PrintingForLess.com : 21st Century PrintingNovember 2010 By Erik Cagle
Behind the counter, Field spots a less-than-enthralled cashier, a twenty-something whose dead-eyed glaze would’ve fit in well at the local fish market...in the “catch of the day” bin.
Field, a man who knows a thing or two about customer service, genuinely inquires, “Excuse me, but do you love your job?”
Trout orbs doesn’t miss a beat, replying, “Will that be all?” One wakeup call placed, one snooze bar tapped.
“It’s too bad,” Field observes, “that life is that way for some people.”
Andrew S. Field, founder of PrintingForLess.com (PFL) in Livingston, MT, never had any grand designs about owning an online venture, let alone a printing company. But, one day in 1996, while fishing with an old buddy who was about to lose his job at an in-plant printer, the idea was floated to Field that he should take a stab at starting his own print shop.
It might have seemed like a career reach, considering that Field was selling auto supplies to repair shops at the time. But, he had worked in the industry back in the 1980s at Minneapolis-based Meyers Printing, as well as Sir Speedy. However, Field now resided in Montana, the sixth-least-populated state in the union.
“We did about a week’s worth of market research. There were only two other printers in the area. We felt like they were cutting a pretty fat hog, so I thought we could eat, too,” Field remarks.
In short order, he assembled a six-employee crew, shelled out $425,000 for a Heidelberg sheetfed press and sales quickly grew to $80,000 a month. But there was a reason why only two printers existed in a 100-mile radius. Print buyers were few and far between. Montana’s bread-and-butter industries, like agriculture and timber, didn’t drive print. The pig was not so big, after all.
Although Field couldn’t find enough customers, he was able to find a niche. In the late 1990s, it was tough for customers to get printers to accept/manipulate different types of files—Microsoft Word and Publisher, Corel Drop, PowerPoint, etc.—without being charged with setup/layout fees. Field’s technology wizards figured out a technique to take RGB output and convert it into CMYK, which was a big deal back in the day. Armed with an angle, he decided to emulate the Amazon model by taking to the Internet in March of 1999, first selling brochures, then relaunching in October with a greater arsenal.