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Jun 1, 2000 12:00 AM

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Florida printer transitions from quick to commercial

During the past four years, owners Joe and Jenny Namour have grown Gulf Coast Printing from nothing to $2 million and they have the pictures to prove it. The first photo shows Joe proudly posing in front of a Multi 1250 and AB Dick 9810. "1996-The one-man shop," reads the caption. "Moving the equipment from our garage at home into our first store front." The second photo shows Joe participating in a ribbon-cutting ceremony. "1997-Opening two store fronts-one in Ft. Myers, one in Cape Coral, hardly a year after starting with nothing," notes the caption. The third photo shows the outside of a large building. "1998-The brand new production headquarters, a big move for a little company," says the caption. The fourth picture features Joe surrounded by family and employees in front of a four-color Ryobi 524HXX press with PCH-S console. "2000-After a $3 million expansion and modernization effort. The newest kids on the block."

This growth was not easy. "We bought a small print shop in 1995 in Lehigh Acres, FL, for the equipment," recalls Joe. "It had gone out of business and had no remaining accounts or customers. The purchase price was $10,000 and included a couple of small Multi presses, an old-style cutter and a table-top platemaker."

Neither of the Namours had prior printing experience. Jenny was a free-lance graphic artist while Joe worked as an accountant, an experience he characterizes as "six years I wasted shuffling papers." The couple chose the printing business since it appealed to their creative sensibilities. In the early days, Joe did all the sales, printing and deliveries, while Jenny handled the graphic design and accounting.

Although the company was growing, there was a limit to what Gulf Coast could do with its old presses. The Namours soon decided to transition their business from quick to commercial printing. They purchased a 30,000-sq.-ft. production site and upgraded their entire operation. Additions to the pressroom included a 40-inch Heidelberg and the four-color Ryobi. The company now employs 20 people and averages 500 to 600 jobs per month for a client base that includes contractors, auto dealerships and hospitals.

While researching the Ryobi press, Joe and his production manager visited a California printer. They were impressed by the West Coast printer's compensation plan and incorporated a similar bonus "incentive program" at Gulf Coast. "Rather than increasing hourly wages-increasing overhead and attaining less work for more money-we decided to reward employees based on the work that they produce and remove all earning caps," explains Namour. "This revamped pay system dramatically increased productivity and improved quality control."

Essentially, bonuses are paid piecemeal-a press operator's bonus is based on setup and impressions while front office employees are paid a percentage of each order they ring up. The company uses a "five-strike" program to ensure that employees don't lose sight of quality in their quest for quantity. Each employee's output is tracked electronically as well as on a board in Gulf Coast's lunchroom. If job re-dos exceed five, all employees are disqualified from bonus consideration.

Joe says the program has boosted quality control. "We recently found that of 548 orders produced in a given month, only three needed to be reprinted-primarily due to paper-stock defects... Rather than having employees 'work the clock,' our team members 'work the work.'"

The printer also places a premium on customer satisfaction. "It can take years to earn an account and only seconds to lose it," submits Joe. "Extra measures are taken to ensure that customers are pleased with their orders. We do 100 percent call-backs on delivered orders. We ask the customer to rate our quality, service and price."

What's next for Gulf Coast? Some new photos will soon be added to the company's scrapbook. "We're in the planning stages for adding another production building and a six-color, 40-inch press, a direct-to-plate unit and a storage facility," reports Joe.