Phillips Printing — Passionate by Accident
ABSOLUTELY NOT! That was Jody Phillips’ response when his parents asked him to help at their newly opened print shop. Phillips, a college student at the time, was not going to be drawn into the family business. He had big plans for his future, and they did not involve being a printer.
However, being the good son, he eventually (but begrudgingly) agreed to help them. . .but only for the summer. But, one summer is all it took. Phillips fell in love with the craft, the technology and the opportunity. And, the rest is history.
That was 1984. Today, Phillips owns the small Ocala, FL-based company his parents started, serving as president and general manager. Although he “stumbled” into his occupation, he is passionate about his accidental career.
His operation consists of eight employees (including himself, his wife and his sister) and a 4,000-square-foot facility. Although he won’t reveal the annual revenues at Phillips Printing, he notes that profitability runs about 25 percent per year. He has a formula for attaining those financial figures, but, Phillips says, there’s one big reason his business is thriving, not just surviving.
“When you’re a smaller printer like we are, you go the extra mile, no matter what it takes.”
Such is the case, recalls Phillips, with an infamous all-nighter for his team. The Ocala Historical Preservation Society contracted Phillips to print elaborate invitations, which involved intricate diecuts and spot metallic inks. The invitations were for the Society’s gala event, “Putting on the Ritz.” The Flapper Girls on the invitation were to be adorned in feathers, a part of the project that was to be outsourced.
However, the day before the event, the feathers were not delivered. But, “the show” would go on...if the Phillips family had anything to do with it. This project wasn’t going to flop (instead of flap) in the last critical minutes.
“We told the guy in charge of the project, ‘Get the job back to us, and we’ll get it done. You just have to find some feathers.’ As it turns out, the guy snuck into his wife’s closet and stole a black feather boa. We stayed up all night, gluing feathers on the invitations,” Phillips affectionately recalls, noting, “We ended up winning a Gold Addy award for those invitations.”
Why does Phillips do these sorts of things? In his words: “Because that’s what I’d want someone to do for me.”
He’s a small business owner, who takes the extra time, even if it means working through the night, to get the job done—and get it done right. That’s how you do business when you’re small enough to know your customers intimately. That’s how you do business when your company believes in producing a quality product, made with integrity, by employees who consider themselves craftspeople.
Being a 21st Century craftsman also means being technologically savvy. Phillips believes that’s been key. “Initially, we ran our four-color work on a single-color Heidelberg KORD purchased by my parents (who retired in 2000, when I bought their shop). Later, a two-color Omni-Adast replaced the KORD and, still later, a four-color Heidelberg Quickmaster was added.
This past summer, Phillips invested heavily in new technology, including a new four-color Heidelberg Printmaster perfector, a Screen CTP system (running Agfa Azura chemical-free plates) and a Standard Horizon bookletmaker. Phillips says the total installation, which took two weeks to complete, has doubled productivity.
“We’re experiencing incredible time savings with the new CTP system, making twice as many plates per hour. With all the automation on the new Printmaster, our setup and makereadies are significantly faster. And, because it’s a perfecting press, our output has doubled.”
Phillips Printing manufactures a mix of products, including short run, two- and four-color newsletters, postcards, brochures and product literature.
Most of Phillips’ clients are local, but since adding the new technology, the printer is already attracting more business from nearby towns like Orlando, as well as a few national accounts. The owner reports that business has increased significantly due to the new gear. And, he emphasizes, this was done with little or no overtime expense.
“With our new press and bindery equipment, we’ve taken the overtime out of the business equation,” Phillips says, citing concrete examples of his overtime savings. In May, before the installation, overtime was $3,000. In June, during the installation, overtime was $1,500. In July, once the installation was complete, overtime dropped to almost zero.
Between the elimination of overtime and the increase in sales, Phillips reports that business is more profitable than ever—which is an especially good thing, considering he’s the solo salesperson.
“I’m the only sales rep (although I’m looking for another one now). I’m the one who makes the calls, visits the customers, targets and contacts potential clients. And I do all the marketing/PR, such as our monthly postcard mailings and customer newsletters.”
Sales rep, PR person, general manager, president: Phillips wears several hats, but admits enjoying them all.
“I like owning my own business. It’s up to me to get out of it what I put into it. Also, I enjoy the ever-changing technology and creative element of printing. It’s never boring; there’s always something new coming out, something new going on. Plus, I think there’s an unbelievable opportunity in this business. I can go as far as I want to go.”
One of the things Phillips enjoys most about being a small business owner is the chance it gives him to build personal (and lasting) relationships with his clients, which, ultimately, translates into business.
“I’m friends with many of our clients. I know them on a personal level and vice versa. It’s not just a business relationship. It’s also making friends.”
And, sometimes, a friend in need is a friend, indeed.
Like the time a local fire truck manufacturer contracted Phillips Printing to make 2,500 each of four different four-color flyers for a trade show that was taking place the next day. This was back when Phillips was using the single-color Heidelberg. The job had finished running around 5:30 p.m. when the customer discovered a major error in the text (the customer’s mistake). The job had to be rerun—even though it was after hours, and the shop was already “officially” closed.
But that didn’t stop Phillips. The job had to be done by 5 the next morning, so they revved up the old KORD, and it rolled all night, producing flyer after flyer, one color, one pass at a time. Another all-nighter. . .for another grateful customer.
Considering how devoted and passionate he is about printing today, Phillips laughs when he remembers how reluctantly he first got started.
“I was only a few credits away from getting my associate’s degree when my parents opened the shop,” Phillips says. “I had no intention of being a printer. But, one summer changed my mind. I left school and eventually took over the business—and became quite successful at it. It didn’t take long to realize printing was my destiny.” PI