Putting Real Skin in the Game

Back in the mid-’80s, our beloved printing industry was comprised of about 55,000 companies. Then shrinkage stuff started to happen.

There were bankruptcies. In one year alone, there were nearly 600 bankruptcies where the reorganization plans didn’t work and owners put big padlocks on their front and back doors.

…And there were fewer companies.

Then there were liquidations where the owner said to the missus, or she said to the mister, “Let’s have an auction and close up. We can go to Florida and fish for reds in the Gulf or bass in Lake Okeechobee or and play shuffleboard in St. Pete.” So they hired an auctioneer, collected their receivables, pocketed the cash, packed up the car and drove down I-95 all the way to Key West.

…And, now, hundreds more of our companies were gone.

The years marched on and there were mergers and acquisitions. Entrepreneurs like Joe Davis and Jerry Mahoney bought printing companies like pearls on a necklace and strung them together.

…Dozens of companies folded into one real big company.

So, in the space of less than 30 years, our industry is down to—give or take—about 25,000 establishments, according to the industry economic experts.

But I have had an idea to stop this dreadful trend.

I have written an as-yet-unpublished novel about an incompetent biker club. Satan’s Saints can’t commit a successful crime. They can’t brew up any good meth or grow any pest-free cannabis—a good batch of the former explodes and sets fire to their trailer and the marijuana is attacked by boll weevils. The Hells Angels and the Banditos outlaw biker clubs laugh at my Saints.

…Oh yeah, the idea.

All bikers get tattooed. There are more than 20,000 tattoo parlors in America. So my big idea is the tattoo industry. We have all been looking for diversification opportunities.

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Harris DeWese is the author of "Now Get Out There and Sell Something." He is chairman/CEO at Compass Capital Partners and an author of the annual "Compass Report," the definitive source of info regarding printing industry M&A activity. DeWese has completed 100-plus printing company transactions and is viewed as the preeminent deal maker in the industry. He specializes in investment banking, M&A, sales, marketing and management services to printers.

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