Executive Q&A: Zarik Megerdichian

Zarik Megerdichian, CEO of 4over, Inc. always knew he was an entrepreneur but he had no idea that what he now calls a “$250 accident” would soon become the multi-million dollar corporation that it is today.

QP: Tell us a little about your company, the segment of the market it serves, and who you consider to be your “core” users.

ZM: 4over just turned 11 years old! We began as a pioneer in the online print market and quickly expanded to eight locations across North America to serve the trade segment of the print industry. Any business reselling print is our core customer.

QP: How did you get involved with the company?

ZM: I started this business on a $250 accident. I was designing web pages for my customers and one of them asked me to design a business card for her. I designed two—one for her and one for myself.

I sent these designs to an online print company in Simi Valley, CA, and the owner of the company called me back, asking who did my designs. He liked the designs so much that when I told him I designed them, he asked me if I would like to work for him. I was starving at the time and he offered me $25 per design, so I said yes. He sent me 10 designs and I finished each job per our agreement. In the end, he stopped returning my phone calls and never paid me for the work. So $250 was hanging out there and all I knew was that the guy got the orders from the Internet.

Since I was a web developer, I decided to start a business called 1-877-78CARDS.com—the original name of our business before it became 4over. I paid Yahoo! a $200 one-time fee for a “Business Express Listing” of our company. Since the business name started with number 1, I was on the top of the list and I started getting a lot of design orders. My intention was to only do design, but customers would cancel their orders because I refused to print so then I started outsourcing the printing. When it came to the point where it was too much, I bought a press and fell into printing, just like that.

QP: What was your background before that?

ZM: I went to graphic college and in 1997, when I’d learned to do graphic work, I saw the Internet as the future. That’s when I began designing and developing websites for an Internet business.

QP: Did you have any idea that your company would grow as quickly as it did? Or that it would become as big as it is today?

ZM: I had no idea. All I knew was that I’d always put good quality into my work, and I’ve worked very hard over the years. I’ve always believed in growing the business, and while I didn’t know how quickly it would grow or just how big it would become, I knew that it would be successful.

QP: How did you teach yourself the complexity of print?

ZM: I’m a research freak. I research things to death. That’s how I learned print in such a short time and it has helped me to drive the business forward.

QP: What do you consider your greatest achievement in this market to be?

ZM: We’ve remained loyal and focused. We developed a great company and culture, stood behind our customer base, continued to build with new talent and stayed true to our core business. We did this for years during a time when people were going out of business, losing focus, and selling to anyone who walked through the door. Our customers recognize this by remaining loyal and continuing to give us their business, which is why we’ve enjoyed the healthy growth we continue to experience, year after year.

QP: If there was anything you could change, either about your career in regard to the print industry, your company, or the market as a whole, what would it be and why?

ZM: For the print market as a whole, we want more and more printers to leverage the benefits of standardized printing. We have played a huge role in the transformation of the print market by introducing the highest-quality print and with the best value in terms of speed to market and price. Every year, more and more legacy printers are realizing that rather than investing their hard-earned capital in fixed assets, they can leverage our products and solutions for faster growth and greater financial results.

QP: What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced while adapting to the fast pace of 4over’s growth?

ZM: The biggest challenge has been finding the right people—people who could see a bigger and better future. Some people had limitations and could not see my vision, making it difficult to bring them on board. I’ve faced small challenges along the way but it’s never been anything we couldn’t get through as a team.

QP: What’s the biggest challenge you think the industry has faced over the years?

ZM: The biggest challenge is that Internet and technology have changed the shape of the industry—a lot of people have suffered by not adapting to it quickly enough. Print changed form but it’s still here and it’s really growing. The companies that have had a hard time adapting to the changing times are the companies that have begun to suffer.

QP: What do you consider the greatest challenge to be for the industry right now and why?

ZM: The continued slowing in demand for traditional print due to new channels for delivering the marketing message. This trend is what leads many legacy printers to outsource to 4over—when they realize the ease of ordering through our automated systems, the total value of our solutions, and the profits they can bank rather than sinking more capital into their own business.

QP: What do you consider the greatest asset to be for the industry right now? Why?

ZM: Technology and the automation we gain from it. 4over began as an early pioneer of online printing. Then we developed new processing automation to speed orders to market. Now, we are revolutionizing our internal processes for better productivity and our external processes for the benefit of our customers.

QP: In your opinion, what have been the biggest changes to the way we communicate with one another in the past few years? How would you recommend this industry take advantage of that?

ZM: Mobile and online technologies are simplifying the demand for instant access to information and relevant content. At 4over our corporate vision is to “simplify and transform print.” We are simplifying the user experience, the print process, and access to information for our customers. This has been a cornerstone of the 4over strategy in marketing and e-commerce for years. We deliver information to our customers wherever they happen to be through multiple channels such as mobile app, online, chat, e-mail, phone, social media, etc.

QP: Looking ahead, what major innovations or technologies do you believe will shape the future of the industry? Why?

ZM: Things are all heading to the Internet, which is where most capabilities already are and will continue to be. On-demand printing and personalization will be very big in the near future as well--personalized marketing materials really drive response rates.

QP: What is the biggest piece of advice you would give to printers and others involved in this industry?

ZM: Get involved with your business, hire the right people, offer customers online solutions, use technology to your advantage, use automation for saving costs and you’ll do fine.

QP: Is there anything else you would like to share with our readers?

ZM: We always celebrate 4over’s birthday on February 5th, but this day is actually the unofficial birthday—the day that [wife] Tina and I upgraded to new, top-of-the-line prepress, press, and postpress equipment. This is when our business exploded. Coincidentally, it also happens to be our son Andrew’s birthday.