Printers and Brokers — What’s Your Favorite Printing Story?
My $52,000.00 Payday
The biggest print order I ever handled was a mailing package for cable TV. The package consisted of nine different elements and it went to one million customers. The total print billing was over $650,000.00. Now that in itself wasn’t the incredible part. Many who might read this blog work for, or have worked for large web plants that could easily handle this job. I didn’t. I was employed by a small sheet-fed printer. Our “biggest” press was a 25″ 5/color with a CPU. At the time presses with CPU’s were just coming into the market and we were darned proud of ours.
Never Overlook the Unlikely
The customer was an unlikely advertising agency that was so small it wasn’t on anyone’s radar. They were located in my area, but not in my regular path of travel. Anytime I found myself near them, once a month, or so, I’d dropped in to say hello and see if they were anticipating any printing orders. The answer was always no.
An Estimator Can do More than Sit in the Office
One day out of the blue they called. Over the phone they described a job so complex that I felt I needed help with the specifications so collared our estimator and took her with me. I was glad I had the estimator because she had been a former press operator with our company and came up with some suggestions on the spot to simplify the job.
Persistence Beat Price
Within a few days we submitted our bid. I didn’t think that there was a ghost of a chance we would get it, but I had to see it through. When the bids were in, we were second. The lowest bidder was a well-established 40″ sheet fed printer in town. I never saw their price, but it was close enough that the agency decided that I should be rewarded for my persistence in calling on them.
Thank Goodness My Sales Manager Didn’t Hear What I Said
That’s when I said something that my sales manager would have kicked me for if he had heard it. I said, “I would love to do this job, but it really belongs on a web press and not sheet-fed.”
My customer responded with this question, “Will a web press give me better quality than sheet-fed?”
I told him, “No, but 95% wouldn’t know the difference.” Actually the 95% figure was a bit low. Without a side-by-side comparison I doubted that anyone would know.
What Made the Sales Manager Strut Like a Goose
To my surprise we were awarded the job. The next hurdle was collecting a half-down. To offer the bid we did it required the purchase of a great quantity of paper. We settled on a $360,000.oo figure with the balance due on completion.
I remember the day I went to the agency to pick up the check. Their customer had given them a cashiers check made out to us. I brought in the dough and gave it to the sales manager. He balanced the check on the upper frame of his glasses and leaned it back against his forehead and then proceeded to strut through the office, the sales bullpen, and the shop inviting everyone to see the biggest amount of money ever seen by our company.
It isn’t Over ‘Til it’s Over
Later the estimator who had been so helpful asked me, “Bill, you don’t seem very happy about this, what’s going on?”
“I am happy, but more than that I’m concerned that we’ve bitten off more than we can chew. It is going to be a nightmare around here until this project is finished. I’ll be happier when it’s done.”
Pinned by the G.A.S.F.
I wasn’t wrong. To this day I think the customer should have heeded my advice, but I got 8% commission on over $650,000.00 so in the end I have to say I did okay, and a few months later I was presented with a diamond pin for achieving the highest annual sales award given by the G.A.S.F. The money, except what went into my IRA, is a distant memory, but I still have the pin.
Note: If any reader would like to add their own favorite printing story, just go to “comments” at the bottom of this post and share it with all of us.