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EVP, Marketing at Specialty Print Communications

Against the Grain

By Dustin LeFebvre

About Dustin

A third-generation printer, Dustin LeFebvre delivers his vision for Specialty Print Communications as EVP, Marketing through strategy, planning and new product development. With a rich background ranging from sales and marketing to operations, quality control and procurement, Dustin takes a wide-angle approach to SPC


What I Learned at PRINT 13

I spent my weekend doing PRINT 13 related things, and I need to travel down there for another day today so I’ll be quick.

Saturday, I spent my day at the Gleacher Center attending a NAPL M&A workshop. Andrew Paparozzi, Chief Economist, opened the day by highlighting the divergent directions taken by successful and unsuccessful firms in our dynamic, increasingly digital communications industry. Under that backdrop, panel discussions spoke about their first-hand experience with M&A, with typical war stories shared from the lower end of the market.

It was amazing to meet so many small business owners so obsessed over their financials and the strategic direction of their businesses. You often hear about “firms that don’t understand their costs,” but this group is just the opposite. They have fully implemented MIS systems to know precisely what is going on within their business at all times, and they were attending to verify their growth strategies and learn more about the idiosyncrasies of acquisitions to see if it might be a tool for them.

My key takeaways were very simple. Establish a strategy, hone in on a target that supports that strategy, ensure proper cultural fit, perform your due diligence, and execute your plan with precision. Planning, attentiveness to detail and an unbending willingness to walk away from a deal were keys to success based upon others’ experiences. Each deal is different, will involve learning, but is certain to require a lot of hard work to pull it off successfully.

The strategy element broke down to scale, scope, or capabilities. Some firms were looking to fill open capacity via tuck-in deals. Others were looking to expand into neighboring cities, and still others were looking to acquire value-added acumen in the form of digital marketing execution, or Website development to offer a wider breadth of services. Whatever the flavor, it was really great meeting so many families so rigorous about their businesses.

On Sunday, I spent my day touring the exhibit hall of McCormick Place. It had been a couple of years since I did this, so I really took a fresh look at the landscape. What I saw really blew my mind.

The competitive markets and battle lines of just a couple of years ago have been obliterated. The digital revolution has blown down the doors and thrown traditional prepress and workflow players such as Fuji and EFI into the same ring as traditional production press manufacturers such as Heidelberg and KBA. This collision course is bound to create winners and losers and precipitate a massive round of consolidation. Exciting times full of massive opportunities!

And what about our old friends from Heidelberg? They, along with Agfa and Kodak, were conspicuously absent, which many of their competitors were so happy to point out. (ED note: Kodak added a small booth just prior to the start of the show.) And when I entered the Goss area, I felt like I needed a bottle, minimum 80 proof, to endure the pain of their plight. Having lost out on Impika and other acquisition targets, Goss is positioned as a legacy producer of offset equipment in an increasingly digital world. I’m not counting them out yet because Shanghai Electric is committed to the space, they still produce great offset equipment, and the cost of digital consumables yields heavy opportunity in the hybrid (offset-digital) world. I’m sure they’re actively pursuing an entry to the digital world.

Well, I’m off to another day of exploration and meetings. What are you learning at the show?

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