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Fastest Growing Printers:Rolling With the Changes at Ed Garvey and Co.

Jun 1, 1998 12:00 AM

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Founded in 1919, the Ed Garvey and Co. (Niles, IL) is our 24th-fastest growing printer. Sales for 1997 were $12.4 million, compared to $7.6 million in 1995. Benefits offered at the 82-employee plant include profit-sharing, a 401(k) plan and a yearly incentive-based bonus.

Ed Garvey, Jr., owner and grandson of the founder, says that there's no secret formula for growing a business. "We try to appeal to a broad base of customers. We have a fairly eclectic mix of products--we do everything from copy work to long-run direct mail jobs to six-color brochures," explains the printer. "We try to get as much account penetration as possible by keeping up with the technology."

The Illinois printer serves a largely corporate clientele, specializing in direct mail pieces and industry-specific work (i.e., brochures and forms for insurance agents). The shop's equipment includes three half-size Didde web presses, plus four Heidelberg sheet-fed presses and a Xeikon DCP II digital press. Recently installed is a 19 x 26-inch six-color, sheet-fed Shinohara.

A changing marketplace is what originally prompted Garvey to install the digital press two years ago. "Profiles on the jobs we were getting showed us that the quantity per job was dropping like a rock," recalls the exec. "The amount of work and effort that went into producing smaller quantity jobs for our presses was becoming cost prohibitive. It was a fairly easy decision because we run a fair amount of short-run color work."

Of course, you can't just install new equipment and wait for the work to materialize. "Variable imaging [for personalization] is a hard sell," notes Garvey. "We've not yet been able to figure out a way to effectively do it on a consistent basis. We have a job here and there and they're quite profitable when you can find them, but they're not all that easy to find."

Garvey adds that some of the work previously done on the Xeikon is migrating to the new Shinohara. The digital press is becoming "an adjunct piece of equipment as opposed to a focus," submits the exec.

While new equipment has certainly played a part in Ed Garvey and Co.'s growth, Garvey is quick to credit a customer-focused approach, too. "We're able to respond to clients' demands with useful information. Clients know we care about their projects--that we'll do our best to address potential problems in advance. We analyze every order thoroughly."

Rather than simply accepting orders, the printer tries to work as closely as possible with customers. "We want to be involved with clients' information flow to help save them money," relates Garvey. "As we go in and analyze their workflow we get more involved with that workflow--we educate our clients to their best print options."

Also contributing to Ed Garvey and Co.'s growth is a streamlined administrative operation. "We're not going to cut our prices or pay our employees less money to be competitive," declares Garvey. Instead, the exec advocates keeping firm control of general administrative expenses. Two billing clerks, for example, process approximately 12,000 orders annually. A steady cashflow helps, too.

"Most of our competitors probably run 45 to 60 days in terms of receivables," notes Garvey. "We try to keep our receivables a lot lower than that, the average is probably 35 days and for some clients it's about 20 days. That's a big difference. A lot of people can't afford to get where they want to be because their cash-flow is so poor."

So how about that secret formula for growing a business? "You can't force a client to buy from you and you can't force a competitor to have higher prices," laughs Garvey. "You can only put yourself in the right position to grow and take advantage of the opportunities presented to you."