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American Printing — Fast-track Firm

June 2005 BY ERIK CAGLE
Senior Editor
American Printing is, by its own definition, a small national printer. But if the venerable Birmingham, AL-based shop can follow through on its game plan, that will change drastically.

Growth has been a key for the sheetfed offset, half-web and digital print provider. When current owner Robert "Bo" Stanford acquired the company in 1992 from a venture capital group, American Printing boasted just 18 employees and annual sales under $1.8 million.

Fast forward to 2005. A base of more than 170 employees has enabled American Printing to post $19 million in sales for fiscal year 2004. Its current plant, acquired eight years ago, has been expanded twice and is due to be given another growth shot once a new, full-size web press is obtained.

Business Takes Form

The former business forms specialist has come a long way in a short time frame, but that path could easily pale in comparison to the growth jag Stanford and his executive team have in store for the company. Stanford is eyeing the $25 million in revenues level in two years before graduating to $35 million in five years.

How will that be possible? American Printing, which actually dates back to 1912, enjoys a veteran leadership core with a varied background of past experiences. And it's not relegated to just the upper management ranks. The company has pored over the country in search of the best and brightest that the industry has to offer.

"We've been able to hire good people from 14 or 15 different states," reports Bob Sturgeon, general manager for American Printing.

"Take the two lead pressmen on our half-web: One is from Florida via Missouri. Another is from Nevada via Pennsylvania. We've hired well because we spend a lot of time making sure we have the right people to do particular jobs."

This also extends beyond production personnel. "Another key is looking at your capabilities, and then identifying those salespeople and customer service reps who can handle specific types of accounts--matching accounts with people and building relationships from there," Sturgeon adds.

What has also helped American Printing grow is its ability to maintain a loyal base of customers for a prolonged period. Some clients have been with the printer for 30-plus years, and Sturgeon notes that many are substantial accounts.

"We tend not to lose customers," he says. "We build deep relationships and we sell horizontally within a given company, so that we're not relying on one person to keep us in the game."
 

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