Fast-Track Firms of 2014: A Look at 4over, Kirkwood Printing and Tukaiz
The popular printing adage says that a down market is the optimal time to make progress in a space where many competitors are loathe to make necessary investments in equipment, infrastructure or complementary companies that are for sale. The most successful printers don't refer to the weather forecast when assessing their next move; they plunge head-first into a scenario that has the potential to be parlayed into handsome profits.
While the 2014 campaign was bereft of ground-moving transactions, there is further evidence of a diminishing print landscape. If you're looking for a barometer, consider this: the secondary equipment market is teaming with opportunities to add gear that has been lightly and lovingly used, but not abused. The auction circuit is simply hopping with deals. A number of firms disappeared due to poor finances, pushing mounds of capacity into the secondary market.
Some companies opted not to appear on this year's PI 400 simply because they suffered reductions in annual sales. It is a sad reality. But we've got three success examples for your consideration—firms that have enjoyed immense success even as the economy provides little to no optimism for the immediate future of print. They have created their own opportunities and continue to reap the rewards that come with making aggressive, but calculated, moves in a difficult market.
Most Recent Fiscal Year Sales: $72 million
Previous Fiscal Year Sales: $59 million
Change: 22 percent
This New England gem has enjoyed a renaissance of sorts since it was acquired by a group that included Bob Coppinger back in 2004. Although the company had been in existence for 30 years at the time of its acquisition, this commercial and direct mail shop has thrived in the past 10 years on the strength of organic growth and a couple of strategic acquisitions.
"This was a small, under-the-radar commercial printer that did pretty good work, but didn't have any visibility in the marketplace," Coppinger says. "It was a diamond in the rough. We took a $9 million commercial business and more than tripled the offset printing."
The company really opened up the flood gates in recent years with the creation of its mailing operation, Kirkwood Direct, which has billowed to a $20+ million division.
But a number of changes enabled Kirkwood to make a 22 percent year-over-year leap. Its headquarters expanded from 50,000 to 80,000 square feet, which helped accommodate the transfer of Kirkwood Digital (acquired in 2012) from its former Woburn, MA, facility. Significant new printing equipment was obtained, including an HP Indigo 7500 digital press, an EFI VUTEk wide-format printer and a Brausse diecutter.
"Our client list is a who's who of luxury brands, pharmacy companies, colleges and universities," Coppinger states. "We maintain a high standard of quality to go with unmatched service and dependability. We made a lot of right moves that helped us stay ahead of the curve."
One area the company has embarked upon is visual magnetics, a product that allows for the wall-mounted installation of temporary graphics. The graphics are produced on Kirkwood's wide-format printer, and Coppinger notes that the field for such an offering is currently narrow.
Another critical move saw Kirkwood acquire certain assets of a printer in the critical New York metro market, just over the George Washington Bridge in Ridgefield Park, NJ. The manufacturing presence will enable Kirkwood to better serve clients on a local basis who demand quicker turn times. Coppinger sees this as being the catalyst to a successful 2015.
"It's opening up new, potential accounts and giving some existing clients more reason to do business with us for work that comes out of New York," he notes. "With faster turn times, I think we're going to see a pretty significant uptick in the Big Apple."
Franklin Park, IL
Most Recent Fiscal Year Sales: $46.4 million
Previous Fiscal Year Sales: $39.86 million
Change: 16 percent
This family-owned and operated marketing services production company provides an array of advertising, creative, software development, print production, fulfillment and inventory services solutions. Tukaiz prides itself on having a passion for innovation and a penchant for reinventing itself when market conditions dictate as such.
Tukaiz, which celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2013, was able to bolster its bottom line with increased sales from new clients, according to Frank Defino Jr., vice president and managing director. "In addition to our increased service offerings providing more growth from current customers, numerous referrals from satisfied clients was another contributor to our growth," he says.
The 2014 campaign was an active one for Tukaiz on the equipment front. Among its more significant acquisitions were a clamshell diecutter, Pacemaker inventory management proprietary software and a high-speed Bell + Howell camera mail sorting system. The marketing services production company also put the finishing touches on a 120,000-square-foot fulfillment center, bringing their campus to 250,000 square feet. Additionally, the company is continuing to develop new software solutions for its online marketing management system, Backstage.
Tukaiz founder Frank Defino Sr. was elected to the Printing Impressions/RIT Printing Industry Hall of Fame in 2013. The company was also designated to serve as a beta test site for Landa Nanographic printing technology, so success is hardly a 2014 phenomenon for this concern. And, according to the younger Defino, the groundwork has been laid for raising the bar in 2015 and beyond.
Most Recent Fiscal Year Sales: $138.2 million
Previous Fiscal Year Sales: $115 million
Change: 20 percent
Zarik Megerdichian might still be stoking the creative fires as a graphic designer had a local online printer not stiffed him on a $250 assignment. That's right, a printer decided to take Megerdichian's work and not pay him the agreed-upon $250. And that proved to be the catalyst that ultimately resulted in the creation of what is now a $138 million trade printing operation.
Naturally, there was a little work involved between points A and B. Megerdichian trained himself in Web design and purchased a press. The company serves four primary groups: marketing, packaging, large-format and promotional products. Today, 4over addresses the needs of printers and designers via eight locations throughout North America.
As for the 2014 growth, Megerdichian cites a rapid product expansion fueled by an aggressive capital expenditure strategy. "We continuously invest on behalf of our customers by regularly adding new technology and capacity, and by expanding products and options," he says. "We do all of this while maintaining the same low costs we have for years, while expanding the product mix our customers can sell to grow their businesses.
"Additionally, we are constantly investing in an improved customer experience, from site navigation to human interaction, by updating our Website and by augmenting our organization with new leadership. In doing so, we're successfully raising the customer service bar, company-wide."
In the past 18 months, 4over has installed new offset presses in its Miami, Ohio and Ontario facilities, increasing the network's overall capacity by 15 percent. Its digital fleet has undergone a total makeover, and this infusion has benefited the marketing products and wide-format capabilities, providing a broader product mix with faster turn times.
According to Megerdichian, 4over has robust expansion plans for 2015, aimed at providing customers with a more varied product base to choose from. "Our growth strategies are anchored in a rapid expansion of our technology, delivery and production solutions," he says. "These include a brand new Website boasting a full-service EDDM solution, a preflighting tool called Con4rm, custom packaging capabilities, as well as new production and delivery locations. All of these will offer new, relevant opportunities for our customers to grow because, at the end of the day, that's the reason why we're here—to contribute to their success." PI