For this month’s interview we try to get inside the entrepreneurial mind of peter cober, president of cober evolving solutions. With the first ever Canadian install of the HP indigo 10000 digital press, this family-owned print solutions provider based in Kitchener has a record of many successes. perhaps there is something (innovative) in the KW water! here is what peter cober had to share with our readers.
What is your stance on offset vs. digital?
To me, they are two completely separate markets. Digital does things that sheetfed cannot and vice versa. Each holds an important place, and for us it is different from a sales volume and number of jobs perspective. Digital continues to show growth and ROI benefits stemming from the value-added that it provides. Offset is also changing — there are hybrid presses that offer a blend of traditional and inkjet to consider. As technologies like inkjet and Landa mature, the offset/digital crossover points will rise.
More importantly, both technologies are feeling pressure from e-communications. Email blasts, PURL campaigns, and social media are all biting into the marketing dollars available for print. Whether it is offset or digital, blended campaigns are often the answer. Multiple touchpoints from various media is something that is catching the eyes and ears of brand owners. So I think it goes beyond the question of offset vs. digital.
Where do you stand in the ‘(our world is going) paperless’ debate?
The pace of business, smartphones, social media, people moving from job to job more often, all make it difficult to really get to know and be close friends with people you depend on for a living.
It has been a debate for decades and probably will be for many more. We need to change the misconception that using paper is bad for the environment. We need to communicate the many ways that paper and responsible forestry are sustainable and good for the earth. When I speak to young people that visit us from local universities and colleges I like to challenge their thinking by showing them my copy of American Printer from 1870, and ask them if their eReader will still be usable 150 years from now the way the book is!
What’s one problem that the printing industry could have already solved but hasn’t?
Part of the challenge is that the challenges are constantly changing and at an unprecedented rate of speed. That in itself may be the biggest problem. I have lived through many changes from letterpress and moveable type to offset to digital to smartphones to virtual technologies. I don’t think we, in the communications business, can or will ever be able to find the perfect solution that lasts forever. To remain static is to become irrelevant. We must bring new methods to communicate effectively or we risk fading away. I don’t think that risk will be realized because people much smarter than I will always be looking to the future to adjust to our changing society. If I was able to solve this question, then maybe I could retire. Until then, we are all along for the ride.
Only 8-10% of printers are profit leaders. What do you believe makes them different?
The companies that have the foresight to adjust to the changing times proactively will be profit leaders. You have to research and invest in new technologies to remain viable as a company. If you think you can buy a new technology today and be competitive for the next decade, you will find it increasingly difficult to be a profit leader. You need to find niches that set you apart from your competitors so that pricing is not as commoditized as it is in many segments today. Customers are willing to pay more if you increase their ROI. It is a cycle of smart investments to remain a profit leader. You need to jump on the treadmill and not want to get off!
What do you miss about the “good old days”?
In general, I think that business relationships developed into friendships more than they do today. The pace of business, smartphones, social media, people moving from job to job more often, all make it difficult to really get to know and be close friends with people you depend on for a living. Back in the day you could develop closer, long-term relationships because you met with people face to face often. Through those friendships, you maybe had more time to stop and smell the roses and have fun while providing for your family. That is more difficult in today’s high pressured society. We get so wrapped up in trying to succeed in our vocations that it can take its toll on our health and family life.
What keeps you up at night?
Trying to find new ways to use technology to advance the company, keep our people motivated and yet not losing sight of the daily needs is a difficult balance to achieve. It keeps the mind active sometimes when you wish it could be resting. You have to surround yourself with the best people and then force yourself to relax, have faith in your decisions and pass some of those sleepless nights onto others. Thankfully, we have been able to find great people so, for the most part, I do sleep better today.
What makes you happy to come into work in the morning?
This is an exciting time for Cober, and that makes coming to work feel great! First of all, the locks have not been changed yet so I guess they want me to keep coming. That is a positive thing!! There are visible projects, like our new 10000 HP digital press and many behind the scenes efforts that are exciting, like new technologies we are working on or investigating. New and long-term clients are looking to us to provide more services that go beyond print. Fortunately, we are in a good position that allows us to get excited about the new possibilities. I honestly sympathize with many people that are not as lucky and have to fight the good fight every day. It makes me appreciate the staff, business partners (suppliers) and customers that have put us in the position we are in today.