DreamWorks Graphic Communications : A Dream Becomes RealityJanuary 2012 By Julie Greenbaum, Associate Editor
Uncertainty was certainly the big buzzword for the printing industry in 2009. While many printers were hunkering down due to the recession, long-time friends and colleagues Norm Friedman and Daniel Luka decided to launch Skokie, IL-based DreamWorks Graphic Communications. The partners acquired all of the assets of a 60,000-square-foot commercial printing business and, in just five months, completely renovated the facility, brought in new equipment and hired a full staff.
According to Friedman, one of the most challenging aspects was trying to roll out a new company within the metropolitan Chicago area—an ultra-competitive marketplace already filled with printers feeling the economic crunch. "We took over a company that was basically going bankrupt," he points out. "So, we needed to establish credit and also to prove that our company was going to be around for longer than a few months."
After purchasing the equipment to get their business up and running, the partners began to hire new employees—many of whom were former industry colleagues. Since its outset, the FSC and G7 Master Printer certified operation has established itself as one of the fastest-growing graphic communications companies in the Chicago-land area. "Because of our growth, we are attracting more sales representatives interested in joining our organization than we can actually handle," Luka explains. "Our success is because we have remained debt-free, which has allowed us to grow and be very competitive in our pricing."
Plenty of Firepower
Today, the 62-employee operation serves more than 100 customers across the United States. DreamWorks caters to a range of vertical markets, including advertising agencies, marketing firms, large and small corporations, and large manufacturers. Services include sheetfed offset printing, digital output with variable data/personalization capabilities, lenticular printing, metallic and metallic effects printing, binding and finishing, as well as mailing, warehousing, kitting and fulfillment services.
DreamWorks also specializes in a variety of printed and promotional products for the music industry, such as concert books, program books that are printed UV, backstage passes, lanyards and posters—with special effects that might include multiple coatings, strike-through UV, printing on top of foils, and raised and textured UV effects. Other printed products include brochures, catalogs, high-end direct mail, point-of-purchase (POP) displays and point-of-sale (POS) materials.
In just two years, the company's annual sales have skyrocketed from $1.1 million to $15 million in 2011. Luka credits this level of growth to the firm's sales reps and the diverse clientele that they have brought in, as well as the operational people that support them. "When we assembled our employee base, we knew that we were gaining the best people for each of our departments, and we built our business around them." The company has also hired two additional sales reps with accounts worth $1.3 million.
Since it was founded, DreamWorks has never turned down a job because it lacked the resources to produce it. Much of the equipment has been purchased because of specific job requirements. For example, when a major retailer required 1,057 drop shipments per week to stores across the United States and Canada, the firm purchased two additional Konica Minolta bizhub PRO 1200P digital machines, hired two workers to meet the complex variable data and programming requirements, and acquired an additional shrink wrapper and cutter.
The company also secured a second six-color, 40˝ Komori Lithrone sheetfed press equipped with in-line UV and aqueous coating capabilities. A new Fuji platesetter was acquired to produce 3D lenticular printing, as well as a new off-line UV coater that was added exclusively for its digital department.
In addition to those investments, the company's sheetfed offset printing capabilities include a six-color, 41˝ manroland Roland 700 with UV and aqueous coating; an eight-color, 41˝ Roland 700 with aqueous coater and extended delivery; and a six-color, 40˝ Roland 600 with aqueous coater. On the digital end, it operates a Konica Minolta bizhub PRESS C8000, a bizhub PRO C6501 and three bizhub PRO 1200Ps.
With its current equipment lineup, DreamWorks is operating at 60 percent capacity, with plenty of room for future expansion. "Our goal now is to not overgrow our business, especially with the state that the economy and the marketplace are in right now," stresses John Perkins, DreamWorks executive vice president. "Our philosophy is to grow in a responsible manner and not disrupt the business culture that has made us so successful."
Perkins adds that while the company's employees wear many hats, they are able to make decisions without having to go through many layers. "We don't have the bureaucracy that weighs down a lot of companies, which allows us to move much faster and be more flexible."
What Luka enjoys most about DreamWorks is its family-like atmosphere. "The advantage of being a smaller company is that we all know each other and work well together as a team."
Seeing what their fledgling business has achieved in just two years, the DreamWorks executive team remains confident about the company's future. "We have established a record of success within the print communications industry, and achieved so in a difficult economic environment," concludes Luka.
"Moving forward, we will continue to monitor our growth, while also slowing it down a bit to ensure that we manage it correctly. We will also continue to make improvements for our clients, letting their growth dictate where we go from here." PI