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Max Wepasnik of ColorNet Group on lessons learned moving from offset to digital

Published on September 21, 2012

ColorNet Printing & Graphics Owner Max Wepasnik talks to Cary Sherburne about his business and the lessons learned moving from offset to digital.

Cary Sherburne: Hi, I’m Cary Sherburne, Senior Editor at WhatTheyThink.com, and I’m here with Max Wepasnick, who’s owner of the ColorNet Group here in the nation’s capitol area. Welcome.

Max Wepasnick: Thank you.

Cary Sherburne: And you started out - maybe talk a little bit about your business because you started out as a quick printer some years ago.

Max Wepasnick: We did. Actually, my brother and I started the company. In the late ’80s, we started as a quick printer. He has more of the printing background. I have more of the sales, marketing, admin background. And we started as a quick printer in downtown Silver Spring, which is a suburb of Washington, and grew that into what we would call a quick commercial printer with great offset capability, and more recently we’ve been adding a lot of digital capability to that mix. We have three plants in the area. We run multiple shifts and we’re just going as hard as we can keeping up with the work right now.

Cary Sherburne: And you still have a retail location?

Max Wepasnick: We do. We have a retail location on Rockville Pike. It’s one of the last ones in the area. It’s been around for 30 years. We acquired them about six years ago, and it is amazing how much retail business there still is in this area. We know it’s kind of a dinosaur and it’s going away. But for right now, it’s generating a lot of business for us.

Cary Sherburne: So people are just walking in off the street?

Max Wepasnick: Yeah. Yeah, there are still people that walk in off the street.

Cary Sherburne: Wow, that's great. Well, I was really interested and, you know, that's an interesting migration that you’ve made, you know, kind of starting from, well, duplicators, they aren't really digital but shorter runs and then moving into the bigger stuff and now you’re kind of moved into the digital. What are some of the challenges that you faced, or what are some of the things that you might have done differently if you had it to do over again?

Max Wepasnick: The challenges are deciding to make the investments, because it’s not an inexpensive proposition to make those types of investments, the transition from an offset format to a digital format. And once we got over those and generated the business that we needed to basically cover the expense of that equipment, it’s been a great decision for us.

As to what we would do again differently, I don't know. It worked out pretty well for us.

Cary Sherburne: You’re happy with it, yeah?

Max Wepasnick: Yeah. You know, we put it in and it took us a little while. It took us about a year to get the volume on the digital equipment. But once we did that, it’s just, by ****, I think I said earlier we grew our digital business by 50 percent last year, where offset stayed flat. So it’s really been a great investment for us.

Cary Sherburne: And one of the interesting approaches, because a lot of times people, when they’re trying to make this transition, one of the biggest challenges is the sales force, and you had told me earlier that one of the things you did was decreased your offset capacity to force the issue.

Max Wepasnick: Oh yeah. Yeah, when we put in our digital press, we actually sold some of our offset equipment because we have a very offset-oriented workforce, sales force, and in order to push work to the digital presses, we got rid of some of our offset capacity. And that drove the shorter run work and got some confidence going with the sales force on the capabilities of that equipment.

Cary Sherburne: So, as you’ve built your digital business, have you also added things like web-to-print and MIS?

Max Wepasnick: We have. Actually, last fall, we upgraded our web-to-print capability and we’ve really been pushing that with our clients. It has the typical business card, stationary capability plus very good -

Cary Sherburne: Like a library catalog kind of, yeah.

Max Wepasnick: Yeah, where we can build variable brochures and whatnot and we’ve been very successful with that lately. And we’re having a hard time keeping up with the demand.

Cary Sherburne: That's a good problem to have.

Max Wepasnick: Yeah, so I think it’s a little bit of a pent-up demand because we had the capability before but we recently upgraded, but that's been going great for us.

Cary Sherburne: That's great because web-to-print, I mean, the customer-facing piece is so important today.

Max Wepasnick: Yeah, absolutely, absolutely.

Cary Sherburne: Yeah, that's terrific, thanks.

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