Printing Impressions

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2013 Hall of Fame : Bob Lothenbach - Imagine! the Possibilities

September 2013 By Erik Cagle, Senior Editor
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Standing in the middle of the parking lot, Bob Lothenbach was keenly aware of a few facts. One, he no longer had a job. Two, he didn't have a set of wheels to exit said parking lot; he'd been using a company car. Three, he had $1,800 to his name and, four, it was only Monday. Not the best way to start the week.

Incredibly, it would turn out to be the greatest day in Bob Lothenbach's professional life. He would finally embark on his deferred dream of owning his own printing business. Little did Lothenbach know that on this day, April 4, 1988, he would be setting the wheels in motion on creating one of the printing industry's largest privately held printing concerns. At the time, obviously, he wasn't feeling so triumphant.

"I worked in sales at Crosstown Printing and became a part-owner of that business," explains Lothenbach. "I'd been there seven and a half years but, on that Monday, we had a falling out. We were going to acquire another company and I wouldn't do it, so I quit and walked out. It was only when I got out into the parking lot that it dawned on me...I didn't have my own car."

Tireless Work Ethic

Perhaps Lothenbach wasn't overly concerned with what would happen next, because he knew in the simplest terms that it was time to go to work. Loyal customers, upon learning of Lothenbach's departure from Crosstown, still wanted him to print their jobs. So he would collect the orders early in the day, pick up the paper in the early afternoon and print at night. The next morning, Lothenbach would cut, package and push the work out the door.

How did he produce the jobs? An equipment dealer had been at Crosstown when Lothenbach departed, and called him the same day to offer the use of its equipment. "He told me I could pay for the equipment when I could afford it," Lothenbach recalls.

He used a warehouse garage as the shop's home. His first hire was someone with a car, and Lothenbach slowly staffed up as sales grew. That first year, the company—Bob's Printing—did roughly $1 million in sales. It's gone through a few name changes (Challenge Printing and now Imagine! Print Solutions) but, 25 years later, it is still performing at a break-neck clip—30 percent annual compounded growth.

 

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