Advantage Inc. : Amid Turmoil, a Rising Star
Ling was in the enviable position of being able to be discerning in stocking his firm with the best available talent. The West Coast, it seems, does not lack for quality printing employees. "The Southern California marketplace, especially in the past few years, has been filled with many good free agents," according to Duchene.
With seven deals in a relatively short span, Ling has honed his assessment skills and can rely on instinct. He passed on a number of potential deals because the executives on the other side of the conference table weren't on the same page as Advantage. "Over the course of several meetings, their true colors will come out," Ling adds. "I generally trust my own gut on whether it's a good or bad fit—regardless of how good the acquisition may appear on the surface."
"An acquisition is like a marriage," Duchene relates. "You have to go in with both eyes open, knowing there's going to be both good times and bad. Tom has made some very good choices."
As for future deals, Ling is receptive to the idea of adding new capabilities, as well as fortifying newer endeavors such as wide-format (including billboard printing and bus wraps) and package printing. But, there are no revenue targets; Ling's primary objective is for Advantage to constantly reinvent itself.
Acquiring seven firms has netted Advantage an impressive list of half- and full-web offset presses, including an eight-color M-1000, a 10-color Sanden and a six-color Global Web-8, as well as a Komori Super Perfector to complement its Heidelberg CD sheetfed equipment. An HP Indigo 7000, HP Indigo w3250 rollfed press, two Xerox iGen4s and a Xeikon 8000 web—along with 14 monochrome printers—anchor the 11-year-old digital program at Advantage.
Ling is proud of the digital legacy Advantage has built, headed up by his sister, Stacie Ling Yamasaki, and its leading reputation for helping clients best leverage their customer bases through variable data/imaging, then integrating it into an effective cross-media marketing plan. Yamasaki is quick to point out that the greatest digital assets are the folks who enable clients to best manipulate their data.