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Five tips to faster RV prepping

Posted on 23 September, 2022 at 13:20 Comments comments (938)

 

These tips are suggestions, based on my own experience, that you can leverage once you know where and when you will be camping.

1) USE YOUR FRIDGE. You might only view your fridge as the place that just keeps the food that should be kept cold. It’s not just a place to store cold food but ALL of your food! If you are planning a shorter/weekend trip and have space left over in your fridge then use that space and pack as much of your food there as possible. It can not only free up space elsewhere in your camper but it also means you are making a single effort to load it versus having a separate “pantry” area. The other benefit to maxing out your fridge is the reality that your A/C will not be running while you are towing. That means the ambient temperature of the camper will also be the ambient temperature of your stored food.

2) LIVING WITHOUT. Less is more when it comes to prepping for a trip. It is extremely easy to assume you need every single item you normally use in your day to day. After a few years of camping I’ve found I can live without many items and often prefer to while on a trip. If I know I do not plan to hike in the summer months then I can easily forego that extra pair of shoes that wouldn’t be used. The same goes for extra toiletries, kitchen items, and more that aren’t as applicable depending upon your style of camping. You would be shocked at the amount of items that are underutilized in people’s campers; taking up space, adding weight, and adding to their prep time.

3) TOTES ROCK. Repurpose that large tote or other bag that you have buried in your closet to pack your items before transferring them to your camper. The less trips in and out of the camper the faster you can be ready to leave and the less physical work you are also performing. I keep one for clothes and toiletries and a second for food items. This means I have one for each hand! This equates to a single walking trip to my camper to pack 90% of what I need for a trip.

4) SMALLER MAINTENACE BITES. Break up your maintenance “checks” across a longer period of time. It is easy to slip into the habit of only checking your tire pressure, roof seals, and other such maintenance items to before a trip. This eats up your prep time before leaving out and it also creates extra stress if you encounter an issue. So, separate the different needed maintenance items across your overall year. I use my phone calendar to remind me of these items so I can do say every few weeks or even months and avoid the mad dash before a trip.

5) LISTS ARE KING. Lists are your very best and most noble friend before prepping your camper. No matter if you have pen and paper or use a phone app as long as you have some sort of a running list it will save you time. I add things to my list, as I think of them, during the week before leaving. This means I have a smaller likelihood of forgetting an item and I do not make extra trips back and forth to the house to hunt down those last few “oh, I forgot something!” items. It also means you can max out your experience because you’ve packed exactly what is needed and nothing more or less.

Let me know if these tips help you with your next trip. I love to introduce people to the lifestyle of being an RVer either directly through my sales role with A&L RV in Jackson, Tennessee or just by being out and talking to those I meet while actively camping myself.


I used my degree, because they didnt.

Posted on 3 October, 2018 at 16:15 Comments comments (132448)


Even before I was a “full-time” graphic designer I ran into many adults that possessed under utilized college degrees. Seeing that motivated me to not waste my invested time or money; as I busted my tail to leave college debt free. Unfortunately no one really knows what their final level of talent or opportunity will be before leaving college and in my case finding out how unprepared I was for my own field was another unknown that wasn't initially considered. I even had an onslaught of friends and family that were terrified for me as I was finishing my last semester. In 2006 the “printing” market seemed to be shrinking exponentially as technology took more of a grasp on American's day-to-day activities. Magazines were failing, newspapers were consolidating to survive and even online posts and emails were incessantly plastered with statements begging people to not print them to as to save the trees.

 

Stubbornly I ignored them and plowed ahead into my first out of college job with a local commercial printer. Initially, I did everything that had nothing to do with graphic design. Of course that's how it should have been. Beginning my career away from a computer did, however, give me a HUGE amount of insight into how things are accomplished in a production environment BEFORE I ever had my hands on designs that would then have to be produced by pressmen and finishing workers. I was also blessed to be around people that I could ask questions of and learn from with my eyes and hands directly next to theirs. This has since separated me from many other designers in my field and given me additional, added value in what I can bring to those needing my service(s). It's worth as much or more than what my time in college gave me.

 

So, now I can appreciate those that did not pursue their college degree “professions” as I have also experienced how quickly a career can change as opportunities and simple lifestyle changes occur. I'm one of the lucky ones to be able to use my degree each and every single day. I'm even luckier that I had all of the help along the way with an economy that has allowed what I do to be viable these twelve years later. Sometimes you pick your profession, sometimes it will absolutely pick you, but no matter what you do nothing devalues you as long as you are doing something. It took me a very long time to figure out that life lesson and to give value back, in my mind, to all those people that motivated me to use my degree because they didn't use theirs.

This versus that in print pricing

Posted on 26 July, 2018 at 15:05 Comments comments (71915)


Let me start by saying that all things are not created equal in the print industry and we have to look at print pricing with a skewed perspective. As you go from printer to printer the capabilities, knowledge base, and workflows of these printers change drastically. Some are geared to do a little bit of everything while others specialize in very specific areas. Having the needed knowledge base and jargon to navigate all the intricacies of a printer’s offerings is not something I ever expect my customers to possess. The truth is that I am a print broker specifically because the vast majority of people have only dealt with print in a very limited fashion. So, let’s break down just a few of the things that define fairness in an industry with a billion small variables that are rarely discussed.

Most people are aware that there is a difference in paper types where some are more expensive than other’s and some people might even be conscious that you pay additional for speedier service. The items that are often overlooked are wide format vs. lithography, digital vs offset, quality vs. usage and market vs. margin.

A sign shop, that produces wide format prints, inherently encounters issues with physically manipulating large pieces that are susceptible to damage during production versus a lithography printer that normally handles small sheet sizes that are loaded and unloaded by hand without the high risk of damage to the final product. Wide format pieces are also, normally, single prints that have to be correct the first time versus a lithography printer that builds in wasted material to ensure the correct quantity when the order is completed. The huge difference in how products are handled and at what speed completely changes how a quote would be built from these printers.

A digital print can be a single sheet, printed directly from a computer, almost instantaneously. It allows last minute changes to a file too but is much slower in final production speed versus an offset printing press that can turn around thousands in the same amount of time that a digital press would produce a few hundred. Digital also has limitations in the range of colors that it can produce (it is getting better over time) versus an offset press that can utilize a larger range of colored inks. The skill of a press operator that can adjust the colors to reflect the best possible outcome is another benefit to offset printing too. Digital has lower setups but higher per piece charges versus offset. Again, small changes in what is needed applied to how it is produced can affect the outcome and cost.

 

Margins are inherent to all businesses that produce any physical product but they aren’t always set purely based on a straight margin number applied to costs. Example: Color copy materials cost a printer $0.10 each so they add a margin of 50% and charge $0.15 per color copy (not a realistic price). Often though print pricing is actually determined by the prices that has been commanded by many different printers in a certain area. New York has different prices for the same printed good as say Atlanta or anywhere else in the world. Each area is independent to a particular cost of living, current wages, and other variables that affect pricing or help set the “market price”.

These items are generalized examples of just a few details that go into determining a final cost for printed goods and are in no semblance the totality of specifics that make up anything print related. It does give us a good indication of what to start with and what to apply value to when receiving a quote from a printer/broker. You have to weigh each of the details against one another and then apply that to the need of the final product to attain the intended result. Even with my twelve years of experience working in the field as a graphic designer, production worker, and print broker I still find myself learning and adjusting my previous knowledge as technology evolves and processes become better. Thankfully I have the opportunity to transfer this to the businesses and individuals that call themselves customers of Dapper.

 

Traditional or Digital business exposure?

Posted on 24 May, 2018 at 13:30 Comments comments (35291)


Lately I am seeing multiple online sources devaluing “old” ways of marketing and advertising. The assumption is that these options are just outdated or somehow separate from how business is done today; in 2018. Handouts and flyers, business cards, outdoor signage and the like are both directly and indirectly challenged by those that offer digital marketing services. I don’t mean offered in tandem or sequenced but wholly separate as to devalue the physical option entirely. I’m obviously going to be biased considering I am a print broker and print graphic designer BUT I am hoping I am not as quick to denounce the benefits of finding the right tool for the job.

I actively use online marketing both organically and in the paid arena WHEN IT IS THE RIGHT FIT for what I am trying to accomplish. The same thought should be taken when considering a physical marketing or advertising piece. Are you in front of people over and over again during your day? Then you need a business card to start a conversation with them. Then that business card could lead them to your website, your social media page, and maybe even offer a code for a discount. Does your business face a busy roadway? Then you need outdoor signage to not just display a promotion you might have but to add value to your brand by having people see it during their daily commute; over and over and over again. Just like with that business card a banner could easily communicate additional ways to interact with your business, online, to drive their knowledge of you and become engaged in your products or services. Physical and digital can work in tandem to lead people into a better understanding of your business which really just translates to sales at the end of the day.

So long as the piece fits the need and adds value to the business then why not use everything available? It is indeed the year 2018 and we have had huge advancements in the way we communicate both online and in print. For all the naysayers I’m going to repeat myself one more time because I create it and use it every, single, day”….print is not dead.”

 

â??Prettyâ?�, technical, or communicative design?

Posted on 30 March, 2018 at 0:55 Comments comments (14023)


My high school art teacher taught me that “pretty” was NOT an accurate term to use when describing artwork. Why? Because “pretty” is subjective from person to person and hinges too much on someone’s own personal preference. Being descriptive of the art itself relies on the technical portions of how the artist built the piece, why they did the work to create it, and what it conveys in the most literal of terms.

A piece of art can be big, small, dark, light, high or low contrast, it can also convey movement, or show a sad scene. Artwork can be created to help an artist deal with stress, react to a tragic event in their life, or even just to bring them joy at the physical act of working the medium. Art can even be defined by terms such as; balanced, heavy sided, good use of space, or correct perspective. All these could describe the piece to someone not able to see it themselves. Art is graphic design too and it should be eye pleasing but that isn’t the underlying reason to have anything designed by a graphic designer. A graphic designer exists specifically to communicate in a visual medium. They are tasked with a message that is expected to be seen by a specific viewer. That is why most graphic design is text heavy. The issue lies in how to best give that message over to the viewer in a way that is pleasing, in a general way, to the highest possible demographic of persons. Often the descriptive terms of a piece of art become guidelines for a graphic designer much more than their own preferences in color, layout, typography, or space. Instead of liking the color yellow a graphic designer would know that blue would work better to recede away from the viewer exposing the text in a heightened way. This isn’t always such a conscious choice as that example but with good graphic designers there is a collection of thoughts to hit the highest number of technical decisions as possible. It’s what good graphic designers rely on and constantly come back to when they are unsure or when they know better than to trust their own perceptions solely.

I personally design many pieces that I do not personally enjoy seeing not because they are bad designs but because the requirements of the piece (size, medium, branding standards) limit me to work within those confines instead of what I want to do. The technical knowledge that a good designer brings to a design can overcome these issues and if they are well versed can even bring it above the expected level at the completion of the piece. That knowledge of what to do before, during and after to get away from the “pretty” version and to the communicative version could be the difference in a business being successfully marketed or a non-profit getting additional donations. As I design for Dapper I see and work within all the knowledge that I have gained in the past decade plus of printing and design to give my customers a working design that isn’t just “pretty”. It works. It speaks.

 

Speed costs money in print.

Posted on 19 March, 2018 at 16:25 Comments comments (11361)


All things business revolves around the “Three Choices”. Quality, Speed, Price. You can always have two out of the three but not all three at the same time. This applies to printed goods too but with the growth of digital printing the quality aspect is now expected from most customers. So, that leaves speed or price as the second choice of the three and these directly balance out with one another.

If you want a faster turn time then you are going to pay more in the form of a rush fee or use of a specific vendor that is setup for quick turn orders….and they definitely charge more on the front end.

If you want a lower price then you will have to sacrifice that turnaround time. Printers that schedule themselves plenty of REAL WORLD production time have less issues with accuracy (that costs money and time). This extra time allows for last minute adjustments to files to be a possibility as an added value too.

 

Formulating the differences in the needs of each order and/or client is a balancing act with many factors. Those that are versed in how a printer operates, what capabilities they have, and how capabilities are financially reflected can be the keystone to a project being completed. You want speed? It’ll cost you money. You want cheap? It’ll cost you time. This is where Dapper’s print procurement becomes an added value beyond the graphic design services we offer. Taking the best of all the “Three Choices” leveraged against many different print providers is how I save my clients in the short and long term time either in final costs or timelines. Time is money. Speed costs money.

 

Starting a business debt free but not stress free.

Posted on 13 February, 2018 at 15:20 Comments comments (78831)


Debt isn’t always an inherently bad thing for a government, business or even for an individual person BUT just like anything else too much of a good thing can become bad. Avoiding it is a business scenario almost impossible save for a very few exceptions. Thankfully I have been one those few that has avoided the debt it normally takes to launch, maintain, and grow a business. My “office” is entirely mobile in my business model to avoid the overhead of a dedicated office space. By saving me upfront and recurring costs associated with leases, utilities, and equipment I can focus on my cash flow more quickly to give my customers more options with payment. This also allows me to reinvest more of my cash flow into additional product and service offerings pushing future growth opportunities. I also negotiate with local, regional, and national vendors to fulfill the needs of the print orders I receive instead of investing large amounts of capital, upfront, to obtain, maintain and operate printing equipment. I work with others that have already overcome those initial investments and workflow efficiencies that I can then offer back to my customers. In this relationship these printers also gain a salesman that is not fully employed by their company. These decisions did open me up to a lower startup cost but it does not mean I have less stress, over the business, than if I had a physical office/production location. I am at the whims of many moving parts that I cannot directly control with my own hands with how my business is setup. I have to be more proactive about being detailed and communicating those details as accurately as possible across many different platforms. My customers contact me via a cell number, email and social media. So, I have to make sure I am understanding them fully before moving forward with requests or valuable time and ultimately money (on my end) will be lost. To control margins and continue to grow I have added risk that the vendors I work with have the same level of competency, skill, and self-motivation that I have for MY customers. That cannot be assumed and goes back to being clear in my communication to ensure all needs are fully known to become ultimately realized. I also have to say I have been very lucky to have had many years of experience doing work that is nearly identical to what I now do through my own business. Learning the back end requirements of many different segments of the design and print market are not common nor is the opportunity for one to dive off into a business with extremely minimal upfront costs. I have had amazing support from a network of individuals, including my spouse, that bought into the model itself and what it affords my customers in comparison to other forms of print procurement. Time will tell if the model holds true and how successful it remains.

Holiday greetings; greeting cards

Posted on 14 December, 2017 at 16:25 Comments comments (10610)


The holidays for a printer/print buyer is such an odd time of year. All of a sudden we have loads of orders, for small quantities, accompanied with high expectations from our customers. Our timelines get short at an incredible pace and all the gears have to turn just right to avoid issues with orders due to the higher amount of individual orders...as quantity volume simultaneously decreases. It’s amazing how so much goes into a single, short run, greeting card. Customers want a unique design, an attention catching tagline, and for their card to be printed on a nice stock often with a high end finish. This is the ONLY time of year that printers consistently have this sort of request; in quick succession. And though they raise morning anxiety levels I am absolutely grateful for the tradition of holiday greeting cards and postcards. They are such a personal item that business owners and individuals alike can use to remind people that they are still there, that they still think of their customers, and these are often displayed instead of “circularly filed”. This is a great way of getting in-front of existing, new, and potential clients in a passive but effective way. Instead of coming across as needy, begging, or otherwise annoyingly business you are simply wishing them joy. It doesn’t have to be a silver foiled, gate folded, embossed card with lined envelopes to create the same effect (but you can do that too!). Just a simple holiday themed postcard, showing your name and greeting, can easily stick in the mind of the receiver just as much as all the holiday food is going to stick to their ribs this season.

 

 

Expectations Unrealized: Living with success; not your dream.

Posted on 25 November, 2017 at 15:45 Comments comments (26816)


Dreams and goals are what motivate us to do more than we are already doing. It pushes us to the next level and usually keeps us accountable because those in our lives are aware of our dreams too. Unfortunately dreams and realities often do not match up and it can be devastating when what we expect to happen simply doesn’t happen. It doesn’t mean you have “lost” or that your dream has somehow become unattainable because of the benchmark you placed on your own self. Most likely you were expecting something to happen that was a bit outside of realistic expectations? So, the trick is learning to live with the success that you do have and not caring about what wasn’t attained. You wanted to double your sales this past year but were only able to increase it 10%? You’re upset over being successful? Your sales still went up, you still made progress, you still moved forward! This has also been a huge mental wall that I’ve had to shove myself over. I have a certain level of growth that I wish/dream for but that doesn’t mean that I failed just because my numbers weren’t what I WANTED them to be. I’ve had to step back and see beyond just a month, a quarter or even a single year and really look at the longevity of what I am doing. So long as I am grinding in a forward direction and setting myself up for success in the future then the level I want will still happen just not in the speed at which I want it. It becomes a struggle between pride and patience with neither of them aiding you in any way. Set expectations and prepare your plan to get there but understand there are items that are outside of your control. You can’t force your employees to have the same exact dream as you! You can’t force your customers to buy more just because you think it’s better than a competitor! You can control you and you alone to set the standard, be the bar, and then you need to appreciate the success you are receiving. Not hitting marks sucks and it should to keep you wanting to do better during the next period of time you deem. Don’t be discouraged because your process worked a little less successfully than you wanted. If you have success you simply have to perfect what you are already doing and allow yourself a moment to relish the fact that you aren’t failing as you could be.

Organization: Do it.

Posted on 17 November, 2017 at 0:20 Comments comments (10618)


Organization. It falls under the business management section of a business owner’s existence. Without good, simple organization it is incredibly easy for things to be forgotten or allow for mistakes. The same is true in my own business as having details keeps the wheels turning. For me there are two main areas that I have to be aware to stay organized. One is Artwork Archiving that requires a specific organizational system to locate, update, and complete artwork changes quickly. Then there is the order information that requires a huge amount of details to be collected and then set in a specific way. Paper types, dues dates, job entry dates, customer information, and shipment details all affect how well I take care of my customers in the immediate and allow me to reference details for future orders. Organization is easily seen when physically interacting with an individual or business too. It becomes visually representative when someone is juggling a pile of papers, sending off a horde of mouse clicks, or running back and forth between rooms when they can’t find what they need when they need it. At that point it becomes a customer service issue as it creates the sense that there is no decisive action given from management on down to keep all processes streamlined and sorted. I always go back to that “perception” word because it constantly rings true in so many different ways. Organization is just another visible way that someone perceives you and more importantly your business. I’m not going to say it’s an easy thing to be conscious of your organization with all the other items pop up in-front of us during the day but it is definitely NOT something that needs to be ignored. If it is ignored a lack of organization can grow into something that is completely unmanageable. If you don’t think that is the case then go watch any episode of “Garage Rehab” or “The Profit” and you will immediately see that the first issue that is addressed is the lack of organization of the company’s resources. No matter how good you are at any given task if you can’t access what you need when you need it you’re pretty much worthless. I am setting my holidays as a time for me to work specifically on organizational improvements. As my business grows the last thing I want to have to mess with is figuring out how to handle additional growth. I don’t want to react and have to figure out better processes while I’m physically handling orders. I want that process to be set, I want to be organized, and I want to fulfill my customer’s expectations faster because of it. It all starts with getting organized upfront and staying in that mindset to stay organized as the work comes in. That’s it. Get organized; make things easier on yourself.


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