Fit to Print

Photography by Gene Pollux By Nancy Wollin Cook October 31, 2009

If necessity is the mother of invention, then an economic slowdown must be the mother of reinvention. At least that’s how energetic and perpetually optimistic Sir Speedy owner Eileen Rosenzweig, who just won her ninth Top 10 Sales Volume Award, sees it.

For Rosenzweig, this latest trophy, presented at the company’s annual convention in San Diego this summer, is especially gratifying considering there are 406 Sir Speedy franchises worldwide and overall sales in the printing industry have slipped. “This was not just another award for us,” she says.

“This award, in a down economy, was validation that we are doing things right.”

Rosenzweig, 50, credits the advice and market insights of the Sir Speedy organization for much of her continued success. Although her sales have also been down—in 2008 her franchise earned $2.65 million, off almost $1 million from $3.6 million in sales in 2005—Rosenzweig explains that her reliance on advice from the home office helped keep margins intact.

“If you don’t do well with your franchise, it’s because you don’t listen,” she says. “The franchise model suits me. I am an extremely good listener. And I’m a good implementer. That’s my skill set. I like having someone hold my hand. I like that corporate does the research and figures out where the market is going.”

Sir Speedy corporate marketing director Denise Denton calls Rosenzweig “a real go-getter.”

“Eileen’s personality permeates throughout the organization,” says Denton. “Her attitude is infectious. She has a ‘let’s go get it’ attitude and she also isn’t afraid to adopt new ideas. That is what keeps her successful. She follows our lead.”

Rosenzweig takes advantage of all the resources Sir Speedy offers. The franchisor provides a business management consultant to assist its franchisees with long-term planning, and Rosenzweig belongs to a board group of other Sir Speedy owners who get together regularly to share ideas. “We each have to provide a business plan, figure out our cash flow and set parameters for how to proceed based on the business climate,” she says.

Because Rosenzweig was encouraged to create a comprehensive business plan that addresses all sorts of contingencies, her Sir Speedy is weathering the downturn better than many local businesses.

Instead of trying to make hard decisions during hard times, she explains, all she had to do was refer to a plan already in place and implement the plan at the appropriate time. When revenues dropped, Rosenzweig readjusted her work force and changed up her business model so she could go after new accounts.

“We didn’t just sit back and say, ‘Oh my God, we’re losing sales.’ We made a sound business plan, and we stuck to it,” Rosenzweig says. “First, we had decided in advance that if our numbers hit a certain level we’d have to lay people off. We had 21 staff and reduced that to 16. We are transparent with our employees. They know what our sales are, and they understand why we had to have the layoffs.”

Rosenzweig also credits the Sir Speedy organization for keeping ahead of the technology curve and anticipating trends before they occur. In fact, it was the company’s insistence that its franchisees start falling in line with the digital age that propelled Rosenzweig’s purchase of the local store.

“It was 1987, and my parents, who owned Sir Speedy, were at a corporate meeting and kept hearing the word ‘digital.’ They weren’t up for learning a whole new technology, so they decided to sell.”

Rosenzweig and her high school sweetheart-turned-husband Tim Baldwin, 50, decided to make the move to Sarasota from upstate New York, where they both held corporate jobs as accountants. Rosenzweig purchased the Sir Speedy franchise with her sister and brother-in-law, Jackie and Mike Sanderson, and the new generation embraced the digital age with a vengeance.

“We needed to move ahead and keep up with the times,” Rosenzweig explains. “In the ’80s, we were basically a black-and-white printer. Then we did color printing, followed by four-color press. The digital revolution changed all that. To be competitive we were going to have to invest in new equipment and understand that that equipment would be obsolete in just a few years because the technology is changing so fast.

“Now we are evolving once again into a marketing company. Our philosophy is we provide one-stop shopping for all your marketing needs,” she says.

“Instead of being a business printer we are becoming a mark-eting printer. Before, we focused on things like creating letterhead and forms to help our customers run their businesses. Now we are focusing on advertising, news-letters, postcards and specialty items that help our customers grow their businesses,” she adds.

Even the company’s tag line has changed. “We aren’t branding ourselves as just a printer anymore,” she says. “We are now ‘Sir Speedy Printing and Marketing Services.’”

As the area’s business landscape began to change a couple of years ago, Rosenzweig and her team also went after new types of accounts. According to general manager Brian Doerner, 34, the company needed to wean itself off of its dependence on business from builders and realtors and begin looking for prospects in different types of industries.

“The business we had been getting from real estate companies—new office openings, just-listed mailers, just-sold postcards, new agent business cards—eventually started tapering off,” Doerner explains.

“At one time the sheer volume that we did of those types of items was so huge that we could barely keep up with the demand. Then almost overnight it seemed to dwindle down to almost nothing. We didn’t lose customers; it’s just that the volume of business was down. So we started looking at nonprofits, property management companies, community associations and other professional companies.”

Even though it was downsizing staff, the company hired a new salesperson to focus on new accounts. “We basically did all the things we didn’t have to do when the economy was booming,” says Doerner. “We went out and looked for businesses with attributes similar to our existing accounts and aggressively pursued them. We also went to our existing accounts and let them know about all the services we provide that they weren’t taking advantage of. We went out and asked for the business.”

While acknowledging that sticking to her business plan and reinventing their services to meet customer needs were necessary to weather the economic slowdown, Rosenzweig believes that the company’s family-friendly orientation and the support the close-knit group offers each other are the real secret behind her success. Without that type of teamwork, she insists, she would never have been able to keep her business running.

Shortly after relocating to Florida, Rosenzweig and her husband were hit with shocking news. Baldwin, who suffers from a congenital heart condition, was diagnosed with AIDS. He had contracted the disease from a blood transfusion administered during heart-valve replacement surgery in 1983.

“It was a devastating diagnosis at the time,” says Rosenzweig. “He went on AZT, but we didn’t know a lot about AIDS then. It was a scary time. Tim has been disabled since 1990. He’s had two more open heart surgeries since we moved down here. If I didn’t have the support of family, staff and the Sir Speedy organization, I couldn’t run this business.”

Along with Jackie, who oversees the graphics and production department, Rosenzweig’s father David, 76, still works in the bindery department and her mother, Leila, 74, keeps the company’s books. The remaining dozen or so employees form a kind of surrogate family and support network for Rosenzweig, who often must take long absences to care for her husband and 10-year-old twin daughters. Some staff members have also encountered family health issues and personal challenges, and the culture of pulling together applies to everyone at the company. Covering for each other during extended absences and pulling together in tough times is standard operating procedure, Rosenzweig explains.

“I know it sounds like a cliché, but our employees really do feel like family,” she says. “I try to treat my employees the way I’d want to be treated. I empower them with independence and autonomy, and in return they give this business and each other 100 percent.” ■

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