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John Rosenthal of Digital Color Graphics on competing with bigger companies

Published on September 20, 2012

Digital Color Graphics Owner John Rosenthal talks about his experience working for large companies and how he's used that to operate a smaller printing company and still compete for business.

Hi, I’m John Rosenthal with Digital Color Graphics, a printing company outside of the Philadelphia area.  I’ve been in this business many years, a lot more than my wife wants me to talk about.
Prior to opening my own company about 15 years ago, I worked for Toppan Printing, if I’m allowed to mention names.  Toppan Printing, Toppan is the largest printer in the world, Japanese owned.  So I went from the largest printing company to the smallest printing company of one. 

And my background is large, high-end, high-quality major projects.  And I understand how large corporations think and act and function, because I came from one and I was also with several other large companies prior to being with Toppan.  It’s given me an opportunity, a different perspective on what they do and how they price things, not pricing in a dollar amount but just the concept of how they price things. 

And it’s a lot more different for a large company.  It’s not difficult if they want to do it, but they sometimes think, well, the cylinders cost us X number of dollars to turn them, and so therefore I want to get this amount of money to run this job, which is true.  We want it, also.  But we’re a lot more flexible when a customer comes and says you’ve quoted $1,000 and our budget’s $900.  It’s a lot easier for me to make this decision and move forward, because I know all of what's involved, the cost, the value added.  And sometimes these larger corporations, they're not as flexible.  They don't want to think in that realm.

So being able to make these decisions and move forward has been a real plus, because we don't let a lot of work get away.  We have an extremely high percentage of wind and when we were quoting.  We understand the market, or at least we try to think we do.  And my past experience with all the other companies, a lot of them, if they get 15 percent of what they quote is good.  If they get 20 percent, they’re ecstatic.  Well, I venture to say we’re probably 50 percent to 70 percent of the projects we quote we win.  Maybe there's a little negotiating.  But we understand the marketplace and our customers want to - part of the secret is they want to work with us.

So if you have a $100,000 order and they want a 10 percent discount, that's $10,000 and that's a stretch.  Where if we have a $1,000 project and the customer wants 10 percent off, $100; well, $100 we’ll figure it out.  It may not be exactly $100 savings, but we’ll negotiate and make it work in the reality, because bottom line we’re not talking about the kinds of money that these large corporations are talking about to win and get jobs. 

Our customers like to work with us because we’re willing to be a little flexible.  This doesn't mean we’re dropping our price and putting us out of business.  But it gives us knowledge and experience and flexibility to try and capture as many jobs as we can.  It’s not about the pricing. 
My thought in mentioning this is that being a smaller company we have the flexibility to make instant decisions, and that's the relationship of what I was trying to compare with a small company and its clientele and the larger corporations where it’s not about the pricing.  But I have to believe.  I don't care how large they are.  And I had a project two years ago that I subcontracted to RR Donnelley.  And I asked them to adjust their price by $5,000, and they were willing to do it, because it was a pretty big project they won. 
So no matter who you are, even though you're trying to sell value added and services, price does come up for every company at some place, some time, somewhere.  And that's where the small company has its little edge to look at it quickly and make instant decisions and be able to make these moves where the large corporations can't do it quite so easily.  

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