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Fenton Press--Web Wonders

September 1999
A second-generation printing company, Addison, IL-based Fenton Press has always adopted a progressive philosophy when it comes to making decisions about the company's growth. That philosophy still holds true today.

With a strong belief in the management principles of gurus like Stephen Covey and William Deming, Fenton Press President Alan Tobiason believes that human resources are his company's greatest asset, followed by its use of quality equipment and the most up-to-date technology on the market.

An active force in Fenton's ISO 9000 certification, Tobiason backs up his beliefs with a commitment to training that involves leadership, as well as technical seminars. Employing a team philosophy throughout the organization, he says Fenton decisions are made via the input of six goal-directed teams that meet regularly.

In 1998, Tobiason and his partner, Daniel Blagaich, Fenton's vice president of sales and marketing, made sweeping changes in an effort to streamline the company's operations. Traditionally a trade printer and a printer for high quality direct marketers, Fenton's business depended on a multitude of brokers. This was causing the business to be price-driven and was not the philosophy that originally built the Fenton operation, nor was it the one that Tobiason and Blagaich wanted to take into the new millennium.

Boldy Changing Face
Together, they made a bold decision to change the face of the company by eliminating the broker business and focusing on the direct marketing and agency work. This would allow them to produce the quality work for which they were most proud. The decision, while ultimately a good one for Fenton, initially caused the firm to lose 25 percent of its business.

With the imperative need to replace this lost business and stand behind its mission to be a premium printer for high-end agency and corporate communications work, two things had to happen at Fenton: First, a sales force had to be trained to go after the targeted business and, second, a printing press that would deliver a top quality product would have to be purchased.

Before securing this high quality press, specifically an eight-page web offset unit capable of providing a high fidelity product comparable to sheetfed, Fenton needed to look at the bigger production picture. At that time, 15 percent of total production was already obtained on an eight-page web, while 85 percent was obtained in sheetfed printing. Fenton execs were very close to making a decision in favor of a competing press manufacturer; however, at the last minute, they agreed to visit two operations—one at Straus Printing in Wisconsin and a second at American Spirit in Iowa—both sites of recent Hantish/Zirkon installations.


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