Advantage Inc. : Amid Turmoil, a Rising Star
For example, Advantage's Utah haul included wide-format digital printing capabilities, box production and marketing services. Ling is very bullish on the future of packaging and package printing, noting that even as commercial work transitions to digital alternatives and online ordering, "the product still arrives in a box."
Ling's collaborative style has given him a unique perspective on the local and national printing and marketing industry mindset. "In the last few years, as economic conditions have deteriorated, we seem to have lost some of our industry consciousness," he says. "In many ways, it has been replaced with a race-to-the-bottom mentality that ultimately benefits no one and hurts all players. We need a new sense of cooperation in our business, and not just in regard to pricing."
Since Ling has worked closely and even collaborated with competitors in the Southern California marketplace, he already boasted a solid scouting report on prospective acquisitions. That spirit of collaboration gave him a high level of familiarity with his contemporaries in rival corner offices; six former company owners now work at Advantage.
"It can be a difficult transition when you're the one who made all of the key decisions, but now you're in a position where you're just providing input in those decisions," Ling says. "It wasn't easy for (the former owners). We sought to make them feel part of the decision-making process, helping to make the work environment a lot more palatable, especially from an ego standpoint."
Integration is often one of the most difficult aspects of acquisitions, as new employees adjust to different systems and work cultures. Ling was selective in the process, bringing over those employees who were critical to maintaining the expertise in their respective niches, as well as those who boasted key relationships with their respective client bases.