Trends in Print and Mail

The Berkshire Company Blog

Networking at the National Postal Forum

Posted by Mark Fallon on Feb 9, 2016 5:00:00 AM

Next month, thousands of mailing professionals will gather in Nashville, TN for the 2016 National Postal Forum (“NPF”). From Sunday, March 20th through Wednesday, March 23, attendees will be able to attend educational classes, interact with vendors in the exhibit hall and meet with senior US Postal Service officials. And just as importantly, network with fellow industry managers.

Whenever I attend the NPF, I always follow the advice of my good friend, Paul Balbastro, for getting the most out of a conference: the "30-30-30-10 Rule". Paul says you should spend:

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National Postal Forum

The Rollback Rates Are Here!

Posted by Mark Fallon on Feb 6, 2016 12:49:17 PM

On Friday, February 5, The United States Postal Service (“USPS”) released the draft postage rates for the rollback of the Exigent Rate Increase in April. While there remains some uncertainty around the implementation date, this is good news for mailers.

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United States Postal Service

The Real Costs of Poor Address Management

Posted by Mark Fallon on Feb 2, 2016 5:30:00 AM

Following best practices for maintaining and updating mailing addresses seems to be a logical aspect of good business management. However, when we recommend process improvements to clients that will improve their address databases, we’re often faced with pushback. The most common reasons:

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Operations Management

Did You Hear That the U.S. Postal Service is Going Out of Business? No One Told Their Senior Management.

Posted by Mark Fallon on Jan 19, 2016 5:30:00 AM

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United States Postal Service

The First Postal Rate Change of 2016 is Upon Us

Posted by Mark Fallon on Jan 12, 2016 5:00:00 AM

On January 17, 2016, U.S. Postal Service (“USPS”) will be raising shipping rates for the first time in 3 years. However, the rate adjustments are only part of the story.

Although the word “Mail” is used in most of their products, the USPS categories Priority Mail and Priority Mail Express as shipping services. That means they are considered competitive products and not subject to the same pricing constraints as First Class Mail, Standard Mail and Periodicals.

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United States Postal Service

Trends in Print and Mail – Top 10 Posts of 2015

Posted by Mark Fallon on Jan 5, 2016 5:00:00 AM

A new Postmaster General. The long-awaited Appeals Court ruling on the Exigent Rate Case. Another rate increase. And more inaction by Congress on President Obama’s nominees to the US Postal Service’s (“USPS”) Board of Governors.

These are just a few of the subjects that dominated the mailing industry in 2015, and were covered by our blog – Trends in Print and Mail. Articles about the US Postal Service and rate changes generated the most interest. The readers’ comments on our website and in the LinkedIn groups helped add to the conversation.

2016 looks to be another interesting year. It’s likely that First Class Mail rates will actually decrease this spring. A comprehensive postal reform bill has started to gain interest – in Congress and the national media. With presidential elections taking place, and absentee voting by mail increasing, the USPS will be under close scrutiny. We’ll be sharing our insights and opinions as these events unfold.

In case you missed them, here are the 10 most read posts from 2015:

Senate Causes Crisis for US Postal Service: A Call to Action
The citizens of this country deserve to have a full Board of Governors for the USPS. (Note: This blog generated almost 10 times the number of views as an average post.)

Preparing for the First USPS Rate Change of 2015
Here are 5 steps every mail operations manager can take now to prepare for the first USPS rate change (Competitive Products) of 2015.

Court Ruling Impacts Future Postage Rates
The United States Court of Appeals’ decision supports the Postal Regulatory Commission’s approval of a temporary exigent rate case, while dismissing calculations of the financial losses of the USPS.

2015 Postage Rate Case Update
There have been several events that will impact mailers as the US Postal Service implements the first postage rate case of 2015.

Impact of the US Postal Service New Standards
Mailers need to prepare for the new, slower USPS delivery standards.

Effective Address Management Part 7: Processing Return Mail
Mailpieces that are returned to your company add no value to the relationship with your customers.

Postal Regulatory Commission Ruling on the Exigent Rate Case In English
The PRC orders that the exigent postage rate increase will remain in effect until the USPS recovers an additional $1.91 billion.

Twenty Questions To Ask When Purchasing Equipment
In addition to legal questions and pricing information, here are 20 questions you should ask when purchasing equipment.

The Mismeasure of Mail
"There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics." - attributed to Benjamin Disraeli. Focusing on Single Piece First Class Mail is a distraction from the real issues facing the USPS.

It’s Process, Not Product
Leverage the new tools available to you, and take your first steps to achieve Total Process Management.

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United States Postal Service / Operations Management

Time to Reflect

Posted by Mark Fallon on Dec 23, 2015 5:00:00 AM

It’s hard to believe it’s the holidays again. Soon, we’ll be gathering with family and friends for festive dinners and annual get-togethers. Of course, being in the mail business, you’ll be preparing for the big year-end statement runs and handling a lot of packages for co-workers.

It’s also a good time to reflect on the past year and contemplate next year. What awaits us in 2016? There’s an old saying that fortune favors the well-prepared, and the well-prepared learn from the past. Seriously consider what has happened, how you reacted, and what you’d do differently next year. Oscar Wilde said, “Only the shallow know themselves.” To which I’d add, “But only a fool wouldn’t try.”

First, conduct a review of your operation. Gather your monthly status reports and weave a story of what you’ve accomplished. Although you probably do this as part of your own annual performance review, you may focus only on the positive (in order to secure bonuses and raises). I’m suggesting that you also delineate your failures, or things that you wanted to accomplish, but didn’t. This doesn’t mean you should dwell on the negative, but you need an honest assessment.

A nice tool is a simple three-column spreadsheet listing your unit’s goals, the results (success or defeat), and the impact on your operation. Discuss this assessment with your staff and determine what could be done to be more successful. List those goals that will carry over to next year, and what new challenges the team hopes to overcome.

Next, look at your staff. Again, these aren’t formal performance reviews. Rather, evaluate key people as part of the team that produced success over the past year. Make sure you reach out to people and thank them for their efforts. I know you thanked them at the time of the success, but nobody gets tired of hearing what they’ve done well.

Of course, no one in their right mind would leave you. However, one or two members of your staff may be thinking about finding a job elsewhere. What can you do to help them stay? Or if appropriate, help them move on? Steer these workers toward the resources available within your company, and remember to share your personal stories when you made similar decisions at a similar point in your career.

Now that you’re done looking at others, it’s time for the real challenge - looking at yourself. Self-assessment is no easy task, and shouldn’t be treated lightly. Seek out a place where you won’t be disturbed (away from work and home).

An excellent place that you might overlook is your public library. An interesting thing about libraries is that they’re full of books that you may never have a chance to read. There just aren’t enough hours in the day to read all those books. What a fantastic reminder that there’s so much we don’t know, and so much we’ve yet to learn. So shut off your cell phone, grab a pad of paper and a pen, and find a quiet spot in the stack of books.

To start your self-assessment, make a checklist:

  • What have I done to improve myself?
  • What were my professional goals at the beginning of this year?
  • What steps did I take to achieve those goals?
  • What roadblocks did I encounter, and how did I handle them?

Consider each of these questions from a professional and personal point of view. Ponder whether you would have made the same decision with the knowledge you have today. If you conclude: “I would have done things differently”, then determine your motive for making the “wrong” move last year. For your successes, describe those key actions that led to your success. Perhaps you can find a way to mimic those actions to accomplish next year’s goals.

Did successes from one aspect of your life negatively impact another part of your life? Maybe you completed that project, but it meant spending too many hours away from home. Hard work and long hours are often necessary, but so is balance. Time is a valuable currency; make sure to spend yours wisely.

Now, contemplate your future. Where do you want to be a year from now? Maybe you’d like to get a promotion, or achieve professional certification, or submit an article for publication in a trade magazine. It’s possible you’re thinking about an even bigger step: a new job. There’s a lot involved with each of these decisions. You’ll need to conduct some research, study reference material, and draft a resume or article.

Most importantly, to reach your goals, you’ll need to create a plan with measurable action steps and deadline dates. Be as detailed as possible, and include target milestones. If you’re really bold, share the plan with someone, and discuss your progress on a regular basis with this person. Schedule a date for this same time next year to conduct another complete review.

We often choose not to make significant changes because of fear. Traditionally, print/mail managers have spent their entire careers at one company. With the shifts in the economy and the multitude of mergers, this may no longer be possible. Approach these challenges as opportunities.

A good friend of mine recently changed jobs after 17 years at the same company. The apprehension of starting a new job was balanced by the prospect of designing and implementing new systems. While he still faces many of the management and political issues that existed at his old company - they’re usually the same no matter where you go - he’s very upbeat, and confident he’ll succeed. It’s great to see the improvement in his attitude.

Conducting a self-assessment may not sound like the most enjoyable way to spend the holidays—especially with all the other pressures—cooking, buying gifts, and year-end reports. But can you think of a better gift for yourself and your operation?

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Operations Management

Disaster Recovery Planning – Do It Now

Posted by Mark Fallon on Dec 16, 2015 5:00:00 AM

It may be warmer than usual in New England, but weather in other parts of the country caused the temporary closure of several U.S. Postal Service facilities in outher parts of the country. Notifications helped alert mailers to adjust their outbound and inbound mail operations. But for many companies, these outages highlighted their own weaknesses and unpreparedness.
The lack of a disaster recovery plan is unacceptable in today's environment. It's futile to argue that any company won’t be impacted by weather, natural disasters or terrorist attacks. Everyone must consider what they will do if all or part of their operation can’t function due to outside forces.

Most companies have some sort of Information Technology (IT) recovery plans. These plans range from nightly back up with offsite storage of data; to fully redundant, mirror IT systems established at different locations. However, startling few companies have complete document processing disaster recovery plans.

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Mail Security / Operations Management

Delivering Help to Habitat for Humanity

Posted by Mark Fallon on Dec 9, 2015 5:30:00 AM

What are you doing on Saturday, March 19, 2016?

If you’re attending the National Postal Forum (NPF) in Nashville, you’re invited to join The Berkshire Company as we lend a hand to Habitat for Humanity.

The NPF is the premier postal industry conference with numerous educational workshops and more than 100 vendors participating in the exhibit hall. It’s also the venue for Postmaster General Megan Brennan and her leadership team to directly address the mailing industry and share the USPS’ plans for the coming year. Mark Fallon, The Berkshire Company’s president, has been an instructor at NPF for the last 20 years, delivering over 100 classes – from “Boot Camp for Mail Center Managers” to “The Ten Secrets of Leadership”.

The NPF is also a great opportunity to network with fellow professionals.

One of the networking events planned for NPF 2016 is working with Habitat for Humanity of Greater Nashville on one of their projects. You can help construct a home in the Nashville area for a local, hardworking family in need. You don’t need to have any previous experience in construction or home repair. All you need is the willingness to help build a place that someone can call “home”.

As individuals, the members of The Berkshire Company team have participated in several Habitat for Humanity projects, including last year at the NPF in Anaheim. It’s rewarding to work alongside Habitat family members and other volunteers, transforming dreams into realities. Now we plan to do even more.

For 2016, The Berkshire Company will be sponsoring the Habitat for Humanity event at the NPF. We’re working with the staff at NPF, Habitat for Humanity, and members of the Nashville Postal Customer Council to coordinate all the activities for the project. With your support, we can make this year’s event a success for everyone, especially the family who will live in the completed home.

You can pre-register to volunteer on the NPF website. After registering for the conference, please remember to select “Networking Events”. If you’ve already registered, you can edit your existing registration and add the event. Round-trip transportation and lunch will be provided by the NPF. There’s a $25 non-refundable fee to participate, and all fees collected will be donated to Habitat for Humanity of Greater Nashville.

Please sign up today to make a difference. Thanks.

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United States Postal Service / National Postal Forum

Building Professional Improvement Plans

Posted by Mark Fallon on Dec 2, 2015 5:00:00 AM

Most managers say that employees are their most important asset. Their actions must be consistent with their words. Good managers take responsibility for the people who work for them. Their employees are paid a good wage, are treated with respect and have individual professional improvement plans.

All employees must have the opportunity to grow. This includes everyone from meter operators to mail clerks to high performing supervisors. While the scope of the personal improvement plan is different for each person, the components are the same:

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Operations Management

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The Berkshire Company improves business processes in your print & mail operations, helping you solve real problems.

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