If you visited Finish On Demand’s website during its first four months in business, you were greeted with the following message: “A New Bindery in 2009? Are You Serious? Yes!” It’s a message that mirrors the attitude of Finish On Demand Founder and President Patty Traynor: enthusiastic, good-humored and candid about the business challenges ahead.
“The economy is going to come back, and when it does, I’ll be ready,” Traynor said in an interview that appeared in the Intelligencer Journal/Lancaster New Era late last year. “When people want jobs done, I’ll be ready. When the upswing comes, I’ll be there.”
An Exceptional Challenge
Starting a small business in any industry is an exceptional challenge in a slumping economy. Yet micro-economic realities are precisely what created the opportunity for a company like Finish On Demand. As marketers and other print customers compensate for slashed budgets by reducing run lengths and page counts, printers and their binding and finishing partners are refocusing their capabilities to address these new realities.
Last November, Lancaster, PA-based Finish On Demand opened for business in a 6,500 square foot facility stocked with perfect binding, mechanical binding, folding, gluing and attaching/tipping equipment. All of the company’s services are geared to deliver fast turnarounds on short- and mid-run length jobs.
Though perfect binding remains its marquee service, Finish On Demand has already upgraded its capabilities in response to shifts in customer demand.
“We added round cornering services earlier this year,” said Traynor. “In October, we also brought in specialty saddlestitching equipment that allows us to handle a variety of booklet sizes and run lengths.”
The Value of Flexibility
Finish On Demand’s goal is to deliver value beyond the sum of its services. Over the past year, the company has established itself as a “go-to” resource for commercial and digital printers. Finish On Demand also is committed to discovering new market opportunities for the benefit of its printing partners.
“We sell more than just bindery solutions,” Traynor said. “We sell flexibility, resourcefulness, ingenuity and a commitment to be truly “on-demand” for each of our customers.”
That flexibility and resourcefulness is evident in the company’s equipment and the skills of its staff. On a typical day, a Finish On Demand employee might operate folding and perfect binding equipment; pack and ship completed jobs and walk customers through technical and other job-related questions. Likewise, the equipment at Finish On Demand is capable of handling a wide range of run lengths and format sizes. Traynor has placed an emphasis on equipment that’s easy to set up and, despite the company’s name, isn’t just for short-run work.
“We’re very competitive on run lengths well into the thousands, particularly for folding and gluing,” said Traynor. “Customers are surprised when I say, ‘We can handle quantities with more than four digits’.”
A Culture of Problem-Solving
At Finish On Demand, Traynor has instilled an enthusiasm for doing whatever it takes to solve problems for its customers. Traynor notes that there’s no such thing as a “standard” or “typical” job in the binding and finishing world. But while many trade binderies have experience taking on odd projects that printers cant handle due to time or resource issues, Finish On Demand is especially proud of its problem solving capabilities.
“We’re like the ‘CSI’ of binderies,” laughs Traynor, referring to the popular television show. “When customers approach us with unusual formats, materials or other challenges they can’y solve, we say ‘Bring it on!'”
It’s a claim Finish On Demand can support with its trophy case. Last May, the company was awarded the coveted “They Said It Couldn’t Be Done” award at the Graphic Arts Association Neographics competition. The winning entry was typical of the type of project Finish On Demand sees: a small-quantity (500 books), fast-turnaround project with unusual production requirements. (See sidebar on page 20.)
“Simply put, Finish On Demand loves to problem-solve,” Traynor said at the time. “Whether it’s pushing the limits of our equipment or working through the night to meet an ‘impossible’ deadline. And if we can’t offer an in-house solution, we’re happy to reach out to our friends – we are an active BIA member – to find someone who can.”
Not an Industry Greenhorn
Traynor is no “newbie” when it comes to the graphic arts industry. Prior to establishing Finish On Demand, Traynor filled several roles for a family-owned bindery in Pennsylvania, including secretary, bookkeeper, estimator and treasurer. She also had plenty of hands-on experience operating a variety of binding and finishing equipment.
Her experience in all aspects of production and management proved invaluable to starting her company on the right foot. In addition to leading day-to-day operations for Finish On Demand, Traynor is heavily involved in the Binding Industries of America (BIA) and Graphic Arts Association, the Philadelphia chapter of the Printing Industries of America. She also spends ample time visiting current and potential customers throughout Pennsylvania and the mid-Atlantic region.
“The more activity we have in the plant, the more difficult it can be to break away and hit the road,” said Traynor. “But I strongly believe the best way to grow this company is to articulate the versatility and responsiveness of the Finish On Demand brand; that’s why I prioritize face time with customers and prospects.”
An On-Demand Solution for Many Markets
In 2009, 58 percent of digital print providers increased their profit/revenue in 2009, as opposed to just over 31 percent of non-digital providers. In addition, the digital printing and packaging market is expected to grow 182 percent through 2014.
“I think some binderies looked at the trends toward shorter runs, tougher jobs and tighter deadlines and saw the industry caving in on itself,” Traynor said. “I saw a window to start a new business.”
While growth in the digital and quick-printing segment helped prompt Traynor to launch Finish On Demand, she emphasizes that the company is continually on the lookout for new ways to add value for all types of customers. In addition to adding new capabilities and equipment in-house, Finish On Demand has aggressively forged partnerships and working relationships with printers and even some other binderies – whatever it takes, she says, to find the right solution for each customer.
“By acting as the relief valve for certain types of work, we have helped printers with in-house finishing capabilities as well as other binderies focus on their most profitable service areas while keeping their customers happy,” said Traynor. “And, by demonstrating our value, we’ve received more business opportunities than we may have otherwise. It’s been a win-win-win for us, our partners and their customers.”
So far, the strategy has paid off. After six months in operation, the company was profitable. But if the inexorable pace of running an on-demand-style business wearies Traynor, she doesn’t show it. By sticking to its winning formula, she expects Finish On Demand to continue to grow even as the overall economy makes a sluggish comeback.
“There will always be a market for a postpress solutions provider capable of delivering high-quality work in a short amount of time at a competitive price,” said Traynor.