PrintingForLess.com : 21st Century Printing
Although Field couldn’t find enough customers, he was able to find a niche. In the late 1990s, it was tough for customers to get printers to accept/manipulate different types of files—Microsoft Word and Publisher, Corel Drop, PowerPoint, etc.—without being charged with setup/layout fees. Field’s technology wizards figured out a technique to take RGB output and convert it into CMYK, which was a big deal back in the day. Armed with an angle, he decided to emulate the Amazon model by taking to the Internet in March of 1999, first selling brochures, then relaunching in October with a greater arsenal.
These days, PFL offers the full gamut of commercial printing products, from brochures, postcards and stationery to newsletters, catalogs, folders and various other goods such as CD covers, table tents, hang tags and large-format printing. The shop has grown from a half-dozen employees to 130, with sales in the mid-$20 million range. The typical customer spends about $2,000 a year on printing. About 80 percent of its clients are small- and medium-size businesses; the rest are resellers (marketing firms, ad agencies, graphic artists and printers).
Now, competitors tell Field that they have watched PFL from day one and have tried to copy everything, because “if you’re doing something, we figure it must be working.”
Field also didn’t set out to create arguably the most unique working environment in the history of the printing industry. He didn’t sit down with a legal pad and jot down the genesis of a James Hilton-inspired Shangri-La, but the final product definitely evolved into a harmonious balance between worker happiness and productivity. At PFL, employees don’t bring their work home with them, but for some, the home life creeps into work.
“If your biggest motivation in life is to make a pile of money, you’re not going to stay here,” Field says of living in Montana. “People are in Montana because they want a great place to live, a great place to raise their kids. We have no traffic, no pollution, no crime and the cost of living is reasonable. What you end up with is nice people who really value the outdoors.”