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Small Printer Thinks Big

November 2003
SPRINGFIELD, IL—Global Printing may be a small company, but its owners strive to offer its workers big-company perks and benefits.

The 3,400-square-foot facility, with five full-time employees, has enjoyed a 300 percent growth rate in the past three years. The firm began in 1999, when Rhett Mays and Jim Burke purchased two separate companies and merged them into Global Printing. When purchased, the combined company's annual sales were $200,000. Today, it boasts revenues in excess of $800,000.

In a challenging market, where many small shops are closing because they can't compete with larger companies, Global Printing proves that a back-to-basics business approach mixed with innovation often reserved for larger companies can mean that even a small, startup shop can still succeed in an extremely competitive market.

Burke, who owned a graphic design firm, initially founded the company with another partner, but Mays bought out that partner after six months. Mays came to the company after a career in the insurance industry.

What the men lacked in pressroom experience was more than made up for by their new employees. "We have excellent, talented workers who are experienced and committed to what they do," says Burke.

So to ensure that Global didn't lose their employees to their competitors, the men took several steps to earn the trust and respect of its work force. The pair instituted a profit sharing plan and tried to make the workplace more employee-friendly.

Gone is the time clock. Instead, Mays and Burke instituted flex time. "We both have young children, and so do a lot of our employees. If someone needs to take off to take their kids to a doctor's appointment or go see them play soccer, we accommodate them. Family is important to us and we extend those same values to our staff. We try very hard not to work on weekends. It's critical to maintain a balance between work and family," Burke states.

The employees are also given a voice in how the company is run. "We told them that they can work a little harder and longer, and make more money. Or, we could hire more people. They chose to work harder and longer," Mays remarks.

The partners also do what they can to make work a fun experience for their employees. The company regularly plans outings such as paint ball and pizza parties. The keys to the bosses' fishing cabin are often handed over to employees for use on the weekends.

Mays and Burke are also good at keeping their clients happy.

"Much of our business comes from referrals," notes Mays. "Those referrals come from doing little things that improve a relationship with a client. If a client's logo needs updated, we'll go in and make little adjustments, and they've always been happy with that. Or, if a client needs a disk logo then we'll do that for them free of charge and hand deliver it," states Mays.

Mays and Burke also try to offer their clients a one-stop approach to their print and promotional marketing needs. And, despite the company's growth, Mays and Burke still hand deliver all of their jobs.

"It's that personal touch. We generally drop off a job, and we generally leave with a new job," reports Mays. "We also stand behind our work even if it is a mistake on the customer's part. It's all of these things that keep customers loyal to us," claims Mays. "In addition we do quality work at a fair price," he adds.

The company also gets involved in its clients' causes. Global Printing's niche market is political printing, as well as non-profit work."We donate as much printing as we can. But, we are also there answering the phones for telethons and doing what we can for them on a personal level," says Burke.

While Burke and Mays have used innovative approaches with their clients and employees, they take a stern back-to-basics business approach. Over the years, the pair have continued to reinvest in the company.

"We are wall-to-wall machinery," says Burke. The four-color sheetfed printer currently runs Ryobi and an Omni Adast presses.

"We are located right next to the railroad tracks, so we've been able to keep our overhead costs low," states Burke.

"We've also done a lot of investment in new technology over the years. It may not be the newest technology, but it is much more efficient," says Mays.

In fact, when the men bought the company three years ago, the company was still using a typewriter to process its invoices, Mays and Burke have since replaced almost every piece of equipment in the shop in order to increase their capabilities with minimal capital investment.

In the future, the company plans to expand. "Right now, we are right on the edge. We just don't want to expand too quickly."


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