Seattle Bindery–Trade Binderies in a Bind?


Milt Vine, president and CEO of Seattle Bindery, is often asked why he chose to acquire a trade bindery, particularly given his background as a CPA with one of the Big Five accounting firms. When he purchased a tabbing operation in 1991, and then a letterpress shop a few years later, folks pretty much fell silent on the subject, thinking Vine had some secret formula for success.

“Well, I don’t,” contends Vine. “I’ve just been around long enough to know that all the trends analysis in the world can’t predict success. I also know that while some printing companies may, in fact, be bringing binderies in-house in the hopes of gaining greater customer share by providing a greater range of services, many others will continue to outsource. Both strategies have their advocates and detractors.”

Vine’s growth strategy for Seattle Bindery is a combination of both the outsource and all-under-one-roof philosophy. Citing Microsoft Corp. as an example of outsourcing in the extreme, Vine recalls that the company initially performed all R&D and production tasks in-house. Over time, Microsoft has migrated to a buy-out mentality, focusing only on R&D, now its core competency, and leaving implementation up to its acquired partners.

Vine believes Microsoft’s arguments for outsourcing also apply to printing companies. Buying out bindery and other services:

  • Allows printers to concentrate on core competencies;

  • Frees up dollars for critical investments in front-end technologies;
  • Avoids bindery equipment expense and attendant headaches of finding skilled operators; and
  • Allows for greater scheduling flexibility and faster turnarounds, since specialized binderies have more equipment and, therefore, are better able to provide services.

“On the other side,” says Vine, “as a business owner, I have to look at Seattle Bindery’s options for growth: sell more services to our existing customers or expand our market share in bindery services. I’ve chosen to pursue both strategies.”

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