Because he asks so much of his employees, Firestein pays them above NAPL Scale, an industry-standard wage scale published by the industry association. Even though his labor costs are slightly higher than average, Firestein keeps his other costs down by relying on friends and family members. “My uncle, brother, and a cousin do most of the equipment maintenance and my aunt, who has been in the printing business for more than 40 years, runs the office.”
Firestein says that he never seriously considered closing up shop, even during the darkest days of the Great Recession, mostly because, “Printing is all I know.” Both his mother and father came from printing families. “I’ve been working in this industry since I was 15 except for my college years at RIT. If my shop foreman, general manager, and I weren’t running a printing business, I don’t know what we’d be doing—probably nothing well,” says Firestein, 47, with a chuckle.
“What keeps me up at night is the ever-present possibility of failure,” admits Firestein. “If we fail, it most likely will be because of a quick drop in revenue—either losing an account or because a big customer goes insolvent and leaves us with a huge receivable.”
“I get calls all the time from people I know—people I worked with years ago in my uncles’ printing businesses. A lot of people are rooting for us to make it,” says Firestein. “I am cautiously optimistic about all the changes and diversity of business, but I don’t harbor any fantasies about the printing industry getting better. Survival is the new 10 percent growth!”