In this series, ActionCOACH Mary Ann Hauser (MAH) and team virtually sit down with business owners to learn how they are working through COVID-19. Check out their inspiring stories for tips on how to cope with and successfully recover from this pandemic as well as ideas on how to avoid making common mistakes. And be sure to look at special offers from these businesses – we can all use a little extra help right now!
BKN: Tell me a little bit about the history of your company:
PK: We began as a family owned business that has now grown to a Regional and National Leader within our Industry. Salem Printing started in 1987, by my parents, Phillip & Jannette Kelley, and Don Whitaker. They risked it all to start the business. It began in a small building near the School of the Arts. In 1995, we had just under $1 million in revenue with 8-10 folks working in the business, and my parents came back to work, vs being investor only relationship. In 1997, I was in Georgia, after completing college and working at Georgia Tech. My wife had the opportunity to pursue a new career opportunity, so I left a job I loved and we moved to NC where I joined my parents in the business. My plan was to work with them for 2 years-- I'm still here. It was a really good fit and a wonderful opportunity for us to work together. We have experienced an average of 17% growth annually since the beginning, except this year. We will probably end the year at a loss of 8-9%. We work with fortune 500 companies and we are retail centric. Our company has flourished through the years because of our early adoption of technological changes. We are community focused-- top 15 in the industry in the Southeast. We focus on staying at the forefront of new world of technology and communication, data management and intellectual skillsets. We are more than a printer, we communicate brands.
BKN: Who would you say is your best customer?
PK: We have diverse clients, but to describe the best customer, it would be one with an extremely demanding company, who has firm deadlines and desires an honest partnership with someone who understands their needs, and meets their needs. We rise to the challenge to meet their deadlines.
BKN: How has Covid-19 affected your business?
PK: It has been particularly challenging, negative in some ways, but still positive as well. We lost 1/3 of our business due to Covid-19 closings to businesses and loss of demand, but we didn’t lose any customers. Some segments benefited tremendously – which was sustaining to us.
BKN: What are some actions you had to take due to covid?
PK: We ended up cutting 5 positions, remaining employees all received full paychecks, some had increases. We provided flexibility to families with changing needs due to covid-19. We changed the product mix - ramped up some areas, like signage to meet immediate demands of businesses. We attracted new clients. We are now hiring.
BNK: What is the biggest learning you would share with an entrepreneur starting out now?
PK: It is critical to have a strong network and maintain it. You have to be able to take the risks and learn to enjoy that process. Failure is not a long-term state of being, it is a short-term learning opportunity. O Accept risks and go for it. You can only grow as fast as you can add quality people around you.
BKN: What is your website if people want to know more about your company?
BKN: Last thing on my list of questions, what is most inspiring to you?
PK: I am inspired by my parents, who are true entrepreneurs. They risked all they had to start the business. They basically signed their life away to get the bank loans. My parents always encouraged me and told me I could do anything. That is inspiring. I am always inspired by people who have a passion for life who have a zest for living, who are motivated for success. I like to connect with like-motivated people, and find that I actually attract them.