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Courting success Featured

12:31pm EDT August 29, 2006
Paula Inniss attributes her company’s success to smart marketing.

“It is of the utmost importance to have a strong, creative and carefully researched marketing plan,” says the president of Ohio Full Court Press, a full-service digital print provider. “Without this road map, it is virtually impossible to maximize your value to customers.”

Inniss had been working at Xerox for 14 years when one of her clients, a commercial printer, recruited her to start a digital print shop at his company.

“I knew I wanted to be an entrepreneur, but I always had something different in mind — to run a shelter for abused women and children,” she says.

But after researching the digital printing business, she decided it was worth a shot.

“I realized that I could not live with myself if I didn’t give it a try,” she says. “You have to be open to new opportunities, even when they do not necessarily fit the plan you anticipate for yourself.”

Ohio Full Court Press began 12 years ago with Inniss and one part-time employee. Today, she employs 21.

Smart Business spoke with Inniss about what makes a good leader and the importance of being open and honest with employees.

What makes a great leader?
There are two different styles of leadership, and great leaders know when to use each. First is the democratic approach.

It is essential when leading a team to involve them in day-to-day decisions. It is a mistake when leaders flatter themselves into thinking they know it all and disrespect the knowledge and value their employees bring to the organization.

If you hire the right people, it is foolish not to depend and rely upon their business acumen.

The second style is the autocratic approach. There are times when leaders cannot seek universal buy-in. When crucial decisions must be made, it is time to get stern and directive.

For example, we recently were given the job of preparing conference materials for a new client. It was a rush job and extremely important that we successfully pull this job off.

Because we had so much at stake, I was heavily involved and directive to ensure a successful outcome.

How do you deal with fluctuations in your business?
The printing business fluctuates wildly so it is essential to find ways to balance work with manpower. The demand for digital printing services drops off in the summer.

We had to look at business that had peak demands for printing during the summer months, and we found it with publishing work. Finding this need was the perfect solution to even out our fluctuations.

I would encourage all business owners to use the same sort of creativity and planning. We now actually have to increase our staff in the summer.

How do you recognize business opportunities?
We have to constantly review our core products and market our services to industries to keep revenue coming in the door. Last year, I completed a thorough and serious business plan for our company.

I held off-site meetings with the management staff and hired a third-party consultant who understood the printing business. The business plan focused on marketing to different audiences and finding ways to be more consultative with our clients.

One of the first steps in identifying a business opportunity is not to turn your nose up at small jobs. When someone calls us saying they have a minor job, we peel back the layers to see if there are other potential needs we can fill.

We are also mindful of the fact that once we prove ourselves with a small job, other opportunities will very likely reveal themselves.

How do you communicate with your employees?
We have a business meeting every two months where we review the basics: our marketing plan, financials and current challenges. We have fun in these meetings, giving spot rewards of $20 for employees who can recite our vision and mission statements.

Employees are encouraged to speak up. If there is an honest concern or question, they know they can bring it up in these sessions.

I work hard to create an atmosphere of trust and openness. I do not sugarcoat bad news.

I also strongly believe in walking the talk.

If I am not a consistent example of what I expect from my employees, I have failed them as a leader. When I say we must treat each other and our customers with respect, it starts with me.

HOW TO REACH: Ohio Full Court Press, (614) 278-9914 or www.ofcponline.com