If I were thinking about getting out, I would talk with the franchise organizations that have active conversion programs in place. The idea behind these programs is that the franchises still want to grow, but the pool of people willing to invest in a start-up situation has diminished over the years. Their solution, then, is to play matchmaker between a printer who wants to sell and a buyer who wants to be part of the franchise, but with an established base of business.
Most of the major franchises have conversion programs in place. To start the ball rolling, go to their websites, click on “Franchise Opportunities” and send them an email or make a call.
Join a Franchise
You might also want to consider converting yourself and joining a franchise. I suggested that to the printer I mentioned earlier and he looked at me like I was crazy. “Why the hell would I do that?” he asked. “Why should I pay them for a name when I already have a name and then pay them royalties on top of that?”
My response to that one had six parts: Brand name recognition, marketing support, operational support, purchasing power, guidance on new technologies, and an organization that could help you to be more profitable now and build value in the business for when you do find a buyer or want to sell.
I said could, by the way, because there’s no guarantee that you’ll be more profitable as part of a franchise. I will say this, though—for the most part, the people who follow the model of their franchise seem to do pretty well. Every franchise system has its share of rebels and/or malcontents, some of whom are successful beyond the franchise model, but most of whom fall into the category of sales and profit laggards. It’s been said that you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink. At least with a franchise, you have someone leading you to the water. Many independents don’t have that, and it’s the principal reason for their struggle.
And while I’m on the subject of franchises, I’m not just talking about the well-known names that go back to the beginnings of the industry. In many ways, CPrint might be an even better choice for an independent owner with an independent spirit. And if you’re at the point where you still like the business, but you don’t like being burdened by equipment and employees, you should take a look at Proforma.
The bottom line for today is that everyone has options, but those options may diminish with time and age. I think most of the remaining 29,000 or so quick/small commercial printers want to avoid the fate of the 10,000 or so casualties of the last 10-15 years. The key is to increase the value of your business—to make it something that someone will want to buy. Beyond that, you’ll probably have to be aggressive and creative in trying to find a buyer. Don’t wait to do either until it’s too late!
Dave Fellman is the president of David Fellman & Associates, Cary, NC; a sales and marketing consulting firm serving numerous segments of the graphic arts industry. Contact Dave by phone at 800/325-9634; by fax at 919/363-4069; or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit his website at www.davefellman.com. See the ad for Dave’s products and services in this issue.