The EPI CompaniesOn April 15, 2009, the EPI Companies closed their doors after 40 years of business in Marietta, Georgia, not far from Atlanta.

Founded in 1969 as Executive Printing by the late William F. Woods, Sr., the company reached a peak of $53.5 million in annual sales with a staff of 275 full-time employees by Spring 2007. A current LinkedIn profile for the EPI Companies reports 215 employees.

Dropping printing from its name in 2003, the company positioned itself as a “diversified marketing support services provider” and expanded to offer value-added services such as mailing, fulfillment, warehousing and logistics, Web-based ordering, creative services, and promotional products.

By July of 2006, the company, which had grown to occupy 6 buildings, moved into a new 266,000 square foot location in Marietta and a 127,000 square foot space in Chatsworth, Georgia.

At the time of the move, Bill Woods, told the Atlanta Business Chronicle, “We firmly expect to be a $100 million player over the next several years,” as he forecast 20% growth for 2006.

Family-Run Until 2008

William F. (Bill) Woods, Jr., the last family member to manage EPI Companies, grew up a printer. While he didn’t begin his career in the mail room (per Hollywood), he did run printing equipment at the tender age of 12.

In 1981, he was named president and in 1993, Woods became CEO. Woods is a past Chairman of the Printing Industry Association of Georgia, a 2001 inductee into NAPL's Walter E. Soderstrom Society, and a member of the NAPL Management Plus Society.

Cindy Woods, Bill’s wife, listed in her LinkedIn Profile that she had served as senior vice president and CMO, from August 1992 until November 2008. She had been featured widely in Heidelberg print ads.

Acquired by LINX Partners, a private equity firm, EPI Companies was listed as one of their portfolio companies as late as March 30, 2009.

Upon Woods’ departure, former Heidelberg executive Bill Blair, moved from COO to CEO and lead the company at the time of its closure.

Not a man to speak ill of anyone, Bill Woods commented in an email to WhatTheyThink: “There were a great many bright, dedicated and loyal people with the company, and they will pollinate many fine companies around Atlanta and elsewhere and make them all better companies.”

What took the EPI Companies down?

Was it trying to be all things to all people? The company offered everything from sheetfed offset to digital color and B&W printing to wide format imaging. Add promotional items to the mix and you have a pretty long stretch.

Reaching up and down the supply chain, EPI had a staff of full-time graphic designers, and promised full “concept to design” including digital photography and copywriting.

On the other end of the supply chain, EPI’s logistics, mailing, and distribution services included fulfilling tire samples and housing 1000s of photo props for a home improvement chain.

Was it the inability of the company to execute a more “mature” management philosophy required by an equity owner after having operated under an entrepreneurial management style for decades?

Was it simply the result of a shrinking economy, tight finances, and the current recession?

Or could it have been a combination of all three? Until the final analysis, that question is still open.