4Over Inc. — A Trade Success
THERE IS a popular adage among printing industry companies that seek to become all things to all print buyers. Their standard rally cry promises, “We never say no to our customers.”
In other words, at the risk of offending your intelligence, these printers offer virtually every product and service imaginable. And no matter how bad the print buyer screws up or unreasonable the request, the “don’t say no” printer is there to make the impossible become reality.
For the “don’t say no, can’t say no and wouldn’t know how to say no if I wanted to say no,” printer, this philosophy is a distinguishing characteristic. That philosophy is the printer’s “out pitch,” and some do very well with it.
Zarik Megerdichian, president of 4Over Inc., does not subscribe to that philosophy in the least bit. It’s not that the founder of the Glendale, CA-based trade printing operation is insensitive to his clients’ needs. But Megerdichian sees the value in not accepting custom job requests.
“Custom work means downtime—extra costs every time I have to change over paper grades,” he says. “So we came up with the idea to offer only certain papers—100-lb. gloss book, 100 lb.-cover, 14 pt., 16 pt., and 70-lb. letterhead paper. If someone wants a job printed on 80-lb. gloss book, we tell them we don’t do it. Instead, we’ll print it on 100-lb., but still at the price of an 80-lb. grade. Because we buy so much paper, our price is really low.
“I’ve visited shops where I’ve been there an hour and a half and didn’t see one job run. At 4Over, we can comfortably run four to six jobs in that time frame. That’s the difference of not having paper changeovers and setup changes.”
There isn’t a lack of clients lining up to do business with 4Over, either. According to Megerdichian, the company has a print broker customer roster that numbers roughly 24,000. The trade printer posted $42 million in sales for 2006, a figure he expects to double this year.
Aside from serving brokers, printers, photographers and designers, 4Over also does a large amount of franchise work, ranging from PIP, Minuteman and Proforma to FedEx Kinko’s and the UPS stores. 4Over is national in scope, but does perform particularly well on the West Coast, benefitting from cheaper shipping costs.
A Christian Armenian who immigrated from Iran in 1992, Megerdichian started working as a Web developer (“a starving Web developer is a better term,” he admits) until fate paid him a visit. Megerdichian was asked to create 10 different designs for business cards on a contractual basis; then the business associate decided he didn’t want to pay him. That’s when the notion of going into business for himself struck Megerdichian.
“I thought, no problem, I’ll build my own Website,” he recalls. “Yahoo! had a job express listing for $200, so I listed my site. Boom...a year and a half later, I had no competition there.”
Back in 2001, Megerdichian’s fledgling company occupied a 620-square-foot office and focused on business cards. In less than six years, 4Over has billowed into a 232-employee, five-building operation (including a new 70,000-square-foot facility in Los Angeles) that encompasses 120,000 square feet. In addition to calling cards, 4Over now provides sheetfed and digital printing to produce, among other things, booklets, posters, presentation folders, letterhead and envelopes. On the service end, 4Over offers mailing services and diecutting in addition to bookletmaking.
While Megerdichian has kept his company competitive price-wise, where 4Over has been able to flourish and distinguish itself is in the quality realm. “Quality has taken us where we are today,” he says. “Anyone can match price, but quality service and quality product are what makes customers come back and use you again.
“We’re constantly improving service and the quality of our products. For example, we have 45 CSRs on the phone helping customers. Some of the companies that compete with us don’t have that many people working in their entire company.”
Another variable Megerdichian believes favors his company is the decision to remain exclusively business-to-business, staying away from consumers and the Web-to-print market. He believes brokers appreciate that level of focus.
His commitment to press technology has played no small role in the company’s success. 4Over boasts an all-Komori sheetfed press fleet, with five Lithrone S40 machines—six- and eight-color perfectors; a five-color with coater; and a six-color with UV capabilities. One of the latest additions was the first 10-color S40 Super Perfector with double coaters installed in North America.
Three factors compelled Megerdichian to go with the Lithrones: automation, automation and more automation. It helped eliminate common issues such as color variation via Print Quality Control, and greatly reduced human errors.
“In the printing industry, it’s all about the makeready. Makeready is money,” Megerdichian says. “In this industry, the person who wins the makeready war is the winner.
“When Komori introduced its LS models, that automatic job-to-job movement was priceless to us. Job changes were simpler, faster and all automated. Instead of our operators standing around, talking to each other and wasting time before the next plate change, the press automatically changes the plate and performs the makeready. So operators only have five minutes before the next job is coming through. It helped our business produce easier, quicker, with less waste. It optimized manpower.”
Being a fan of time savings, Megerdichian quickly became enamored with the 10-color Super Perfector equipped with double coaters. As of press time, it had been running for roughly a month, but had already produced big results in doubling production output.
“With the double coaters, we’re saving a crazy amount of time by not turning the sheet (for the reverse coating). We go from the press to the cutting floor to the finishing floor,” he says.
4Over tapped Heidelberg for its postpress needs with the recent installation of four Polar paper cutters, with three more on order. The printer operates six Stahl folders, as well as the new Compufolder signature folder and a Stitchmaster ST 350 saddlestitcher.
One area that promises growth for 4Over is its latest endeavor, Diz4Biz.com. Unveiled by 4Over at Graph Expo in 2006, the Website design tool for constructing online ordering sites enables mom-and-pop printers to pursue the consumer market and compete with heavyweights such as VistaPrint.
“If we can roll it out to 1,000 of our customers, that alone will double our business this year,” Megerdichian notes. “We don’t compete with our customers; we give them the tools to go out and compete with everybody else. It’s extremely sophisticated, has real-time design capabilities and provides online shipping information in real-time.”
Megerdichian is targeting sales of $84 million for 2007, but he feels 4Over is just scratching the surface of its potential. Another offering, 4Over PMS—which will allow clients to spec color jobs featuring Pantone colors—was slated to debut in the first quarter.
“We don’t envision slowing down,” he concludes. PI