October 2004
Stepping out of your comfort zone can steer you into greater profits
Most of you know my opinions about the necessity of creating niche markets and exploiting the advantages of marketing your expertise. You bring additional credibility to the marketplace when you have the experience to advise customers on how you’ve dealt with similar types of challenges. I have also emphasized how much easier it is to sign new customers in a particular area if you are already considered an expert in that field. And, don’t forget the other enormous advantage of creating niche markets: the greater potential for more profits. But, I want to share a story with you about how we at Arthurs-Jones were able to step outside our comfort zone and take on an unfamiliar job that greatly impacted the growth of our company.

Book beginners
One of Canada’s finest naturalist artists is Glen Loates. His paintings have been bought by many galleries in North America and Europe as well as by private collectors. His work is admired for the incredible detail and life-like quality of mammals, birds, fish, plants and insects. Glen’s twin brother Bernie, also an accomplished artist, wanted to publish a book showcasing Glen’s work. He had picked a publisher to do the distribution and publicity and needed a printer who could re-create and capture the beauty and skill that had gone into Glen’s work.
The specifications for The Art of Glen Loates were impressive. The press run was 18,000 case-bound books of 196 pages, with five foldouts and a finished size of 9.75" by 13.5", printed four colours throughout on 200M Warren’s Patina Matte. Many printers were anxious to be involved with this fine book.

While Arthurs-Jones was gaining some respect in the industry as a good printer, we had virtually no experience in quarterbacking a project this big and complex. However, we did have an incredibly skilled group that loved a challenge. When I think back to those days, I remember our goal was to become Canada’s finest printer. Everyone involved with producing this masterpiece must have subconsciously realized that it could help us reach our goal. Our firm gave Bernie Loates an incredible amount of information on how we visualized the book’s production. We printed several of the most challenging images, prepared ruled-up layout sheets, made folded dummies of each signature and gave Bernie enough information for him to realize that we had the desire to do the job well, and a skilled staff who understood its complexity.

Skill and desire take the day
Arthurs-Jones won the contract. Detailed planning went into every part of this job and by the time we went to press, while far from being experts in book production, our team knew what had to happen to make this book a success. As the different forms came off the press, it was obvious that we had done a superb job. When the first bound copies arrived at our plant, we were almost in awe at their beauty. We had not only exceeded our own expectations but those of the customer as well.
The publisher was also pleased. Then, as today, selling 5,000 copies made for a best seller in Canada. The initial run of 18,000 sold out almost immediately and within a few months we were back on press printing an additional 18,000 copies.

At this time, Arthurs-Jones had not yet produced any annual reports, a product line that was high on our agenda. This book was shown to the marketing and advertising people at the Toronto-Dominion Bank and there is little doubt that its beauty had a great deal to do with winning our first major annual report. Within days, we also got the annual report for Imperial Oil. Many others followed.

This story shows the potential benefits of stepping outside your comfort zone and taking a calculated risk. Our book project was a success because of the planning and commitment of our production team. While they certainly could not anticipate the impact that this book would have on Arthurs-Jones, they certainly understood that to work outside our normal boundary would require a different level of planning than we were used to.

Everyone in business can point to times or events that impacted the growth of their companies. Producing The Art of Glen Loates was such an event at Arthurs-Jones. While we never became major producers of coffee-table books, we did produce other award-winning books such as The Art of Robert Bateman and The Ottawa Valley for Pat and Rosemarie Keough.
Duncan McGregor was president of the former Arthurs-Jones Inc., a Toronto-based, award-winning commercial printer. He led the $5 million-a-year firm to a five-fold increase in sales. He is now a consultant to the printing industry and can be reached at (416) 487-7666.
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