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Hi Rez Digital Solutions: Building a Digital Printing Facility from the Ground Up

by Mike Chiricuzio Blue Moon Solutions,

By WhatTheyThink Staff
Published: October 27, 2003

by Mike Chiricuzio Blue Moon Solutions, Inc. October 27, 2003 -- I recently have had the pleasure (well, mostly pleasure) of assisting in the planning, startup and now the development of a new digital printing facility in Vista, California near San Diego. Here's a little background of the project and history of how it came into being. The Southern California Tribal Chairmen's Association (SCTCA), a non-profit agency representing all 18 Native American tribes in San Diego County, opened its first collaborative for-profit business venture on October 15, 2003 – a digital printing business called Hi Rez Digital Solutions. SCTCA researched the printing market, developed a business plan, and is now ready to provide needed digital printing services to customers throughout Southern California to generate income for the tribal community. The business is but one of several initiatives emerging from a three-year partnership between HP and SCTCA as part of the San Diego Tribal Digital Village initiative. There are many printing facilities in San Diego County, but few offer digital printing. Initial customers of the new business will be automotive sales, specialty and high-end retailing, real estate, and insurance sales – the same companies that tend to use variable data printing on a national level. The new business will also be well positioned to serve the printing needs of state and federal government agencies that buy several hundred million dollars in quick printing each year In 2000, SCTCA received a grant from HP to bring information technology to Southern California reservations and to create the Tribal Digital Village (TDV). The TDV includes community resource programs, as well as a high-speed Internet backbone, that connects all of the tribes that are a part of the SCTCA. The TDV project includes five “pillars": * Infrastructure/access * Culture * Education * Community services and * Economic development The tribal community is currently planning for sustainability to continue the work started with the HP three-year grant. Starting up a for-profit business is a clear indication of the tribes' desire to sustain these efforts and diversify their economic base. The Digital Village Program is a flagship of HP's e-inclusion initiative, whose mission is to close the gap between technology-empowered communities and technology-excluded communities throughout the world by making it profitable to do so. You can see more about this program at: ( http://www.hp.com/e-inclusion/en/project/tribal1.html ) SCTCA's decision represents an important milestone in the Southern California tribal community's journey to achieve economic sustainability. It is also one of a handful of examples throughout the country where Native American tribes have chosen to work together on a joint, technology-based, economic development initiative. In fall 2002, SCTCA engaged a team of business school students from California State University at San Marcos to develop an initial business plan based on a digital press as the "anchor" capability behind their proposed printing business. I first became acquainted with this project in late 2002, when I was introduced to some of the people involved in the project, and was asked to review the business plan. In early 2003, I was contracted by SCTCA to advise and assist in the startup and development of this new business. Working from a basic plan, we began the detail of steps required, with a target date of launch set at October 15, 2003. Although I was basically contracted early in the year, it was not until May that the wheels were really set in motion. The initial task list of major items I created looked like this:   Item Responsible Due Date SCTCA Sign Basic Agreement SCTCA/HP 05/01/03 Hire Business Consultant SCTCA 05/15/03 Initial Site Inspection/Approval MC/HP 06/01/03 Setup Management Oversight Committee SCTCA/MC 06/01/03 Submit Formal Press Equipment Request SCTCA/MC 06/01/03 Hire General Manager SCTCA/MC 06/15/03 Requisition of other Equipment/Supplies SCTCA/MC 07/01/03 Business Name SCTCA/MC 07/01/03 Submit Computer/Office Equip Request SCTCA/MC 07/01/03 Corporation Setup SCTCA/MC 07/01/03 Clarify General Business Plan SCTCA/MC 07/01/03 Hire Contractor(s) for Site Prep SCTCA/MC 07/01/03 Hire Production Operators SCTCA/MC 07/01/03 Sales and Marketing Plan SCTCA/MC 07/01/03 Secure Initial Working SCTCA Funds SCTCA 07/01/03 Sign Agreement for Equipment SCTCA/HP 07/01/03 Secure Written Business Commitments SCTCA 07/01/03 Prepress Operator Training MC/HP 08/01/03 Press Operator Training SCTCA/MC 08/01/03 Press Release ALL 08/01/03 Site Preparation/Buildouts Complete SCTCA/MC 08/01/03 Hire Sales & Office Personnel SCTCA/MC 08/15/03 Press Installation MC/HP 09/01/03 Signage SCTCA/MC 09/15/03 Internal Personnel Training MC/GM 09/15/03 Business Opens ALL 10/01/03 Open House ALL 10/15/03 Plans such as this are always subject to modification as things progress, and this project was certainly no exception. Having no staff to initially work with made early work challenging. And the fact that SCTCA is an association that is managed by a Board of Directors from 18 different tribes meant that the approval process for expenditures and decisions needed to follow an orderly, prescribed process. This is as it should be, but the requisite timing when working towards a deadline sometimes made for hair pulling on my part. Those of you who know me are aware that I have very little room left for such activity. To keep things moving forward while working with personnel from HP and SCTCA in various locations, we setup a weekly conference call to discuss progress and challenges. This, combined with frequent email communications through a mail group, allowed for reasonably good contact. All parties involved in the project, including myself, had to maintain many other responsibilities, and this also presented some challenges of scheduling and available time for the work involved. One of the most important aspects of any business, whether new or ongoing, is the recruitment and training of staff. It has been my experience since beginning my consulting business that there is great need of this service. Hi Rez Digital Solutions, being a brand new business, basically needed all hires. Before this recruitment process begins, a well-defined plan is needed, including organization chart, job descriptions, compensation plans, benefits package, etc. Soon, the simple general business plan starts to become a bit more complicated, but these are necessary steps. Once having defined the positions and roles of initial employee needs, the list of desired personnel for the startup of the business looked like this: Position Responsible To Hire Date General Manager SCTCA Board 06/15/03 Director of Sales and Marketing General Manager 07/01/03 Digital Production Specialist 1 General Manager 08/01/03 Digital Production Specialist 2 General Manager 09/01/03 Driver/Production Assistant General Manager 10/01/03 CSR/Office Manager General Manager 10/01/03 So, with six employees needed, and five of them reporting to the General Manager, the hunt was on early for filling the GM position. Ads were placed in regional classifieds and online at Monster.com. As expected, the classifieds produced little in the way of results, but the online ad from Monster.com was very productive, with over 50 resumes received. In this situation, with Hi Rez Digital Solutions being owned by SCTCA, the review and approval process included the Human Resources director of SCTCA, the Executive Director of SCTCA, and the Executive Board of the Association. Applicant resumes were narrowed down to eight, who were called for initial interviews. After initial interviews, three applicants then made the short list who were called for a second interview before the Board and Executive Director. Thus, the first hire was made, followed by a hire from this same ‘pool' of applicants who was selected for the position of Director of Sales and Marketing. The other four positions followed much the same process, with the exception of bypassing the interview by the Executive Board, although their approval was still needed for finalizing any and all hires. The detailed list of all other tasks (not the generalized list shown above) was daunting, to say the least. Searching for and acquiring a facility turned out to be more difficult than expected, due to a shortage of smaller sized facilities in the area. Construction of new sites is brisk, but much of the new building is for spaces above 5,000 square feet, whereas our desire was more in the 2,500 square foot area. After broadening our search area, we found a facility just completed in Vista that was just right, but the process from beginning to end, the hunting, looking, negotiating, etc., took over six weeks… putting us behind schedule. With the launch date pretty much cast in stone due to commitments of SCTCA and HP executives to attend, delays that could affect the launch were not an option. Just a few weeks before launch, here is a partial list of items that were still in process: Item Due Date Telephone System/Hookup 09/30/03 Humidifier for Production Area 09/30/03 Drinking & Distilled Water 09/30/03 Office supplies 09/30/03 Software 09/30/03 Signage - Bldg. & Van 10/01/03 Small Business Development 10/01/03 Breakroom 10/03/03 DSL 10/03/03 Electrical 10/03/03 Email configuration/setup 10/03/03 Business Hardware 10/03/03 Insulation/AC installation 10/03/03 Invitee List 10/03/03 Open House Invitations 10/03/03 Website 10/03/03 Buildouts 10/08/03 Front Door Security/PA System 10/08/03 Plumbing 10/08/03 Press Installation 10/08/03 1st Production operator/other 10/09/03 Additional Personnel & Training 10/09/03 Apple computers 10/10/03 Décor - Wall prints 10/10/03 Delivery Van 10/10/03 Finishing equipment 10/10/03 Marketing Brochure 10/10/03 Network Server and Cabinet 10/10/03 Office equipment 10/10/03 OSHA Audit / Waste Removal 10/10/03 Paper Vendors 10/10/03 Sales Tax & Usage # 10/10/03 Shelving/Racks 10/10/03 Open House 10/15/03 C/C Merchant Account 10/15/03 Tools/Misc. Supplies, etc. Various By the time of the above list, a few weeks before the launch, we're ‘in' the building, kind of, with construction and installations happening in all areas, interviews for personnel being held in whatever corner of the building least in the way of contractors, with spotty phone and dialup only internet service available. But I am a man of my word, and the new team of employees with the help of SCTCA staff and HP personnel worked hard hit the marks, and we had a memorable Open House as planned on October 15 th . The bad news about building from the ground up is that you have nothing, and need everything. However, this is also the good news, in that if you have nothing, you then have nothing bad, and no baggage to deal with. At least that's what we kept telling ourselves! Having been involved in several startups in the past, I have to say that they are all unique, each with their own advantages and challenges, but the very common element that will save you from temporary or permanent insanity, should you find yourself involved in such an adventure, is a good basic plan and follow through on communication and implementation. The tasks to be accomplished can be overwhelming, but by breaking it down into meaningful ‘bites' assigning them to responsible parties and then tracking task deadlines, you can make it happen. And finally, I'd like to thank some people who played significant roles in this endeavor. I'm sure I'm overlooking someone here, so I'll ask for forgiveness in advance… Name Organization Lee Acebedo Chairman Jamul Keely Bamberg San Diego State University Scott Bossinger Hewlett-Packard Christine Burnett Cal Poly Pei-Chen Chang Southern California Tribal Chairmen's Association Anthony Contreras Sonoran Equipment Solutions John Currier Chairman Rincon Kim Davidson Cal Poly Chris Devers Chairman Pauma Leroy Elliot Chairman Manzanita Dale Equitz Hewlett-Packard Janiece Evans-Page Hewlett-Packard Ralph Goff Chairman Campo Ellie Hartsell Hi Rez Digital Solutions John Hernandez Chairman Santa Ysabel Steve Jewell-Larsen Hewlett-Packard Bob Johnson Southern California Tribal Chairmen's Association Susie Johnson Southern California Tribal Chairmen's Association Vyomesh Joshi Hewlett-Packard Rodney Key R&R Images Clifford LaChappa Chairman Barona Benny Landa Hewlett-Packard Fred Latham Hewlett-Packard Allen Lawson Chairman San Pasqual Harvey Levenson Cal Poly Rebecca Maxcy Chairwoman Inaja-Comit Mark McCarrow Chairman Pechanga Bill McGlynn Hewlett-Packard Webb McKinney Hewlett-Packard Kurt Meeder Hi Rez Digital Solutions Ram Mofsowitz Hewlett-Packard Gwen Parada Chairwoman La Posta Anthony Pico Chairman Viejas Harlan Pinto Chairman Ewiiaapaayp Matthew Rantanen Tribal Digital Village Lisa Ray Cal Poly Brett Rowley Hewlett-Packard Stacey Rutherford Cal Poly Katherine Saubel Chairwoman Los Coyotes Wendy Schlater Chairwoman La Jolla Sudershan Shaunak Oceanside SBDC Charlene Siford Chairwoman Mesa Grande Bill Silver Heidelberg Robert Smith Chairman Pala Georgia Tucker Chairwoman Sycuan Denis Turner Southern California Tribal Chairmen's Association Jack Ward Southern California Tribal Chairmen's Association Paul Woods Hewlett-Packard ------------------------------------------------------------------------



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