Advantage Inc. : Amid Turmoil, a Rising Star
"(Ling) has positioned the company from an equipment standpoint to be able to serve both marketplaces equally well," Duchene adds. "You rarely see high-volume, direct mail printing houses with a big commercial printing division."
Speaking of things one doesn't often see, there's the metamorphosis that Advantage underwent in 2010—consolidating, condensing and redefining its production operations from eight facilities down to two. The company took up residence in a new, 155,000-square-foot facility in Anaheim and a 100,000-square-foot plant in Salt Lake City.
And, if that seems impressive, this juggling act virtually pales in comparison to the transactional growth spurt experienced by Advantage during the height of the 2007-2010 recession. It has elevated Advantage to the $62 million annual sales level, a 29 percent increase over 2009 revenues.
Ling, along with his CFO, Brett Noss, has been a busy M&A maven since 2007, adding Southern California companies Rogers & McDonald, Valley Printers, Advanced Marketing Print & Mail, and Match Mail, along with Utah companies FranklinCovey, Printech and Rocky Mountain Printing. The latter grouping is now known as Advantage Utah. Most of the deals were assets-based transactions, though in some cases key personnel—including the former owners—joined the fold.
The Beehive State seems a random target, at first blush, but Ling has been the fortunate target of several business opportunities. FranklinCovey, known for its line of planners and organizational systems, decided to focus its energies on electronic solutions and offered Ling the opportunity to take over its printing operations. Ling relished the chance to acquire a sound book of business, and it provided inroads to direct mail growth in the Salt Lake region.
While two more acquisitions soon followed, Noss explains there were certain companies that did not fit the mold of what Ling was seeking. "We look to fortify what we're currently doing and create synergisms within the organization," he says of potential acquisitions. "Plus, we're always looking for companies that have different equipment, to some degree, and to acquire quality assets that open up new markets and provide us greater diversity."