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November 2006 BY KRISTEN E. MONTE
Associate Editor
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WITH ALL of the changes going on in the printing industry, it’s an excellent time to be selling print. At least according to Tim Keran, president and owner of Western Graphics. With everything up for grabs, someone is going to have to catch it—and this St. Paul, MN-based company has a big bucket.

In 1967, a local state legislator opened Western Printing and Mailing, a small print shop aimed at handling his political printing, such as letters and flyers. After he lost the election, he sold the shop to Paul Brazman, who then sold it to Robert Keran and James Muellner in 1977.

Prior to that, Keran worked in sales for what is now Banta. He sold web printing, but wasn’t happy with his commission structure, so he moved on to Brown Printing.

After Brown attempted to relocate him, the elder Keran decided to go into business for himself and bought the company with Muellner. The duo changed the name to Western Graphics.

At that time, the printer had four employees, (one of which is still with the company), and did quick printing—primarily one- and two-color flyers, coupons and envelopes. The shop ran a Heidelberg Windmill, an ATF Chief press, an old A.B.Dick and some binding tables in a 1,000-square-foot building.

Robert Keran’s son, Tim, joined the company part-time in 1979 as a 14-year-old janitor, then moved into the payroll clerk position. During this time, Western Graphics surged from nine to 32 employees and moved locations twice, each time doubling in size.

Family Influences

In 1987, Muellner sold his interest in the company to the elder Keran and Tim took over as controller. The company continued to grow, and made another move in 1988, doubling again in size to a 25,000-square-foot facility.

Tim Keran was named president in 1993 and, in 2001, as the print economy struggled, Western Graphics downsized and the younger Keran bought the company.

Robert Keran still works for the company as a consultant, as does his daughter, Sherry, who is in sales. Today, Western Graphics has 78 employees, does more than $11 million a year in sales, and has continued to double or triple its building size with each move.

“Our focus is on giving clients peace of mind,” Tim Keran says. “We work with clients to make print buying more convenient. We make sure they get the biggest bang for their buck.”

Western Graphics produces general commercial products targeted toward the mid-size corporate market. It runs two Xerox iGen3 digital presses, four Xerox DocuTechs, as well as six offset presses. While 60 percent of the jobs are digital and 40 percent are offset, 60 percent of Western’s revenue comes from offset and 40 percent from digital.

“Our sales team doesn’t have to choose between offset or digital,” he explains. “There still is a difference in price, speed and quality, so we let clients choose which process they want.”

Currently with 50,000 square feet of space, Western claims to be one of the largest print-on-demand facilities in the country. It has been providing Web-to-print applications for the past five years, tallying 12,000 orders last year. It also began offering mailing services.

Western Graphics has recently upgraded its two iGens, along with installing Heidelberg’s PrintReady prepress workflow, a new MBO folder, and mailing systems including Mail Manager software and an inserter. The company is also looking to upgrade an ink-jetter and tabber in the near future.

Focusing on growth is one of Tim Keran’s top priorities and he wants to grow the company’s sales figure to $20 million in the next five years. Part of the plan is to focus on five main goals for the year, and five priorities for employees to focus on for each quarter.

“We keep the workplace fun and Tim is very good at making sure he gets constant feedback from employees,” says Jon Leinen, vice president of sales and marketing.

“Our secret is our service,” adds Keran. “We need all 78 people rowing in the same direction. Our philosophy is Keeping It Simple, Keeps It Clear.” PI


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