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Fast-Track Firms : Success Amid the Mess

December 2010 By Erik Cagle
Senior Editor

Give the editors at Printing Impressions a little bit of credit. It takes a lot of chutzpah to go door-to-door (so to speak) in the printing industry, asking America's leading printers to provide their sales figures for the latest fiscal year completed in order to compile the annual PI 400.

Sure, a few doors were slammed in our faces. And some irate executives pointed us toward a warmer climate. But, in the end, we were able to get our 400 companies. Enjoy the tipped-in insert, but don't linger over the percentage sales changes from year to year, as it is a bit depressing.

The economy is still moving at a pace that one might expect to see in a foot race between Mr. Magoo and Droopy Dog. But it's not all doom and gloom. A number of firms have bucked the downward trend via innovation, hard work, investment in technology and a willingness to be bold and different.

The following printing company profiles underscore the notion that there is hope for the industry and a clear vision toward success—and prosperity—for those firms unafraid to plan for success in an environment that calls for fear and inactivity. These three profiles offer more than a little hope that 2011 could mark a return to the "old normal" for companies daring enough to defy the economy.

Classic Graphics, Charlotte, NC
Most Recent Fiscal Year Sales: $34.35 million
Previous Fiscal Year Sales: $30.63 million
Change: 12 Percent

It is a far cry from the day Bill Gardner and David Pitts opened shop in 1983 with just $600 in working capital. The company generated $65,000 that first year and has blossomed into a formidable digital, wide-format and offset printer, with sales that were projected to approach $40 million by the end of this year.

There have been many changes over the years at Classic. A second facility in Morrisville, NC, was established in 1996. Classic also started a fulfillment and mailing company (Opus Direct) in 2003, and bought its first color digital press, an HP Indigo 5000, later that same year. The company celebrated 25 years in business by instituting an Employee Stock Ownership Program (ESOP) and, in 2011, Classic plans to consolidate its operations into a 180,000-square-foot facility.

"Years of investment in technology are starting to pay off," notes Pitts. "2008 was our toughest year, with sales down 10 percent, so our rebound in 2009 was welcome. We added a couple of key new customers and were fortunate to be positioned well with a few accounts that emphasized the kinds of promotions that we were doing for them to combat the tough years they were having in their businesses.

 

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