It is pretty common to hear that most new businesses fail within the first 5 years, and the percentage of those that make it on to 10 years is only 4% according to an article in Inc. Magazine. So when C L Graphics recently made it to 35 years in business, we figured it was a good time to celebrate!
When I stop to think about this achievement, there is a lot that comes to mind. To be sure, I know it takes one helluva a lot of time and effort. The adage that suggests business owners get to work half-days, and they even get to pick which 12 of the 24 hours they want to work, is pretty darn accurate! It takes some real commitment (and a very supportive wife) to put in the hours required to stay on top of everything. It also takes a strong level of confidence in yourself along with determination. I suspect a good dose of “stubborn male pride” is helpful as well, although I know that many successful businesses owned by women might debate this! Of course another important component of any successful organization are the people – those that have worked with me over the years have been a major reason we are still in business. There is no way you can do it all yourself, and having like-minded individuals and ones that are passionate about their jobs makes all the difference.
I also think of our clients. I had read a very strong statement once that suggested… if you take care of your clients, they will take care of you! It does not get much simpler than that. It truly is a two-way street, our clients rely on us to fulfill their needs and offer them new ideas to improve their organizations, and then we rely on them to help pay our bills. Beyond the basics though, I have found over the years that I have learned a great deal from our clients and have also been blessed by the referrals we have received from them.
Quite a bit has changed since we started C L Graphics full-time back in 1981. I remember our very first bank loan to help finance our start was at 18%! Of course this was the norm back then and we accepted it as what it took to get started. Back then just about every business needed print. It was a basic need and so finding new clients might not always have been easy, but at least you knew that you could ask for the opportunity to quote on letterheads, envelopes and business forms – today, this is not so common at all. There was no such thing as the internet, so promoting your business through printed brochures or sell sheets was pretty standard – in fact it was not uncommon to go into some businesses and see a whole rack full of different brochures – one for each product or service they sold. Technology has changed all of this, and to be sure the role of print has changed. In many ways I would suggest that its real strength is in driving people online and helping organizations to communicate in a way that engages the reader in a personal way. I am proud to say that over time, we have adapted to many of these changes and this has allowed us to still be relevant to our clients.
When one of our clients that had come to our “Birthday Party” asked me how I had first got into business. I shared my story of transitioning from being a High School teacher to wanting to get into business. Admittedly it was not something I had any real experience in, so I had sought out advice from one of my former teachers who had started a part-time printing business in their home. After some initial discussions, we agreed to partner and bring the business to a full-time operation. It was not easy for sure, and I often found myself running the press in the morning, then putting on a sport coat to deliver the jobs in the afternoon – and being the salesperson! I remember the need to take on a part-time job delivering pizzas in the evening, just to pay the bills. After time though we made it work and started the need to hire additional help. After 5 years, the partnership dissolved and I found myself needing to find financing to purchase the business on my own – not easy to do, but again I found the way.
Since then I have enjoyed many neat milestones and achievements, along with a few bumps in the road too. Running a small business is never easy, and when I think of all that we have done over the years, I know for certain that making it to 35 years is indeed a reason to celebrate!