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Sandy Alexander: Ownership of the Future

October 2013 By Patrick Henry
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Continuity of ownership and management is the key to longevity for some printing companies. Others, though, seem to draw their staying power from the dynamism that periodic acquisitions and reorganizations bring to the business. The more things change, the less they stay the same—and that's just how these forward-looking leveragers of opportunity like it.

With roots that go back almost 50 years, Sandy Alexander, of Clifton, NJ, is the product of a long string of corporate mergers, executive shifts and proprietary realignments. The most recent of these came in the announcement that a management team under Michael Graff, Sandy Alexander's president and CEO, had completed a buyout of the company from its former owners.

If Graff, a 2012 inductee into the Printing Impressions/RIT Printing Industry Hall of Fame, professes to be "confident and bullish" about what the buyout will lead to, it's partly because that's how he wanted to feel at this stage of the strategic plan he set in motion after taking the top job at Sandy Alexander in 2008. The plan unfolded against the backdrop of an economic downturn that obliged Sandy Alexander, in Graff's words, "to refine the business both financially and operationally."

But, the strategy wasn't to be one of hunkering down and hoarding cash, as the expansion of the company's digital printing capabilities and the launch of SandyWide, its retail visual merchandising and wide-format printing division, would show. When the industry's shipments nosedived, says Graff, "a lot of people ran for the hills, but we doubled down." He's convinced that recession-bucking investments in technology and personnel are responsible for carrying Sandy Alexander to the strong position he says it occupies today.

Historically based in commercial lithography, Sandy Alexander continues to operate high-volume litho presses: four sheetfed machines, including three 40˝ presses, in Clifton; and three 38˝ web presses at one of its direct mail facilities in St. Petersburg, FL. Like nearly all offset printers, the company has had to cope with declines in conventional production. Nevertheless, notes Graff, sheetfed impression counts are up over last year, and the web division is looking at a strong year-end finish.

The broad plan, still in force, directs each division not only to drive its own business but to uncover opportunities for the rest of the company, as well. Graff says that this dual objective was prompted by the "pleading" of retail customers for services that would let them color-manage all of their printed output to Sandy Alexander's rigorous quality standards for litho. Clarifying what Graff calls the "blurred lines" between the processes would give every division a shot at gaining share-of-customer and keeping as much work as possible under the same roof.



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