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Imprint of experience Featured

8:38am EDT November 26, 2002
When Linda Kofman acquired Beacon Printing Co. in April, she didn't spend much time behind her desk.

"I spent the first two months just walking through, seeing how things mesh," says Kofman.

Spending time on the shop floor of the 40-year-old New Kensington printer has paid off.

"I learn so much more than I do sitting here," she says.

Kofman knows the importance of working hands-on and looking closely at what you've got to extract the most value out of it. She and her husband, Nathan, spent the early years of their union running the family business of buying and selling military surplus items, a business where any purchase has the potential of being a not-so-pleasant surprise.

They bought and peddled everything from salvaged nuclear submarines to motor vehicles and parts for resale to drilling companies and WW II-vintage Jeep collectors and restorers. The business took the Kofmans across the globe in their hunt for gear that governments didn't want but someone else somewhere might covet.

"If you loved to travel and didn't mind being a nomad, it was great," says Kofman.

By 1984, the couple had gotten out of the military surplus trade and Kofman entered the marketing and advertising field with business publisher Pennsylvania Business Central in State College, where she eventually became co-director of advertising.

Then she decided to get back into business for herself and began searching for a printing business to acquire. She found Beacon Printing with the help of a business broker.

After a few months at Beacon Printing, Kofman saw the company could boost its revenue and profits if it did some of the bindery work it had been farming out to vendors.

"We wanted to keep more of it here, for efficiency and because we were sending more and more out," says Kofman. "Printers today are realizing that having some expanded capability does serve the bottom line," says Kofman.

She managed to retain all of Beacon Printing's 12 employees, key to the operation, she says, as they each average about a dozen years with the company. Kofman, who serves as president, runs the day-to-day operations at the print shop while Nathan heads the sales effort.

So what did Kofman learn from the surplus equipment business?

"It's not easy dealing with governments, and you learn the importance of deadlines," says Kofman.

And after buying a stack of engines or other parts and finding a few hundred cases of near worthless carbon black or glue pots at the bottom of the pile, she learned to dig in to find out what she was really bargaining for.

Says Kofman: "You learn to be a good manager of what you are bidding on." How to reach: Beacon Printing Co., (724) 337-4511