4 Color Press — Middle Ground Master
IT COULD be argued that 4 Color Press doubles as a collectible automobile dealer. The Fort Worth, TX-based company has a pair of unique rides rubbing elbows with its short-run offset printing equipment: a 1957 Messerschmitt (one of those cute single-cylinder three-wheelers) and a screaming bright yellow 2000 Ferrari 360 Modena F-1.
"It's used for extremely fast deliveries," notes 4 Color Press owner and self-described "solutionist" Andrew Fuld, tongue presumably in cheek. "If we have to get something there fast, I'm ready to jump in."
Fuld learned long ago the value of being able to deliver the goods in a hurry, having spent much of his 20 years in the printing industry working in the heavily populated printing franchise realm. He previously owned a pair of national franchises and spent a period with the corporate parent before turning solo with 4 Color Press in 2004.
While Fuld gained immeasurable experience and knowledge on the franchise circuit, he absolutely relishes operating in the four-color, short-run printing space. Being a high-quality, specialty printer seemed the most logical choice to Fuld when it came to the daunting task of starting a printing company from scratch--an almost unheard of practice in the 21st century.
"In the quick printing industry, you're a jack of all trades. You have medium-sized equipment across the board," Fuld says. "But if someone comes to you with a big job, you're overburdened and, in a way, set up for failure. You're trying to go after those big companies and relationships, but you don't have the firepower to get in there and do it.
"For me, 4 Color Press became that single, giant cannon that I can fire over and over, and know exactly that I'm going to hit my target every time."
Fuld's "target" is the short-run gamut, including booklets, brochures, direct mail, flyers, newsletters and other general work (business cards, posters, invitations, among others). 4 Color Press serves multiple-location manufacturing and retail businesses, along with trade printing for a range of local quick printers.
How intimate a company is 4 Color Press? Allen Daniell, Jon Couch, Jason Wyse, Melissa Jones, Kathy Jones, Carlos Espinosa, Sabino Obregon, Lisa Hawkins, Reid Winans, Al Shaw, Randy Alva, Rene Mirabal, Scott Seeton, Eddie Luera, Debbi Evans, Robert Rodriguez, Julie Goldstein and Jenna Virtue. That's everyone working at the 6,400-square-foot operation.
From the Ferrari's paint job to the "2004" on 4 Color Press' birth certificate, there is new gloss almost everywhere you look (including the new building, which was laid out from scratch). Beginning in late 2007, Fuld went on a Heidelberg shopping spree, picking up (in no particular order) a four-color Speedmaster SM 52 Anicolor sheetfed offset press, a Polar 66 cutter, a Stahlfolder USA B 20 folder and a Suprasetter A52 thermal platesetter.
Fuld has been on board with Heidelberg from the start, as the company bowed with a four-color QMDI-46-4 digital offset press. The gear has enabled 4 Color Press to reach the $1.6 million level in sales for 2007, and Fuld expects that figure will climb to the $2.2 million range for 2008.
For a printer who prides himself on fast delivery, the SM 52's Anicolor inking unit technology spoke to Fuld's desires. Not only in makeready speed, but quality, as well.
"Our business is still very focused on what fits our press and what can be done without having to do much outsourcing," Fuld remarks. "The new Anicolor builds on what we're doing. We're trying to turn jobs faster than we were with the DI. The Anicolor-designed press took us from an 18-minute makeready down to about 6 minutes. And instead of taking 150 sheets to come up to color, we're blowing through maybe only 15 sheets. Thus, we're much more efficient."
Initially, the company served quick printers as a trade vendor, a service it still provides. But Fuld knew that in order to keep growing, he needed to branch out. And it was that space between quick printing and large-scale commercial work where 4 Color Press found its niche.
Small Shop, Big Business
"There's a ton of work the big shops just can't get through their businesses quickly enough," he says. "And quick printers don't necessarily have the quality and capability to get that type of work done. There's the land in the middle where the buyer wants to go to an end manufacturer. They don't want a middle man, but they need the responsiveness: the quick printer's mentality with the commercial press' capability. So there's a whole river that runs down the middle; we put our boat there and started paddling around."
With the new Heidelberg gear in place, one of the toughest jobs ahead for 4 Color Press is marketing itself as a commercial printer. For a small operation, the challenge is in getting the word out about 4 Color Press' capabilities and its "bigger than a bread box, smaller than a car," middle ground status.
"Our biggest marketing challenge is getting people to realize that there's a reason to talk to us," Fuld remarks. "We're not a single-source provider; we can't be all things to all people. Our job is to get customers and prospects to see where we fit."
Going forward, 4 Color Press will be adding another Anicolor press in 2009 and Fuld would also like to bolster his bindery, depending on how volume fares in the coming months. The second Anicolor unit, for example, could increase capacity for booklet-type jobs and, in turn, pave the way for a new collator/stitcher. Dipping into the multi-location manufacturer and retail vertical pools will go a long way toward building 4 Color Press' volume, with direct mail work filling downtime gaps.
Fuld's aforementioned staff has been a constant, with only one turnover in four and a half years. He feels they thrive in an environment where strong character and integrity are a given. "There are no gray areas about what's right and what's wrong," he says. "There is only the right thing to do. That makes our staff's jobs easier, and our customers appreciate it."
Perhaps it is the positive atmosphere at 4 Color Press that not only keeps employees on board, but customers, as well. "We're a master at completing fast-turnaround jobs," Fuld says. "An ad agency person came in the other day--we printed, cut and boxed the order, and he took it with him. That really freaked him out.
"It doesn't have to be all nuts and bolts, though. You can have a lot of fun in this business if you maintain the right mindset."
Did we mention the Ferrari? PI