embraced change, we must learn to embrace technology and allow our management systems to become business enablers. Web portals are needed to facilitate order taking.  New processes must be established. MIS systems need to be developed and implemented. Crisis management has to end so we can dominate our marketplace.

The role of business leaders is emerging into one of vision, advocacy and courage.
The only risk would be to do nothing.


Cats Media - WHEN LEFT BRAINS MEET RIGHT BRAINSAs the InHOWse Design conference in Boston drew to a close I had become very enthusiastic about expanding the creative team at Cats Media, possibly adding more talent at our studio in Port Hope and definitely establishing a studio in our Toronto head office location. InHOWse is actually four conferences all running at once. The portion I attended was especially geared toward those who manage creative teams.

The general message was: creative people are unique and can be a handful to manage. Nevertheless, they are invaluable to the corporations they work for because they are designers, and designers create and interpret culture. Let’s face it, creative people think differently to the rest of the people in the corporate world. When the left brain thinkers of the business world meet the right brain thinkers of the design world and actually take steps toward one another in collaboration, amazing things can happen.

Andy Epstein is a designer, an author (‘The Corporate Creative, tips and tactics for thriving as an in-house designer.’), and leader of in-house design teams for several major corporations. He works hard to empower design teams and raise their profile in the business community. He was a presenter at InHOWse. He claims that being a creative person in a corporate environment can be ‘frustrating, mind-numbing, inspiration-killing, creativity-murdering, disheartening, demoralizing and demeaning.’ He also believes that in the corporate world designers can have a major impact by influencing the market. He sees many advantages to being in the corporate world as opposed to independent design firms. For example there is access to greater resources, security, better benefits, more stable hours and the camaraderie of working with a team. ‘Surviving and, more importantly, succeeding as a creative in the corporate environment is a balancing act between two extreme mindsets. It requires compromise without selling out, discipline without sacrificing spontaneity and control without giving up passion; the corporate culture needs to be met halfway but with integrity and honesty.’ Not everyone can do this.

Business requires focus but creativity demands freedom. There is no point in hiring creative people and not giving them creative freedom. But as managers, we are responsible for getting them to deliver results that meet business objectives. Managers need to become coaches of high level creative performance to help their team learn on the job. Balancing focus and freedom, the coach needs only to control certain critical elements and give the team freedom within clearly defined limits. Mark McGuiness, a business coach and trainer, specializes in working with creative professionals and has created this table to show how focus and freedom dovetail into coaching.

Focus                                            Freedom
Goals (what)                                  Process (how)
Questions                                     Answers
Feedback                                      Revision

Once you have agreed on the goals (the what) the designer can be allowed the freedom to determine their own process (the how) in achieving the goal. The manager then asks questions rather than gives instructions to allow designers to come up with their own answers. And finally giving constructive feedback allows designers to revise and refine their own work. Focus and freedom are balanced.

David Baker, speaker and author of ‘Managing (Right) for the First Time’, states that many corporations make the mistake of combining account manager responsibilities with project manager responsibilities into one role. The two jobs require different skills and different personalities. The account manager role is a day to day role whereas the project manager bounces in from time to time to oversee a project’s direction. He also says that firms need to establish strong resourcing departments responsible for pricing, capacity management, quality control, managing outside resources and scheduling. Designers should not be held accountable to manage such tasks; it just isn’t the right fit.

Design leaders need to be strategic in their thinking by becoming partners in the business process; by having the right people on the right jobs and by being uncompromising when it comes to the quality of their team’s work. They also need to hire the best people with good chemistry who make a good fit. And strong leaders need to know how to protect their team and create a space for them where they can have freedom.

Armed with an improved understanding of the creative mindset and better understanding of hiring, strategizing and motivating creative teams, I am looking forward to building a stronger, more diverse team of professional men and women and moving my company forward.

Corporate Diversity Makes for Success

Corporate Diversity Makes for Success- Cats MediaAlthough we praise the multi-cultural complexity of Canadian society, it never ceases to amaze me that there is such a general lack of diversity in business and government. Diversity has so many “personalities” that it should not be a hardship to incorporate into current and future plans. Do not be misled that only a difference in culture will create diversity. To be fully inclusive you need to embrace all the Equality Rights in section 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms: “Every individual is equal before and under the law and has the right to the equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination and, in particular, without discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability.”

At Cats Media we have always attempted to embrace the Canadian Charter’s Equality Rights. As a matter of fact, we have them all covered. Our eclectic group consists of an equal mix of men and women; we have employees whose ages range from 20 to 80; we have black, white, Asian and South Asian employees and we have employees with disabilities. This variety makes for some very interesting and creative discussions. It also makes for some very interesting and creative solutions.

Outlined in the 1991 U.S. study Managing Cultural Diversity by T. Cox and S. Blake, the six key advantages of corporate diversity are: recruitment, greater creativity, problem-solving, flexibility (better reaction to change), cost (employee turnover) and marketing (i.e. – stronger financial performance). In a research report from Kristyn Scott, a professor with Ryerson University’s Ted Rogers School of Management and lead author of the study The Diverse Organization: Finding Gold at the End of the Rainbow, the researchers broadly defined the term ‘diversity’ to include ethnicity, age, gender, educational background and professional experience.

While the researchers found mixed results on individual elements, they theorized that overall, the more an organization embraced elements of diversity in its corporate culture the more prosperous the company became and the happier and more loyal its workforce.

“When you have an inclusive corporate culture, recruiting top talent becomes easier, group processes will be enhanced, which means employees are more likely to stay, which, in turn, increases the company’s bottom line,” said Scott, whose study has been published in the current issue of the journal Human Resource Management.
As stated by Chrystia Freeland in a recent Globe and Mail article, “If you believe talent isn’t determined by gender, race or sexual orientation, but is instead a roll of the genetic dice, then the most productive society will be the perfectly fair one. A society blind to gender, race and sexual orientation will choose the best person for the job”. This type of inclusion is far removed from that of the 1960’s and 1970’s when approximately 90% of all the professional and management jobs were filled with white, straight men. The “Mad Men” days are, fortunately, moving behind us but even today, many unconscious prejudices still exist. Although there is a great emphasis put on eradicating the inequalities, the cycle has become one of tolerance but not yet acceptance.

When people of differing backgrounds come together in the workforce it creates a dynamic which makes a company much stronger. The different experiences that ultimately brought everyone to the same place ensure a more creative environment. Companies need to embrace this integration into their business plan. To be a truly global company we must interact with those of various cultures, lifestyles and values. Creativity increases when people of differing backgrounds work to a common solution. Productivity increases when those of varying cultures, ages and lifestyles collaborate to a mutual goal. New attitudes, languages and processes will be integrated into our corporate culture once we embrace and accept diversity. Granted, there are many challenges in creating this culture. Old biases may come to the forefront and new weaknesses may surface. The comfort zones may be rattled and the desire to keep everything the way it has always been may be compromised. There may be resistance and dissention at the implementation stage but what do we have to lose? The ultimate completion and integration of true diversity and acceptance of such, will result in a happier, more engaged, more loyal, more productive, more profitable workplace. Not a bad ROI for a very pleasant and rewarding interaction. Why not try it?


A PARADIGM SHIFTOur traditional sales approach needs an overhaul. Our industry is changing quickly and the challenge is to keep our sales team 100% aware of what’s current and update their knowledge accordingly. I am a firm believer that good account managers are worth their weight in gold. They represent our brand in a professional manner, develop relationships with clients and, most important, project a personality that clients can relate to. But now we must change our sales focus because we are no longer simply selling a commodity: print. We are now selling a service: marketing. Print is now only one element of the project and, quite frankly, not only is it not the biggest part it is not even the starting point of most projects.

Traditional account managers who only sell print are no longer part of the solution. Our clients want to use us as a communications company to assist them in their multi media campaigns. Integrated campaigns and projects are in high demand and are essential for today’s companies to remain competitive in the eyes of their clients. A good marketing strategy reaches clients through a minimum of three touch points and maybe, only maybe, is print going to be one of them.

Today our account managers have to be confident selling and managing every element of a marketing strategy, and that may include creating the strategy itself. They need a solid understanding of branding, creative design, web design, copy writing, and ad layouts, along with the more traditional elements of print, mailing and fulfillment. It’s a tall order for any one person. Perhaps a little too tall.

Our sales strategy now is to form sales teams. Our teams consist of a knowledgeable print professional with strong sales skills who already has a relationship with the client and a project manager who understands the creative process. The end goal is twofold: each member will complement the skills of the other and our relationship with the client will deepen. Our sales executives want to do better and be better. We have to give them the opportunity to develop their skills but it won’t happen overnight because there is so much to learn. The savvy print professionals will embrace and master our new services and processes and be successful. The not so savvy will not. The sales team must follow the company strategy and share the same vision. If not, the company will not move forward.

Traditional print professionals need to develop their knowledge about our new services. Some can’t make the transition; some don’t want to. Without question, bringing new people on board with the new required skills (IT, web programming, and database management) must be part of the sales approach. Then they need to be taught how to sell.

Five Goals Necessary for Success

The Port Hope and District Chamber of Commerce recently underwent a Strategic Planning process. It occurred to me that the strategies that we researched, reviewed, and ultimately planned applied as much to our, or your, business as it does to the Chamber. Commitment, advocacy, empowerment, technology and governance are what build the strengths of a company and make it successful, whether it is a Chamber of Commerce or a private business. So I thought you might be interested.

The Port Hope and District Chamber of Commerce Strategic Planning process included research of current business association publications and a review of the strategic plans of other Chambers, local as well as regional. The thoughts and vision of the board of directors were collected through a combination of efforts, including a questionnaire to all directors and a strategic planning session, to which the executive, board and staff were invited. Several drafts were distributed for comment.

The strategic plan outlines the five important goals necessary for the Chamber to achieve its vision: to be Port Hope’s leading business association.

Goal 1 – Membership Programs and Services
Be responsive to the needs of our members and commit to excellence in the services we provide.

Goal 2 – Policy and Advocacy work
Engage in effective advocacy to bring issues that matter to our members to the forefront of the public agenda.

Goal 3 – Organization and Administration
Empower staff and enhance staff expertise.

Goal 4 – Technology Planning
Build a robust technology framework that will guide us into the future.

Goal 5 – Governance
Build a dynamic, sustainable, independent, representative, and effective business association.

The Strategic Plan represents a renewed commitment to Chamber members through excellence in services provided, advocacy and education. The plan contains a fresh perspective and gives clear guidance on specific issues.

For example, our economy has changed dramatically in the last few years and, as a result, the Chamber has recognized that the needs of their members have also changed. Understanding those needs and how to satisfy them requires a thorough analysis of the marketplace. It also requires an objective evaluation of current programs and services, which must be relevant, fresh and offer valuable resources.

Maintaining its relevance, the Chamber identified a need to be proactive and persuasive in policy advocacy. Keeping issues that matter to its members in the forefront of the public agenda will keep the Chamber in the forefront of the minds of its members and local municipal government. Staff training and staff empowerment were also considered to be key issues to developing a strong Chamber. Investing in staff members and their expertise will allow the Chamber to build on its successes and ultimately build its financial resources.

The Chamber also identified the need for technology planning, with emphasis to be placed on strengthening an online presence and building a technology framework that will create fundamental changes to the way the Chamber delivers valuable services to its membership. Increasing the resources designated for technology will guide it into the future.

The Chamber committed to continuously overhaul its governance model to stay fresh and relevant and responsive to members’ needs. The Chamber also identified the need to seek out skill-based board members rather than the current practice of having industry sector representation. And finally, three key business issues pertinent to the local economy were determined as focus areas for special programs and attention.
The strategic plan shakes up the traditional approach that similar associations have taken in the past. It concentrates on getting the right people focused on the right things and in places where they can have an effect. Maintaining the status quo isn’t enough to entice new membership, or keep current members engaged, and even less likely to pry a fee from the members’ pockets.


April 2014
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