Allegra Network — A Match Made in Printing

Allegra Network took more than 125 of its top franchise members to Heidelberg, Germany, for the company’s annual Summit trip. As part of the Allegra Awards & Recognition Program, the Summit offers top performers the opportunity to network and share best practices with each other and members of the management team (wearing teal-colored shirts).

Tom Renfro, of Allegra Print & Imaging in Louisville, KY, prepares signage for a customer.

The executive management and ownership team at Allegra Network. Shown, from the left, are Darryl Buchanan, Bill McIntyre, Mike Marcantonio, Steve White and Carl Gerhardt.

LOVE MAY not exactly be in the air, but when it comes to a certain matchmaking service for the printing industry, you might say that letters of intent are in the mail.

No, Allegra Network isn’t setting up Kim, the sensitive, self-effacing 30-something graphic designer, on a date with Ted, the moody yet surprisingly attractive preflight operator with a heart of gold. Instead, the Northville, MI-based franchisor is seeking to connect printing company owners looking to sell with qualified franchisee buyers. In an age where corporate consolidation and venture capital dominate the printing industry’s transaction wire, it’s a refreshing twist to see smaller operations traded horizontally.

Known as the conversion program—and affectionately dubbed the matchmaker program or the “eHarmony of the printing industry,” according to Darryl Buchanan, vice president of franchise development—Allegra matches up quality buyers with motivated, yet particular, independent sellers. In the end, an outgoing owner gets his/her nest egg, a corporate exile gets a new lease on a career, and Allegra…well, the Allegra Print & Imaging chain grows by another franchise.

“We’re targeting businesses with sales from anywhere between $500,000 to $2.5 million,” Buchanan notes of the ideal Allegra franchise profile. “We currently have a pool of buyers that we’ve been working with over the last five to six years. We’ve completed 21 deals, and we have another 30 franchisees from around the country who are looking to get into the printing industry and have already signed an agreement with Allegra.”

The plan of attack makes a lot of sense to Allegra President Carl Gerhardt, himself a corporate “refugee” and former franchise owner from the 1980s. Given that the children of the nation’s so-called greatest generation are now in transition career-wise, the ratio should begin to shift away from buyers to sellers.

“A lot of the baby boomers enter-ed the printing industry between 20 and 30 years ago; it was a very rapid growth period in this industry,” Gerhardt says. “Now, the boomers need an exit strategy. If your annual sales are more than $5 million or $10 million a year, you might be a target to become consolidated by one of the bigger printing companies. But, if you do under $5 million in sales, you’re hardly on anybody’s radar screen. Those who might look at acquiring your business likely just want your accounts.”

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