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On the Rise: American Printer's Top 50 Fastest Growing Printers

Jun 1, 1998 12:00 AM

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Five years ago, the editors of American Printer decided to institute a new recognition program for graphic arts firms whose imagination, innovative management practices, perserverance and hard work paid off with substantially better than average growth. Thus was the Top 50 Fastest Growing Printers program begun.

The 50 graphic arts companies detailed on the following pages represent some of the best and brightest of today's industry leaders. Each, regardless of size, has taken a unique approach to growth, whether through internal or external strategies. In this, the fifth year of the Top 50 program, we congratulate the winners and give special thanks to our co-sponsor, The National Assn. of Printers & Lithographers. NAPL is an organization that fully understands the importance-- and difficulties--of running a well-managed company. Its programs are clearly designed to provide graphic arts execs with a helping hand to achieve improved productivity and enhanced profitability.

This year, we give special recognition to E & G Printing Service, Inc. in Madison Heights, MI. This company has emerged as our only five-time winner, joining the ranks in 1994 in the second to last position, spurting to the #3 position in 1995, and holding its own in the top positions during 1996, 1997 and 1998.

Back in 1995, we asked E & G management to what they attributed the company's fast growth. "The changes we've made in our company always have been in response to customers' needs," commented one top exec. "That's how we tried to separate ourselves from the competition even when we had very little to offer from an equipment standpoint. Responding to a client's wish list could be as simple as just trying not to say no."

Multiple-year winners continue to amaze and delight. Sustaining rapid growth across a five-year period is no easy task, and we congratulate E & G for its consistent performance.

To qualify as winners, these outstanding graphic arts firms have to excel in growth throughout the past three years. Winners selected are based on percent of sales growth from 1995 to 1997. To be eligible, companies have to be in business for at least four years and have sales of more than $1 million during 1997. Winners are selected from those companies that complete an entry form.

american printer understands that fast growth isn't always an indicator of profitability. But in our industry, still dominated by privately held firms, profit levels among companies often are difficult to compare. As a result, the Top 50 listing is based only on revenue growth. The advantages to this are simplicity and objectivity. However, we do recognize there are potential drawbacks.

Although the list is fun to peruse, graphic arts managers should look to the Top 50 for insights on operating their businesses. This year, we see printers more tightly focused on market segments and some of the winners excelling in identifying and servicing specific market niches. This is good strategy in today's competitive arena. The key to success is understanding your customer's business. Specialization can provide the focus to truly excel at being a "problem solver" instead of "just a printer." Many of our fastest growing companies have learned that lesson well.

We salute the quality, excellence, management skills and teamwork that combine to make these 50 companies so successful in an ever-changing business environment.

1. MAIL-WELL, INC. (300.8) 2. ST. JOSEPH CORP.(90.0)* 3. CONSOLIDATED GRAPHICS (86.9) 4. FORT DEARBORN CO. (44.0) 5. RHODES PRINTING GROUP (28.6) 6. CHAPEL GROUP (28.0) 7. E & G PRINTING SERVICEs (22.6) 8. CUNNINGHAM GRAPHICS (18.4) 9. UV COLOR, INC. (14.6) 10. GEORGE LITHOGRAPH (12.2) *Canadian dollars

For the complete Top 50 list, please refer to the table on pages 42-43 of the June 1997 issue of American Printer.