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From the Editor: Under the Radar

Trying to get by without promoting your in-plant is not the best survival technique.

June 2014 By Bob Neubauer
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I've heard the term "Under the Radar" a number of times over the years when speaking with in-plant managers. Often, it comes up after I offer to write an article about a noteworthy in-plant, and the reluctant manager says, "Thanks, but we're not looking for any publicity. We're trying to fly under the radar."

Embodied in those three words is the desire to exist quietly in the underbelly of an organization without anyone remembering you're there, so that hopefully you can squeak through to retirement. What happens after that? Well, that's for the next guy to figure out, right?

I realize I don't know the political intricacies of every in-plant, nor the impact an article might have on a jealous senior executive with an axe to grind. I also know the spotlight is not for everyone, and that some people are shy about telling their story to a stranger to have it shared with the world.

But still, I have to question whether this "under the radar" strategy really works. It's not like you're really invisible. Articles aside, flying under the radar implies the in-plant is not marketing itself (because then someone might notice it). So new employees will not even know the in-plant exists. Business card customers won't know your shop can print posters too. How does this strategy keep your shop busy so it can survive?

Let's face reality: you can't hide forever. Your management knows you're there. Just because they're not talking with you about outsourcing doesn't mean they're not talking about it. Only by showing your strengths, plugging your services and stressing your value can you combat the possibility of closure. You must promote to make it clear you are important to the organization's success and that your in-plant aligns with its goals. Instead of hiding, you should be involved in committees and support activities for the organization. You should be adding vital services and telling everyone about them.

"If you are not looking for new avenues to expand what you can do and enhance your services, you are nothing more than some numbers on a budget. It is easy to mark out numbers," points out John Sarantakos, director of the University of Oklahoma's in-plant. "We have to be seen as valuable and indispensable to our companies."

At Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools, Alvin Griffin spends a lot of time leading task forces and sitting on committees. "It's important that they realize we are a source of problem solving," he declares. "Thinkers that also provide print and graphics."

"We need to be part of the conversation," adds Sarantakos. "When you are an afterthought, little concern is given to what value is being lost, what expertise is being lost and...what control is being lost."

And as for that "under the radar" strategy, Griffin points out, "Under the radar is great when you are planning a sneak attack, but a horrible way to support the corporate strategic mission."



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