IT DOESN'T take very long to figure out that relationships are fundamental to the core values of Mike Peissig. His life has been based on long-term commitments to people he trusts and believes in; the types of individuals he surrounds himself with share the same qualities of character and integrity as Peissig.Peissig and wife, Jan, are co-owners of Gateway Printing, a $3.6 million commercial shop nestled in Missoula, MT, in the western portion of the state. While Montana may not have a reputation as a printing state, the Peissigs have done a fine job in establishing a high degree of credibility among print buyers. Aiding that cause is a small, but extremely well-trained, staff with in-depth knowledge of its trade.
"When it comes to our clientele, we maintain an open-door policy, even though it can slow things down from a productivity standpoint," Mike Peissig laughs. "Our employees are always communicating and working directly with customers. We explain processes such as prepress, have them ask questions and develop ideas with them. Our clients become enlightened and appreciative of what they've learned. It's good interaction. And it has really paid off in our developing exclusive relationships with customers."
A Turning Point
In 1995, the Peissigs acquired a 25 percent share in Gateway Printing, which had been established in 1965. Mike Peissig had worked for Artcraft Printers for 20 years and had become a general manager but, at the age of 40, he had reached a crossroads. It was time to either keep working for someone else, or take the plunge into owning his own shop.
The Peissigs bought out their other partner in 2000, and have been able to double the size of their business through shrewd equipment acquisitions and prudent upgrades of older technology, particularly in prepress. In 2000, Gateway acquired its first four-color press and, four years later, garnered its first Ryobi sheetfed press, a four-color, 20x27? 680 Series.
"We'd had good, steady growth of 8 percent to 10 percent a year, to the point where we justified buying the 684," Peissig says.
The 26-employee shop may be puffing at full steam, but the past year has been an exciting time of change for Gateway Printing. The company relocated to a 15,000-square-foot facility last September that Peissig completely renovated, including a new roof, insulation and HVAC. He notes the company's power bill is about the same as it was in the previous 10,000-square-foot building.
According to Peissig, the expansion was necessary for Gateway to realize its growth and marketing goals. The result is a space that is much brighter, matching the optimism of his employees.
"We now have proper humidity control, plus storage and inventory are not an issue," Peissig says. "There's room for growth; if we want to, we can bust out a wall and add 5,000 square feet. We've all been very pleased with the move."
Naturally, the most appropriate way to christen a new building is to install some heavy iron in the process. Gateway Printing did just that with the acquisition of a 14x20? Ryobi 524GE sheetfed press. The small-format machine allowed Gateway to retire an existing direct imaging (DI) workhorse.
The new offset press has provided makeready and setup efficiencies, is less labor-intensive and very easy to maintain, according to Peissig. Leaving the DI environment was not a decision he took lightly. However, thorough research and the needs of his clients dictated the move.
"Jan and I asked ourselves, 'Do we keep the digital press or go more conventional?' We found, with our clients, that more and more newsletters are going online. Customers now want more custom products or collateral. And even if it's just letterhead, envelopes, business cards and brochures, they want something unique—thicker papers, more ink coverage, Pantone colors and metallic inks. So, we invested in the 524 to provide that kind of diversity."
Value of Trade Shows
Montana is not an island, so to speak, for the owners of Gateway Printing. Jan and Mike Peissig enjoy making the annual trek to Chicago for Graph Expo or for the Print show. They find it critical to have information on environmental solutions, technologies and vendor support in one convenient location.
Another pivotal acquisition for Gateway has been a browser-based EFI Pace print management system. Peissig calls the capability to integrate estimating, invoicing, production and accounting a "tremendous move," and hopes to further develop and grow into the MIS application.
Gateway does not thrive on print alone. Promotional products—coffee mugs, pens and pencils—account for about 30 percent of the company's sales and Peissig feels there is room for growth in that space, as well. "We find promotional products to be a great complement to the products and services we offer," he says. "They have helped bring in some more printing opportunities and vice versa.
Not that Mike Peissig is dismissing digital printing, mind you. A high-speed color digital machine is on his wish list of capabilities, along with direct mail printing and fulfillment. In-house foil stamping and embossing capabilities are also on Peissig's radar.
"A commercial printer of our size should go into color copying. I think that's a prudent transition into developing and nurturing growth," Peissig remarks. "It can offer us a retail avenue. We're also trying to develop online ordering services for businesses with multiple locations, such as financial institutions and insurance companies. We want to expand our Web interface and online inventory control."
As Gateway Printing continues to move in new directions, such as Web-to-print and fulfillment capabilities, Peissig is heartened by the knowledge that his two sons—Tyson and Troy—are involved in the business, and have their own ideas and concepts for the future of the company.
"My wife and I are very involved; we're here for the long haul," he says. "We're not looking to make a quick buck without any regard for our clients. We're here to build strong, long-lasting relationships, and our customers appreciate that we know what we're talking about. Our ethics bear that out." PI