At Venture 7, we talk to business owners every day and it’s clear that the shockingly sudden change brought on by the pandemic is transforming companies in a wide range of industries. Savvy business owners are changing their business models and refining their operations at an unprecedented pace. A surprising number of them are stronger and more profitable than ever. These are their stories.
The Beleaguered Printing Industry
Few industries have been disrupted as significantly as printing over the past thirty years. Printers have endured fundamental changes in technology, the migration from print to electronic communications, fierce price competition from Asian competitors, and more. The industry has endured massive consolidation and, by all accounts, was continuing a long, slow decline even before the pandemic hit.
Paul Vartanian and his team at Print Solutions in Englewood, New Jersey have adapted to those changes, focusing over the last several years on building scale. Recent investments tripled production capacity and allowed them to remain price competitive in the face of stiff domestic and foreign competition.
When COVID-19-related shutdowns began, they had enough business in the pipeline to finish March strong and make the first quarter of 2020 the best in the company’s 50-year history. While printing was deemed an essential business, many of Print Solutions’ clients were shutting down. Clients who typically purchased print for large events such as trade shows, charity galas and sporting events ceased making purchases. Second quarter revenues were down over 50%.
When business is cut in half, the instinct is to scale back operations and preserve capital. Although the Payroll Protection Program funds helped in the second quarter, the future weighed heavily on Paul and the Print Solutions team. Some staff members were furloughed, and survival became the driving force. But the slower operational pace allowed Paul time to think deeply about the business. In doing so, he recognized several opportunities for restoring the business he had lost, namely:
Package Printing: Print Solutions made an investment in package printing equipment in late 2019 that positioned them well for the explosive growth in eCommerce. Many local consumer products companies were experiencing dramatic growth in online sales when the supply of packaging materials from Asia was disrupted. Print Solutions landed several large, fast-growing accounts that were looking for a local packaging supplier who could react quickly.
COVID-19-related printing: Print Solutions was well-positioned to print COVID-19-related posters, signage, and floor decals, but there was opportunity to do more. The company was outsourcing the die-cutting necessary to finish heavy floor decals. Paul decided to invest in an industrial flatbed cutter to bring that operation in-house. The investment created new COVID-19 opportunities, including the manufacturing of medical face shields and custom acrylic desk separators. The demand for permanent acrylic separators in office, retail, school, and medical settings is so high that Paul hired staff to design and quote projects.
eCommerce Website: In November 2020, Print Solutions debuted its first eCommerce site: printsolutions.info/socialdistance. This new sales channel allows customers anywhere to buy standard COVID-19-related products directly, even if there is another shutdown that makes in-person sales difficult.
Direct mail opportunities: The shutdown of non-essential businesses and the boom in remote work created new direct mail opportunities. Paul invested heavily in new folding and addressing equipment to capitalize on this new demand. One machine improved addressing productivity from 9,000 pieces per hour to 45,000 pieces per hour, without increasing operator support. Another machine allowed them to bring large folding projects in-house.
Wide-format printing: Print Solutions also invested in a new hybrid wide-format printer that can print on both rigid and roll materials. Work that was previously outsourced is now produced in-house, which drives more competitive pricing, faster turnaround, and better quality control.
Merging the print and digital worlds: Longer-term initiatives will meld traditional print marketing with digital marketing. They are working with a partner to enhance printed materials with a QR code that the recipient can scan to access a landing page, a YouTube video, a phone number, a social media site, or other digital content. The user’s interaction with the digital content can be tracked and used to follow up with targeted direct mail, social media posts, or other means.
Bigger and Better Than Ever
Ten months after losing half of their business, Print Solutions’ staffing returned to pre-pandemic levels and business is trending upwards. The company is on its way to having its best year ever in 2021.
Paul says, “We listened to what our customers were saying. They were adapting to the pandemic, and we reacted on many fronts. You can’t sit back and wait for something good to happen or make excuses. You’ve got to recognize what the market wants and provide it, even if that means making big investments during a time of uncertainty.”
We’ll be sharing more stories of dramatic business transformations in the weeks ahead. If you or someone you know has a pandemic pivot story to tell, please contact us and tell us all about it.
About Venture 7 Advisors
Venture 7 Advisors was built from the ground up to help business owners grow and successfully exit their companies. We think like business owners because we are business owners. Venture 7 partners have owned and exited more than a dozen of our own companies. We offer practical business advice here on our website, through public speaking engagements and through professional publishers and development centers such as CFO.University. We encourage business owners to Contact us for a free brainstorming session. No sales pitch, just business ideas and support from seasoned owners like you.