Last year was a memorable one for Bruce and Linda Pansky’s PIP Printing and Marketing Services (PIP) in Downey, CA, for two reasons. One, of course, was its unforgettable 76 percent explosion in sales over 2011. The other was that, to a large extent, the new business was theirs for the asking. The incredible growth, which pushed sales to $4.2 million and landed them at #53 in this year’s QP Top 100, came as a direct result of his company’s emphasis on generating referrals from existing customers; something every printer dreams of, but few do well. How’d they do it?
“I would like to make it sound beautiful, but it simply happened,” Bruce Pansky confesses. “There were two large referrals that we received early on in the year that led to additional business; two large accounts that we had no knowledge that we were going to get. We basically just got, ‘Surprise! Here you go!’”
PIP’s choice of niche, healthcare, played a key role in the growth, Pansky points out. “It is kind of a very critical area: it’s HIPAA-related, it’s government related through CMS (The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services), so there are not a lot of folks out there who offer the complete solution.”
The company was founded in 1969 by Bruce’s parents, Phillip and Joan Pansky, who retired 15 years ago. Bruce joined the family business full-time in 1977, and now serves as president. His wife Linda is a vital part of the business, acting as vice president, Special Project Support.
The Best Kind of Challenge
Growth on that scale was every bit as challenging as one would think, as Pansky admits. “We look back and we’re not really sure how we pulled it off. It was very, very challenging, but everybody seemed to be pleased that we didn’t miss any deadlines.” Indeed, his company mailed more than five million pieces last year. “When you’re talking about a volume like that, it really does task a company to make sure that we do all the same steps and quality control that we do when, just the year prior, we did a million and a half pieces. So, yes, there’s no doubt that it was challenging.”
Staff jumped from 15 to 22, and the company spent about $200,000 on new equipment. What didn’t change was PIP’s history of long vendor relationships. “By utilizing and drawing upon those relationships, those vendors also appreciate the opportunity for growth.”
The process of mining referrals, he says, begins with good service. “We had a client that we grew. People from that company moved on to other companies and brought us in because they were very satisfied with the solution we provided. We also always seek out satisfied customers and ask them for somebody else. Even in a large market like Southern California, it is still a small world where a lot of folks know each other.”
The work is extremely varied, Pansky says. “We have over 300 different publications between our major healthcare companies. Some are on-demand printing where you might have a one-off; others could be 50,000.”
PIP has a trio of clients for whom it handles the entire suite of services, from print to fulfillment, mailing, and inventory. “And that really is the bulk of it,” Pansky relates. “We have dabbled with other clients and, quite frankly, their volumes tend to be much lower. It has been a challenge for us to be able to be profitable with just a small percentage of fulfillment services with smaller clients.”
Fulfillment and mailing services for that niche, he concedes, “are not very profitable. It’s a very small margin, but you’ve got to have it. If you break that link, then basically the client is dealing with another vendor for another service.”
Consistency and the long view are important, Pansky stresses. “Our general manager Heather Kelly has been with us for 23 years, and she is the main contact to our top accounts. She knows their business. Our clients consider us a part of their marketing teams, and we work hand-in-hand.”
Pansky doesn’t realistically expect the same kind of volcanic growth, but he does plan to continue focusing on maintaining his current book of business.
“In an industry like this you rebid annually, and you have to win this business,” he notes. “It’s not a guarantee, so our number one goal is to maintain the existing business that we have, and then secondarily to grow. As I’ve said, referrals have been a big part of our business. We are constantly asking our current customers where we might find another opportunity.”
The more modest goal is to grow the business 15 percent in 2013. “We think that that is reachable, provided everything falls in line,” Pansky concludes. “Then again, there is always an opportunity. We could have some thing hit like last year and knock it out of the park again.”