The birth of a printing franchise

The Minuteman Press team from Whitby, Ontario. From left are Chris Trewin, Melissa Fitzpatrick, Mike Vieira and Alison Kinghorn. Not pictured (taking photo) is Stewart Lawrence.

Before opening his Minuteman Press design, marketing and printing franchise six years ago in Whitby, Ontario, Mike Vieira had no experience running a business. He soon discovered that Minuteman Press franchise owners overcome those learning curves because of the ongoing training and support that his franchisor provides. While he did have experience in printing, he also met with some of the industry’s finest mentors during training sessions and came out ready for all aspects of running a digital print, design and marketing centre.

Vieira worked at a large printing firm in Canada for 25 years, running presses that printed magazines and catalogues. However, the company eventually closed. “It was either start a new career or buy a business,” he recalled. “So, I took my severance pay and started hunting for new opportunities. I saw an ad for a digital print shop for sale and I called to meet Minuteman Press’s Regional Vice President Kevin Wittal. We went on shop tours and I ultimately invested in a brand new Minuteman Press franchise in Whitby in 2013. I started from scratch with my own printing franchise – realizing that my knowledge of the industry was one thing, but being successful as a business owner was another thing entirely. It’s a steep learning curve to go from employee to business owner.”

“I’ve enjoyed working with Michael over the past few years, and I’ve come to learn that he is a very driven and focused individual,” said Minuteman Press International Regional V.P. in Toronto, Kevin Wittal. “One of Mike’s greatest talents is his ability to work through issues and come up with a solution. He ‘s paid close attention to the advice given to him by the Minuteman Press International corporate office, as well as his fellow franchise owners, and he’s used that to his advantage. His recent acquisition of a sign company has allowed him to take his business to the next level, and I look forward to many more years of working with him and watching his business grow and succeed.”

Behind the scenes, Vieira’s wife Lisa brought her experience as a sales manager for Telecom to the franchise. Above all, she lets the surrounding community know that traditional business collateral, while vital, was just the beginning. “Lisa was able to help us with marketing and sales strategies, and that’s been a nice bonus for our growth,” he added. “Melissa and Allison are our valued designers, and Chris, who has print experience from a family-run print business, runs our large-format printing department. Stewart oversees the store when I’m away.”

Plotting a personal course – with help. “At first, Kevin was here to help us, but we needed to figure out our own path because at some point, all business owners sink or swim on their own.,” said Vieira. “I still call Kevin and he’s always there if I need something. We’ve almost completed renovating and expanding to almost double the space, so our local support team came in to observe how we’re laying out our upgraded centre. We needed more space because the additional equipment allowed us to do more ourselves, and better control our print projects.”

The community of Whitby now has a place in which, at Vieira’s insistence, they feel personally attended. “Customers often don’t order print before they absolutely must, so the pressure is there to do it immediately,” he added. “As a professional, if you can’t adjust to that demand and make things work for people, you’re in the wrong business. Meanwhile, the best way to alleviate that pressure is straightforward communication, so it’s a matter of wanting it to work.”

To guarantee this level of service, his staffers always ask questions to determine the ‘real’ deadlines – “so we can give ourselves better timelines to produce quality jobs and gain customers’ trust as best as we can,” he said. Today, Vieira knows most of his customers on a first-name basis. Even as his venture grows and people connect his talent for making them look good, he makes sure to maintain contact. “It’s more difficult now that we’re getting bigger, but I still spend as much time as I can with the people who trust us, and I still personally deliver finished work whenever possible. If we wanted to just be printers, we’d be out of business. So we support our customers with promotional products, apparel, signage, and of course, design. They come to us for all of it. People are always surprised by the amazing things we can do and we’re ready with consultations and just the right samples to help them make the best choices. If they come in for postcards or they have a tradeshow coming up, we help them discover how much more they can do to make an impression. Then, they realize we can do it all – and it makes it easier for them and allows all of us to grow.”

A challeging but satisfying job. The most satisfying part of owning a Minuteman Press centre, according to Vieira, is “having many repeat customers who come to pick up their jobs and are happy to pay for them. People don’t want to worry about print because they have their own jobs to do, so we must make them look good so they stay with us,” he said. Vieira also brings an experienced, hands-on business perspective to his job. “I was working on a press 10 years ago and was happy to do it, thinking I’d do this until my retirement. But the future took me here, a franchise owner. Today, people read on iPads and order online, so books and magazines have been impacted. But what has continued to grow is the desire for printed marketing materials. That will always be necessary, because overall, print is still the best way to make an impact – from direct mail to promotional items. Print makes sense to people and they want it.”

Minuteman Press International, founded in 1973 by Roy Titus and his son Bob, began franchising in 1975, and has grown to nearly 1,000 franchise locations worldwide – including in Canada, the U.S., Australia, South Africa and the United Kingdom.

Comments

Tony Curcio is the editor of Graphic Arts Magazine.