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Carl Gerhardt

Business Sense & Sensibility

By Carl Gerhardt

About Carl

Carl Gerhardt is the chairman of Alliance Franchise Brands LLC, the parent company of Allegra Network LLC and Sign & Graphics Operations LCC, and a world leader in marketing, visual and graphics communications, linking more than 600 locations in the United States, Canada and United Kingdom. The company’s Marketing & Print Division, headquartered in Plymouth, MI, is comprised of Allegra, American Speedy Printing, Insty-Prints, Speedy Printing and Zippy Print brands of marketing, printing, mailing and Web services providers. Its Sign & Graphics Division, headquartered in Columbia, MD, is comprised of Image360, Signs By Tomorrow and Signs Now brands of sign and graphics communications providers.

Carl and his wife, Judy, owned and operated their own successful Allegra franchise for nearly 20 years before selling the $2.3 million operation in 2003. He is a PrintImage International/NAQP Honorary Lifetime Member and was inducted into NAPL’s prestigious Soderstrom Society in 2010 in recognition of his contribution to the industry.


Love of Print Is Secret to Dscoop’s Success

A couple of weeks ago, I had the opportunity to “experience” Dscoop for the second time. I say experience because this event is truly an experience and a phenomenon. For those who may not know what Dscoop is, it stands for Digital Solutions Cooperative. It is an association/group of HP Indigo and Scitex equipment users who gather together once annually in the United States for the sole purpose of sharing their successes and best practices.

Although HP is a sponsor, the group is independent and run by an outside management company and board of directors. The event grows every year, boasting a sell-out crowd this year of more than 2,000 attendees—mostly printers.

One of the things I find unique at this conference is that people are happy, joyous and appear to be having fun in this industry. Contrast this with some other recent industry events where you see printers with a look of gloom and doom on their faces and clearly not having fun.

I previously blogged about the importance of “falling in love again” with your printing business. I shared the story of a friend who realized that he had fallen out of love with his business and how falling back in love was now his key to success.

I think that there is something we can all learn from the Dscoop phenomenon. Even though we have been through some tough times, there are great opportunities in this industry—if we have the foresight to find them. Dscoop members seem to have found it. How and why? No one knows for sure.

Even HP executives admit that they are not really sure why Dscoop took on such a life of its own. It’s not just HP/Indigo magic. Make no mistake—HP is a key part of the group’s success and proud of it, but it does not manage the operation.

We want Allegra Network to get in on some of this action, so we just placed an order for a new HP Indigo model for our corporate center and will be at Dscoop again next year.

We have many great suppliers in this industry that are bringing us great technology. This includes HP, Xerox (an iGen4 also was just ordered for network), Ricoh, Konica-Minolta, EFI and, yes, even the offset press manufacturers such as Heidelberg are bringing us great new technology. If we look at the light at the end of the tunnel as a new horizon and not an oncoming train, perhaps we can find our own reason to fall in love again.

We have pounded the drum loudly about the opportunities available to us in marketing. It is interesting to note that the vast majority of the educational topics at Dscoop were about all things marketing. Perhaps that’s why all those people are smiling and are still in love with the industry. It’s not just about print anymore.

In the spring, a printer’s thoughts turn to...or should turn to love…of the industry!

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