CLASSIC GRAPHICS -- Against the Odds
Classic Graphics purchased its first Heidelberg press in 1984, and launched a marketing campaign that highlighted their ability to handle more complex printing jobs. Within a few months, sales climbed by 30 percent.
By December 1987, Classic had added a two-color Heidelberg press, and sales grew by another 50 percent. In July 1993, Classic Graphics moved to its third and present location. With the move, Classic added a six-color press to its arsenal of two- and four-color presses, further broadening its capabilities. In 1996, the pair opened a second facility in Morrisville, NC, geared toward the half-size sheetfed market.
A year later, the company began a $5 million equipment upgrade, which included two new six-color, 40˝ Heidelbergs and an expansion of the Charlotte facility to 59,000 square feet.
While the two appear to have the "Midas touch" when it comes to running a company, that wasn't always the case. In 1999, the company got an unexpected wake-up call. Almost overnight, Classic Graphics lost $2 million in sales from a single account. "Our situation changed with this customer. We were still getting work from them, but we weren't getting as much work as we had," Pitts explains.
This unexpected turn of events turned out to be a blessing in disguise. "As tough as it was for us, it made us focus on the cost side of our business. By learning how to manage costs, we eventually saved our company," he reveals.
Not only did Pitts and Gardner turn their company around in 1999, they also put Classic Graphics in a better position to weather the current business slowdown. "Our experience in 1999 gave us the management tools we needed to ride out this current downturn," according to Pitts.
The company has taken a hard look at every aspect of its operation in order to ensure that it is running as lean as possible. They've even gone as far as to study the cost of their printing blankets, reports Bob LeVan, production manager for Classic Graphics.