In July 1999, Keith Miller relocated from South Africa to Baltimore, arriving in a new country without any business contacts and a very limited social network. Not knowing American business practices and having a limited network of family and friends to draw on, Miller decided to follow the franchise route in establishing a business.
Miller located a Minuteman Press franchise that was for sale in Baltimore. This business had been operating for many years, but the owner was in semi-retirement. Miller purchased the business in December 1999.
In 10 short years, Miller has substantially grown the business by acquiring four additional stores—Westminster in 2005, Towson in 2006, Hunt Valley in 2007 and Lutherville in 2010—along with establishing a central production-facility in September 2008. His perseverance, leadership, networking, and his dedicated team of employees have been key contributors to his success. Today, his company is recognized as #64 on the Quick Printing Top 100. The company, the third youngest in the list, was also recognized as one of the leaders in sales growth, with the fourth largest sales growth at 33.33% over the previous year.
Raising the bar
Miller’s story starts with a marketing and sales effort that consisted of building customer relationships through cold calling, leads and network groups. As he grew the business and acquired additional sites, he determined that he needed a more formal marketing approach and established a marketing division. In the fall of 2004, his father, Lester Miller, moved from South Africa to help with the sales and marketing effort. One of the first tasks as new sites were added was to develop an integrated identity for all of the locations in all marketing materials. In 2009, Miller opened a new production facility and implemented a graphic arts department within the company. He also hired Leigh Lieman, a marketing professional, to help with this effort and to keep the momentum going.
Miller also did not shy away from investing in equipment and technology to accelerate growth. In 2000, the business’s investments in equipment and technology were less than $50,000. By 2009, that number had grown to more than $2 million.
Miller had been running the business with a combination of digital toner-based printers from Xerox, Ricoh, and Canon, three ABDick 9995 two-color presses, a Presstek DPM34 polyester platesetter as well as a full complement of bindery equipment.
“We noticed increasing demand for four-color work,” he says, “and while we could address some of it with our digital toner-based devices, we could not achieve economies of scale as run lengths grew beyond 1,000-1,500. In addition, we struggled with some of the applications which were not appropriate for toner printing, either because the substrates would not run well through the devices or because of special bindery and post-processing needs. So we added two Presstek 34DI digital offset presses to address these shortfalls.”
Finally, Miller upgraded mailing capabilities, adding a full service mailing department in 2006, enabling the company to offer customers a seamless service from concept to fulfillment. This is augmented by a level of personal service above and beyond the industry norm that has developed long-term relationships and a high level of trust, with minimal customer attrition rates.
Today, Miller has structured his business as a hub-and-spoke operation, with the Central Production Facility supporting the network of five stores. He also offers marketing services, graphic design, a full bindery, mailing and a promotional products division. This is reflected in the company’s website, www.millersmmp.com, which offers an interactive customer experience where customers can request estimates, place orders, submit files and view proofs in real time. This Web interface is built on Versa-Doc.
Planned for this year is the addition of a Digital Communications Division that will allow customers to deliver their messages not only in print, but also via email blasts, Web marketing and more.
Miller’s Minuteman Press is a terrific example of a company on the move. Miller came into the business without any preconceived notions or heavy background in printing and restructured the company based on what he saw as critical customer needs that his business could address. He has not stood still over time, staying current with technology, keeping his skills base updated, and ensuring that every employee understands the company’s mission and works to deliver the promise.
The future is bright for Miller’s Minuteman Press. The company continues to rank in the top 5% of the Minuteman network, has accumulated an impressive array of awards and recognition, but most importantly, is moving to the beat of dynamically changing customer needs, ensuring customer retention and long-term growth.