Making an impression

 Roland Garcia has been through some tough times with Original Impressions LLC, the business he founded in 1982. He sold his business to a Connecticut company in 1999 and, three years later, that company went bankrupt. Garcia’s longtime suppliers and customers needed reassurance.

“It affected us because everybody heard our company was going bankrupt,” he says. “It was a major stumbling block for us, but we survived it and came back stronger.”

Garcia and a partner bought back the business and fought to re-establish credit. During that process, Original Impressions, an offset and digital print provider, grew from 150 employees to 180, and the company posted 2005 revenue of $21 million.

Smart Business spoke with company president Garcia about building a reputation and finding employees who will make that reputation shine.

How do you develop a good company reputation?
It’s called customer service. In my mind, service is like a dial on a radio or the volume on a TV. Any company, it doesn’t matter what industry you’re in, can determine the level of service they want to provide. That is within the reach of any individual at any company.

We do whatever it takes. We try to fit ourselves around the customer rather than the other way around.

How do you communicate that message to employees?
They see us here. We’re not out playing golf, we’re not out fishing, and we’re not out doing other things we shouldn’t be doing. People see us bringing work into the company; they see us involved in organizations and the community.

Our participation in the business is very visual. We are committed, and we make sure the employees see it. We really don’t have to make sure, it’s pretty obvious. You’re not out of touch, and people are not numbers.

What do you look for in your employees?
There are people who have a problem providing a service or being asked to do things. Most of our customer service reps are people we have trained.

In Miami, in the South Florida area, there’s a lack of skilled people just about in every position, whether it’s pressman or cutter or estimator or production manager or customer service representative.

You have got to select your people who fit the mold, identify them, then train them in that position; otherwise, you’re SOL. People who start here working in the office, they show they want additional responsibility. They show that they are friendly and willing to come through.

That’s the first feature I look for. Are you willing to come through? Does it bother you to get up if we can’t find our delivery person here, to get in your car and go deliver the job? If that bothers you, you’re not cut out for customer service.

You may be cut out for something else, you may work in accounting or another department, but customer service is not for you. We look for people who are service-oriented.

How do you retain quality employees?
Some large corporations constantly increase the person’s salary to a point that when rough times come, they have individuals who are way out of the ballpark salary-wise, and when rough times come, they are the first to go.

Regardless of how many years of service, regardless of how good they are, regardless of anything, companies try to get rid of overhead. We make sure that doesn’t happen by making salary increases in range with what’s being paid competitively. It could happen that in some positions, a salary won’t be touched for a year.

But if the rate goes up, we react to it accordingly. That way, we don’t have individuals who should be making $45,000 making $81,000 or $72,000. I see that in many corporations in the corporate world.

Rough times come in, stock goes down, and the first thing they do is get rid of overhead. I don’t think that’s fair, and people here know it.

We have never missed a payroll. Even when we went through Hurricane Andrew and other catastrophes, we have always paid our employees.

How do you keep your business up-to-date with the latest technology?
You read a lot. You subscribe to publications and services that keep you updated. Most importantly, listen to the customer. Listen to what the customers say, find out what they want.

We then invest in technology that makes sense for the customers, not just for the sake of saying, ‘We offer this.’ If we don’t have a use for it, if our clients don’t have a need for that software, program or equipment, then we don’t invest in it.

HOW TO REACH: Original Impressions LLC, www.originalimpressions.com

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