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Drastic Measures Helped Wallace Carlson Printing Return to Profitability

February 22, 2012
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MINNETONKA, MN—Feb. 22, 2012—At a time in history when business success stories seem few and far between, Wallace Carlson Printing has achieved a complete metamorphosis, ending last year with 11 percent growth. Having come dangerously close to closing its doors after 80 years in business, the company is now operating safely in the black. Today, Wallace Carlson’s executive team shares their tenets of success in the hope of inspiring other businesses to get serious about the bottom line and survive.

Wallace Carlson Printing is a Minnesota printer offering prepress, offset and digital printing out of a 36,000-sq.ft. facility. A combination of factors put the company at risk in recent years, including a shift from traditional to Internet based technologies and the flat line economy. Facing the prospect of closing its doors, the executive team chose to make drastic yet calculated changes over the last year and a half. Those decisions have succeeded in getting the company solidly on track.

The first step was to bring on Charlie Cox, a talented printing professional with three decades of experience in the industry. Cox became the third member of an executive team that includes Ann Turbeville, CEO, and her husband Brian Turbeville, Wallace Carlson’s President. The Turbevilles brought Charlie in as vice president of operations to help intensively analyze the company’s inner workings, profit and loss statements, and staffing.

“I spent the first 90 days working day and night, building the model in my head and on paper,” Cox said. He evaluated every aspect of production, as well as employee productivity. “We just became ‘laser focused’ on improving our efficiencies and throughput. No process was safe from scrutiny.”

“Charlie introduced several lean manufacturing concepts,” said Brian Turbeville. “He began charting productivity within the departments so that everyone knew where they stood, month after month.”

The result of the analysis was a broad set of dramatic, result-producing changes. First, the team reviewed the company’s customer base and increased pricing for a small segment of high volume, non-profitable contracts that were bringing in well over a million dollars worth of business annually. A small but significant increase brought those contracts into the black.

Next, they aggressively renegotiated leases to longer terms, which freed up cash flow. The result was cash they could use to pay invoices more quickly. “We began working with vendors as close to cash as possible,” Turbeville said. “Instead of 30 to 90 day terms, we turned invoices around in 15 days or less, which brought us additional discounts. Plus we could watch closely for any unforeseen up-charges and get back to the negotiated price.”
 
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