Dave and Lynn Wattles have owned their design, printing, and marketing center in Farmington Hills, Michigan for 20 years and counting. Dave Wattles opens up about why 'Corporate America' wasn't for him, what it's really like to run a family business in Michigan, and why he is excited to continue to serve his customers as well as the community he loves.
FARMINGTON HILLS, Mich. - Owning a business is a life-changing decision that should not be taken lightly. It is a decision that Dave and Lynn Wattles made just over 20 years ago when they purchased their International Minute Press design, printing, and marketing business in Farmington Hills, MI after careful consideration, research, and due diligence (Minuteman Press International operates as International Minute Press in Michigan). "I think you hear it time and time again from folks. There are people who do, and there are people who don't. We were at a crossroads, and so we did it."
Career change to support a growing family
A graduate of Central Michigan University, Dave Wattles worked as a YMCA Director before transitioning into a sales career. After selling college textbooks for CBS Publishing Company Holt, Rinehart and Winston, Dave went on to work for Viacom in their computer curriculum division. He decided to enter into franchising because, in Dave's words, "Corporate wasn't for me, I had a family to take care of, and traveling was bogging me down."
For the Wattles family, the aforementioned crossroads came at a time where Dave and Lynn were looking to spend more time together while supporting a growing family. In August 1996, they bought an existing business, taking over the International Minute Press design, printing, and marketing franchise in Farmington Hills. Their son was 4 and their newborn daughter was just 3 weeks old.
Dave reflects, "Like so many other business owners, taking that leap of faith was one of those decisions we had to make. It's always hard to make a life change, but then when you do it, you ask yourself, 'Why didn't I do it sooner?'"
Why buy a marketing and printing franchise?
While working in textbook sales, Dave Wattles saw the value in printing but was also frustrated by the college textbook sales cycle that would normally last three to four years. "As opposed to textbooks, I love the short reorder cycle that comes with the type of marketing and printing I have done for the past 20 years with my business. We have established so many great relationships with customers over the past two decades, and I love being able to help them with everything they need on a regular, recurring basis."
Dave Wattles chose to go the franchising route because he was looking for someone to have his back when he went into business. He liked International Minute Press because of the full training and ongoing support provided by his franchisor, Minuteman Press International. "They had a two-week training program in New York, offered me ongoing support here in Farmington Hills, and also have a royalty incentive program where they actually cap royalties above a monthly sales level. Not many franchises are willing to take money out of their own pockets and give it back to the owners to help us re-invest in our business."
Another thing Dave has enjoyed about being part of the Minuteman Press International franchise system is that he can run his business his way while still receiving that crucial support. "Anyone who does this gig has an entrepreneurial spirit. We're all on the same team but the franchisor doesn't shackle us and gives us freedom to run the business the way we want. Kudos to the company that is allowing me to be me."
"Dave and Lynn Wattles are great people and exemplary franchise owners," says Gary Nowak, Minuteman Press International Regional Vice President for Michigan, Ohio, and Kentucky. "I congratulate them on being in business for 20 years and we are proud to continue to support them right here on the ground level. Dave always brings a lot of energy and ideas to our regional meetings and he's a great asset to his fellow owners as well as our franchise system."
Growing with customers in Farmington Hills
One of the most rewarding aspects about being a business owner is being able to serve customers by filling a need that they have while giving them the quality and service they deserve. Dave Wattles understands how fortunate he is to still be growing after 20 years, and he loves seeing and helping his customers – many of them who are also small business owners – grow as well. Dave says, "Because we’ve been doing this for a long time, we are fortunate enough to have some long-term repeat customers. One client in particular started with us when we first opened doing just business cards, and now they are our one of our biggest clients and we do everything for them – custom catalogs, manuals, flyers, and anything else they need."
The future of the printing industry and customer benefits
When it comes to the future of printing, Dave Wattles is excited because he knows he is in good hands with his franchisor being at the forefront of the industry. "I can't be more excited for the evolution of digital printing," says Dave. "Today, we can address anyone's order because we have the capabilities to do so. Short run, full-color printing, personalized marketing through variable data printing, direct mail – you name it, we can do it. Our customers can take full advantage of the latest technology but also still receive the local service they know and love."
Some other benefits for customers that sets International Minute Press apart is the fast turnaround made possible by optimized workflow. "When I first started, we were doing pricing by hand. Today, I use the pricing software provided by Minuteman Press International, and it's absolutely essential to optimizing my business' operations. Everything is easily tracked in our system, quotes and orders are turned around faster, and it's a win-win for our customers."
Another win for customers is the fact that Dave and Lynn Wattles can make their products and services extremely cost-effective thanks to the franchisor. "The franchise has mass purchasing agreements in place on items like paper, equipment and supplies, and we can pass along those savings to our customers."
Business goals and advice for others
Even after 20 years, Dave and Lynn Wattles are looking ahead and would like to see continued growth in 2017 and the years to follow. "I'd like to grow, and I want to let our customers know that we can do it together. In the grand scheme of things, we provide a powerful mechanism for you to communicate, and print is a tremendous avenue for you to tell your story." He thoughtfully adds, "We are just lucky enough to be able to provide you with all of the tools you need – including custom designs from our incredible graphic designers and high quality printing and production – for you to share it."
Dave's advice for others is this: "There is no such thing as the right time to make a life change and own a business. We are living proof that anytime is the time to do it, if you are willing to put in the work and build your business sensibly."
He concludes, "It's really been a great ride for 20 years, and I look forward to another 20!"