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PI 400 -- Fast-Track Firms - Some Movers and Shakers

December 2001

Acquisitions, new markets and additional facilities are just a few of the ways printers grew their sales last year. Printing Impressions takes a look at how several companies established new sources of revenue.

Challenge Printing, Eden Prairie, MN

Most Recent Fiscal Year Sales: $50.6 million

Previous Year: $42.2 million

Number of Employees: 315

Number of Plants: 2

Diversity is the key to Challenge Printing's success, explains Jay Carroll, Challenge's vice president of sales and marketing. "We really point to our investments into new capabilities over the last few years as the reason for our growth," says Carroll.

Challenge's investment in new capabilities began in 1998, when the commercial sheetfed market started to soften. The Challenge executive management team decided that they needed to diversify into other areas.

So, Challenge invested in flexographic printing gear, eventually spinning that business off this past year into a subsidiary, NuQuest Label Solutions. The company also added an in-house lettershop to drive more direct mail business.

In 1999, Challenge purchased its first UV press, as well as a 64˝, seven-color KBA large-format press to serve its growing package printing and point-of-purchase markets.

And while investing in new technology has led to a growth in revenues, Carroll points to the company's sales approach as having an equally important impact on growth.

The Challenge sales staff includes specialists in each of their major product segments. But everyone is also crossed-trained on all of Challenge's products. "Our salespeople are having good success representing all of our print capabilities to larger accounts that are specifically looking for fewer suppliers who can do more for them," reports Carroll.

ABS Graphics, Addison, IL

Most Recent Fiscal Year Sales: $18.05 million

Previous Year: $14.2 million

Number of Employees: 125

Number of Plants: 1

ABS Graphics is taking the customer relationship one step further.

ABS—which initially began as a brokerage and design house that moved into manufacturing about 15 years ago—has established a number of on-site relationships with clients, according to ABS Graphics President Kenneth Vander Veen.

"I believe that these strategic relationships have contributed to our growth," says Vander Veen.

Not only do the on-site personnel help with preflighting and design issues, they are also there to assist customers as they move into more complex personalization projects.

Because ABS personnel are on-site, they are in a unique position to help their clients build a database, as well as educate them about what directions they can take with their personalization projects.


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