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Fast-Track Firms : Shrink-Free Print Growth

December 2013 By Erik Cagle, Senior Editor
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The economic recovery has been a slow one for U.S. manufacturing in general and even more lethargic for the printing world, so one has to wonder whether the predictions of a "new normal" taking hold are true.

The industry continues to shrink, as evidenced by a brisk 2013 transaction season, capped by the jaw-dropping pickup of Consolidated Graphics by RR Donnelley. And while it was by far and away the biggest deal in '13, a glimpse at the PI 400 can provide further evidence of a shrinking market.

Ah, but when one press shuts off, another starts humming. We have three shining examples of printing companies that have posted significant growth year-over-year, using M&A, as well as new equipment, added staff and ancillary offerings to shake free of the new normal and create their own business reality. One unifying element among the trio: they're not afraid of making substantial changes, as long as there's a viable path toward profitability.

DirectMail.com

Prince Frederick, MD

Most Recent Fiscal Year Sales: $34.20 million

Previous Fiscal Year Sales: $24.00 million

Change: 43 percent

It's not often that you see a company led by second-generation partners who are not related, but Kurt Swain and partner Robert Salta aren't operating your run-of-the-mill printing operation. The firm once was an agency and a list company…and two printing shops and a mail house. The 43-year-old firm may not be typical, but it has evolved and thrived, in part, due to a name change that proved its owners to be prescient marketers.

The company took on the name DM Group in the mid-1980s, providing customers with a single billing point for their printing, data processing, mailing, etc., needs. The firm realized resulting economies of scale, which helped it grow, according to Swain. In 1994, with the Internet still in its nascency stage, the company decided to acquire the URL directmail.com. Five years ago, DM Group became DirectMail.com.

"That was uncharacteristically far-sighted of us to get that URL," Swain notes. "Our Website attracts quite a bit of traffic. We're ranked No. 1 for a lot of (Google) search terms that people look for when they want to do direct mail. Our sales staff has been fortunate in that oftentimes the leads come in, and the customers are ready to buy what we're selling. Because of the name/Website and natural search ranking that we have, it just continuously grows."

 

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