Apple Graphics -- Little Fish, Big Pond
The company's name came from Patrick Polley, who once said, "If I wasn't printing in my garage, I'd be out on the street corner, selling apples." That saying was relayed to Kevin's grandfather, who was in charge of production for EMI/Capitol Records and worked directly with the Beatles. The Beatles' manager caught wind of it and suggested that the Polleys use the apple logo from the group's Apple Records.
Good fortune continued to smile on Polley when a friend of his father took the helm as print buyer for Disney. Polley made the most of his opportunities, and the company enjoyed incremental growth over the years.
"My goal was to be the best little printer for large corporations," he says. "I wanted to outclass and outperform the competition."
By the time the mid- to late-1990s rolled around, Polley understood that accomplishing this feat was growing increasingly difficult, as e-commerce and stiffer competition demanded capital improvements. "I saw the amount of money it would take to become a serious player," Polley notes, "and with my clientele, you have to be on the cutting edge. It was an investment I wasn't willing to make; I didn't want to jeopardize everything I'd worked for all of my life. It made the most sense to align myself with a company that did have the same beliefs and would invest in Apple Graphics, and would allow me to run the company the same way I always had."
Aligning with Consolidated Graphics—at the time, one of about six major players in the acquisition market—was the best fit for Polley, who still wanted to remain at the helm of the company. He sought to maintain his autonomy without corporate meddling, yet wanted the protection offered by the print giant, which included capital improvements.
CGX Group Vice President Dennis Rampe, who was also once an independent print shop owner, can empathize with Polley's viewpoint. "Most of us started our businesses because we were entrepreneurs," he says. "As our businesses grew, we got more employees; we became more embroiled in human resource, legal and personnel issues; and meeting with accountants and meeting with suppliers to make sure we get the best price possible. What most of us found was that the entrepreneurial process stopped and we became more administrators.