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An In-Depth Look at Universal Millenium

Published on September 30, 2011

CTO John Sisson and Cary Sherburne chat about Universal Millenium's interesting start leading up to where they are today.

Cary Sherburne:  Hi, I’m Cary Sherburne, Senior Editor at WhatTheyThink.com and I'm here with John Sisson who is Chief Technology Officer and Chief Marketing Officer for Universal Millennium.

John Sisson:  Yep.

Cary Sherburne:  That’s kind of an unusual combination.

John Sisson:  It’s a good thing.

Cary Sherburne:  Okay.  And Universal Millennium has kind of an interesting history, I mean having lived myself in the New England area for 10 years I guess, a lot of the names that you rolled up into this company were very familiar to me.  Why don’t you give us a little background on how the company came together?

John Sisson:  Yeah.  So, it’s really a company born of acquisitions, with names like; Daniel’s Printing, which was a printer name in the financial industry, Acme printing, which premier in the commercial high-quality web work, and then, of course, Universal, and also Millennium coming together as one to be a pretty good sized sheet fed and web operation.

Cary Sherburne:  And how many employees do you have now?

John Sisson:  300.

Cary Sherburne:  300.  Wow.  And you’re located?

John Sisson:  The headquarters is in Westwood.  And then we have a facility in Rockland and we’re moving back into a facility in Somerville.  So, Acme was in Wilmington, but we’re moving that operation into Somerville right now.

Cary Sherburne: But your business is not really geographically restricted, right? 

John Sisson:  No.  You know certainly we’re strongest in New England, but we’re doing business pretty much all around the country.

Cary Sherburne:  And you would say, I think you told me that you would consider yourself sort of in the process of transitioning from a commercial printer to more of a marketing services model.

John Sisson:  Absolutely, absolutely.  Bill Fitzgerald, who is the CEO, has a great vision for the company.  I want to say four or five years ago he drew a map on the wall for all the employees, the sales people; about we need to be taking this from thought to distribution and talking about all the services in between, and really started doing it almost immediately.  And four or five years ago, that’s pretty… 

Cary Sherburne:  That’s visionary.

John Sisson:  That was definitely visionary.  I’ve been with the company for a little over two years and I think the changes we’ve put in place, from a technology standpoint, have just given us a stronger platform for delivering not just print, but also; variable print, email, PURLS, multi-channel marketing type of things.

Cary Sherburne:  That’s great.  And so now what percentage of your business, would you say, is more in that marketing services or digital services delivery versus conventional offset.

John Sisson:  From a revenue standpoint it’s still probably a little less than five percent, maybe a little bit more than that.  But I think the contribution of those activities for current customers has made a significant difference on the print, and certainly on the digital print side of the business, as well as our fulfillment operation.  So, even though if you revenue for emails, and PURLS, and things like that, is small; how that branches out with the rest of the organization is pretty significant. 

Cary Sherburne:  So you’re actually finding that having those services draws in more printing.

John Sisson:  Absolutely, absolutely.  Because print, although I think I was told 10 or 15 years ago that it was going away; it’s not going away, hopefully not anyway.

Cary Sherburne:  Probably not in our lifetimes, right?

John Sisson:  Exactly, exactly.

Cary Sherburne:  Yeah.  And so also does that make it easier for you to call on different kinds of people in the accounts and talk to…?  You know, it gives you something different to talk about, right?

John Sisson:  Absolutely, and I think you’re having a different conversation with the customer.  I’m in a session later today, but one of the things I talk about all the time is that as a printer, you didn’t really have a discussion with the customer about what this was for.  They gave it to you, you printed it, you delivered it, etcetera.  When you’re talking about all the services combined, you really need to understand what the objectives the customer has, their goals, what benefit you’re bringing, and that even changes the complexion of the print sale.  Because now you’re talking to a marketing individual who is trying to acquire new customers, or trying to retain the customers that they’ve got, and being able to put a package together, which includes a variety of different services, means you’re really solving their problems or achieving their goals for them, not just printing something and delivering it without any knowledge of; well what is that used for, and how did that even impact the customer.

Cary Sherburne:  Well and it also means you need to be further up the supply chain.  Further upstream, or downstream?  Upstream, in the supply chain because you can’t just have them come to you and say, “Here print this,” and you say, “Oh, but you could do this and that”, it’s too late at that point.  I mean, you have to be involved earlier in the…

John Sisson:  No question about it.  In fact, I think all the way up and to the point of strategy.  So on the initial thought, and I don’t always get the opportunity to do that, but when you do, you can have a really positive influence for the customer; in suggesting ideas, in reengineering things, in saving them money potentially, in making them think about the process differently, and that’s really collaboration.  I mean, 10 years ago, 15 years ago, I don’t mean to talk about the past too much, but we always talk about a partnership, and it was still a customer-vendor relationship.

Cary Sherburne:  Right.

John Sisson:  This is much more of a partnership because, you know, you’re really making a difference for the customer in achieving their objectives.

Cary Sherburne:  Thanks for talking to us.

John Sisson:  Oh, you bet.

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By Jason Pinto on Sep 30, 2011

As a fellow New Englander, I just wanted to say that John Sisson made me quite proud in this video :-)

I loved the points that were made regarding how having some of those other marketing services actually "draws in more printing".

I certainly think that Universal Millennium is a very positive story for the printing industry to look at.


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