Fast-Track Firms: Bucking the Trends
AS THE most challenging year since the Great Depression comes to a close, many executives and employees of printing companies across the nation are drawing a deep breath and exhaling. Well, maybe not everyone is exhaling, but a good many people are just happy to still have their jobs.
Here at the headquarters of Printing Impressions, perhaps the one question on everyone's mind was: Could we still pull off a Top 400 list? After all, we once listed 500 companies; but the consolidation wave of the late 1990s/early 2000s thinned out the herd considerably, prompting us to dial back on our ranking. The fear this time around was that privately held companies might be discouraged from participating due to poor financial performances.
One thing's for certain: If your company posted a negative percent growth change year-over-year, you are not alone. In fact, of the 400 printers on the 2009 edition of the PI 400 list, 63 percent of the firms came in below their previous year's sales figures. In reality, next year's list should be in worse shape, since the current sales figures represent the most recent fiscal year completed, which is Dec. 31, 2008, or June 30, 2009, for most companies.
Fear not, for this list isn't going away, and neither are you! We have assembled a trio of printer profiles detailing the positive year-over-year growth enjoyed by these establishments. They're living proof that, no matter how tough times can get, there are always those companies who can see their way clear to prosperity.
Most Recent Fiscal Year Sales: $54.32 million
Previous Fiscal Year Sales: $47.55 million
Change: 14 Percent
The adage goes that when you sprinkle business across a number of market and product sectors, there is less chance of being caught completely flat-footed—and vulnerable—should one of them go away. Suttle-Straus is one such company that doesn't overflow any one basket with its eggs: the company provides sheetfed, web and digital printing, along with mailing and fulfillment, for its largely telecom and insurance customer base.
"We're fairly well-diversified," says John Berthelsen, president and CEO of Suttle-Straus. "While printing is still the main core of our business, our diversified range of products and services has allowed us to maintain growth and stability."
Suttle-Straus has a number of large clients that utilize all of the printer's capabilities, essentially single-sourcing agreements. This speaks to customers' growing desires to cut down the number of vendors they're dealing with, according to Berthelsen.
Some of Suttle-Straus' investments have been aimed at reducing its own outsourcing. Given the recession, all short-term capex initiatives will be directed at improving efficiency and productivity, from the plant back into the administrative offices. Return on investment is gaining more attention than ever before.
Is there a way for Berthelsen & Co. to get ahead of the pack as the economy improves? The 1998 Printing Impressions/RIT Printing Industry Hall of Fame inductee isn't so sure.
"There will be survivors and those who don't survive, but I don't see too many companies making giant leaps forward," Berthelsen notes. "Besides the economy, there's a fundamental change with customers greatly decreasing their demand for ink on paper. So, we have to find other ways to capture a larger share of their marketing dollars."
The Garvey Group
Most Recent Fiscal Year Sales: $52.45 million
Previous Fiscal Year Sales: $45.70 million
Change: 15 Percent
Single-family ownership has taken a beating in recent years, but some firms have been able to more than "tough it out" during the difficult period. Add The Garvey Group to that latter list. A provider of commercial and package printing since 1919, The Garvey Group augments its print offering by linking it to data, fulfillment and distribution, information systems and marketing services.
Its primary markets include large-format lithography for packaging and signage; specialized commercial printing products that utilize UV inks and coatings, like plastics and high-gloss packaging; and grand-format digital for signage. This is in addition to traditional commercial printing work.
"The markets we serve represent some of the fastest-growing print markets in our industry," notes Ed Garvey, president of The Garvey Group. "Our 'to market' value proposition distinguishes us because our products are complementary, enabling customers to use us for a broad range of services."
While The Garvey Group doesn't have any capital expenditures on the immediate horizon, the company has spent $37 million since 2005. In the last 18 months alone, it acquired a six-color, 81˝ KBA Rapida press with interstation UV capabilities, a Screen Truepress digital device and a Zund router for cutting digital sheets.
Still, Garvey won't rule out jumping on an acquisition if he feels the time is right. "We have been affected like most companies," he says. "However, we believe that our markets are reasonably unique and, as a result, allow us to retain clients and position ourselves well for future growth."
Most Recent Fiscal Year Sales: $42.29 million
Previous Fiscal Year Sales: $34.60 million
Change: 22 Percent
HGI is an invention of solid leadership, planning, engaged employees and a well-calculated mixture of acquisitions and a startup. Craig Faust bought the assets of web printer Hi-Liter Graphics in 2003, added commercial printer and book manufacturer Inland Graphics in 2005, then digital capabilities with Plus Digital in 2007. The following year, Tempt In-Store Productions—which specializes in the design and manufacture of point-of-purchase (POP) materials—was born.
"Our 2008 sales growth was organic, coming from a continued goal of attaining new customers and expanding relationships with existing clients," says Tom Sikora, vice president of sales and marketing. "All target market segments achieved positive growth. Our sales focus was on providing value to the marketplace through the utilization of our diverse printing platform...truly providing clients a single-source solution for their printing and finishing needs."
HGI has utilized a three-prong attack to counter the effects of the recession, according to Faust. HGI's operations have maximized labor utilization through cross-training and selective hiring practices, he says, in addition to capitalizing on state-of-the-art technologies to increase throughput and capacity. Secondly, the company has expanded its product offerings and sales staff to bring in new business. Lastly, HGI has maintained its price integrity/margin in addition to stricter credit criteria for its client base.
Buoyed by growth, the company installed the first manroland Euroman 4x4 press in North America in November of 2007, then followed up with the acquisition of an Inca Onset large-format UV digital press this past February. Investments have also been made to shore up HGI's saddlestitching, foil stamping, embossing and diecutting capabilities. Its communications and technology infrastructures have been bolstered across all divisions.
"HGI will continue to grow through organic sales growth, through investments in people and equipment, and through strategic operations," Faust says. PI