Global Printing : Creating the Right MixAugust 2011 By Julie Greenbaum
Solving problems beyond print has been a way of business for Alexandria, VA-based Global Printing since the day Jerry Dreo, founder and former president, started the company in 1979. Today, the firm has continued to hold true to that mantra by further expanding its traditional printing business with the addition of Global Thinking, a creative/marketing services and software development business unit that provides clients with Web design and Search Engine Optimization (SEO), e-mail marketing, database development, printing and mailing, as well as e-commerce and fulfillment.
When clients started requesting help on projects that extended beyond ink-on-paper and traditional marketing, both Dreo, and Jon Budington, president and CEO of Global Printing, began to map out their plan for a Global Thinking brand. Part of that process included hiring Jason Kowal as the principal of Global Thinking to help build that end of the business.
The executive team then began to look at marketing communications from a more holistic standpoint—incorporating online design and technology, strengthening their understanding of data infrastructure and exploring more advanced methods of customer relationship management. After several years of planning, the Global Thinking unit was implemented in 2007.
According to Dreo, the creation of the Global Thinking brand could not have happened at a better time because, at that point, the Internet was already starting to impact the demand for print. "We were hurting for a while, like many other printing companies during the recession. But, when you hurt you also tend to become more creative," he explains. "We knew that printing was really just one leg of the communications process, so it has become just one component within the many services that we offer."
Since the addition of Global Thinking, the company now offers a vast array of services for a wide variety of markets. It provides traditional print, distribution and marketing support services to non-profit associations, government agencies, health care providers, HR specialists and Fortune 500 companies.
Some of the printed products that the company produces include direct mail and newsletters, full-color brochures, business cards, flyers, signage and personalized mailings. Other services consist of variable data-based, on-demand digital printing; Web-to-print capabilities; binding, warehousing and fulfillment; campaigns and packaging; print and online design; and e-mail/direct marketing campaigns.
As the printing industry sailed into the rough waters of the recession, the Global Printing executives held on to their wits and braced themselves for the unknown. "As a company, we saw our clients' needs changing, so we had adjusted our business model," notes Budington.
"We knew that, in order to grow, we would have to put all of our resources into the Global Thinking model. We had the product offerings in place that our customers needed to help them start developing comprehensive marketing/publishing plans."
The recession also inspired the team to continue to fine- tune its Global Thinking sales pitch, but finding the expertise they would need to continue to grow that part of the business was not so simple. According to Budington, the company's indirect labor costs grew significantly, while overall revenue remained flat. As the company's business grew, it also needed access to more capital, but credit was very difficult to obtain in 2009.
"The recession tested my confidence," he recalls. "While most of our competitors were shedding jobs, I had a difficult time justifying the Global Thinking staff overhead. It can be very difficult to stick to your long-term goals in uncertain economic times. I spent a great deal of time explaining our business plan and showing the results to our bank and vendors."
Surviving Tough Times
But the company already had something going for it, and that was momentum. According to Kowal, there was already a lot of drive behind the business and the way it was growing right up to the recession.
"Like most companies during that time, there was some cost- cutting...there's no question about that. We were like everyone else in that regard," he emphasizes. "But, we attribute our growth to our strategy-led business model that continues to attract plenty of organic growth. Our Global Thinking unit has helped us expand and deepen our customer relationships. We have also been able to map our approach on to acquisition targets, as well as to attract new recruits with great relationships of their own."
Four years later, Kowal adds, Global Thinking has become a platform that is fully capable of standing on its own. "But, as an integrated company," he points out, "Global Printing and Global Thinking can do so much more than a typical creative agency or printing company because its expertise spans interactive marketing, as well as print."
Budington reports that the company as a whole has experienced its fastest growth rate ever, reporting double-digit growth during the span of the recession with only one flat year. In the past seven years, Global Printing's annual sales have grown from $4 million to $16 million.
"It is remarkable how the company started and how successful it has become," Dreo remarks. He recalls the time when Global was just a small print shop housing an assortment of old duplicators with rubber bands holding the parts together.
"This was the era before electrostatic duplicating, so all jobs had to be printed on-press," he adds. "We recognized at that time that short-run overnight printing, coupled with a relatively small capital equipment requirement, was a great business plan and worked this business model successfully for many years. As printing moved more into color, we continued this model with color printing and also with electrostatic digital printing."
Today, Global Printing's pressroom has expanded in size and features five Heidelbergs—a two-color Speedmaster 74; a five-color Speedmaster 74 perfector; a six-color Speedmaster 74 perfector with coater; a two-color Quickmaster; and a two-color Printmaster GTO. On the digital end, it operates two Kodak Digimaster 9110 digital printers, as well as a six-color HP Indigo 5500 with IndiChrome technology.
The company also maintains an in-house bindery, and in-house mailing and fulfillment services.
A Global Reach
Global Printing employs 120 staff members and operates out of two facilities; its main printing facility is 22,000 square feet, with a separate 15,000-square-foot fulfillment and assembly plant. The business serves clients in the United States, Canada and Europe.
Budington owes much of Global's success—as well as his own—to Dreo, who took him under his wing right after he graduated from RIT 20 years ago. "While I had a good understanding of printing, my business skills were non-existent," Budington recalls.
"Jerry immediately took over as my business mentor and, as my responsibilities grew, he allowed me to learn from my own mistakes. We've been through a good deal together, and we remain great friends."
Moving forward, Budington foresees that the digital end of the business will continue to grow, and comprise the bulk of Global's equipment investments in the future.
While Global Printing's growth over the past few years has continued at a fast pace, Budington says he wouldn't have it any other way. "There's just so much going on here throughout the day and on the weekends," he concludes.
"For people who have been in other printing companies that have been beaten down by the economy, this is truly an exciting place to be. Everyone is running around with a sense of purpose." PI