After being laid off twice from the newspaper industry, the last thing on Jeff Sirota’s mind was to buy a printing business…
The last thing on Jeff Sirota’s mind was to buy an underperforming digital print, design and marketing franchise, especially since he carried a hint of a misconceived notion that the printing industry is dying. To his credit, Jeff didn’t grab that idea out of thin air, but rather from a tumultuous experience as an executive in an entirely different segment of the print industry, the newspaper business. While he gained a treasure trove of professional experience throughout his life’s journey before becoming the successful franchise owner of Minuteman Press in Carlsbad, California, he also experienced the drain of long work hours (including weekends) only to deal with the frustrations attached to the common instability of employment in any industry: Being laid off. It happened to Jeff twice as an executive for a “Top 25” major metro newspaper.
Leadership, management and interpersonal skills, served straight-up with a twist
Jeff didn’t know it at the time, but all of his early professional experience, including his hustle in the restaurant business which landed him an assistant manager position, would do much more than help him make money post-college. He was becoming a leader and developing skills that would serve him well later in his career, when he took charge as a business owner.
Jeff explains, “For the most part my professional background started in the restaurant business. I began as a busboy while going to college and eventually became an assistant restaurant manager over a six year period. Being an assistant manager, I didn’t make much money, but it was extremely good business experience, and I’ve carried it over to the printing business. From managing people and vendors to shucking oysters and pouring drinks in the bar, I’ve gathered skills that I incorporate to this day – but most valuable of all, I learned about customer service by catering to customers’ needs and wanting to deliver a great experience to our patrons.”
Sirota picked up a trick or two that may seem specific to the restaurant industry, but his inner entrepreneur was quietly gathering steam and knowledge that he would later learn to adapt to his advantage in entirely new ways: “I also learned how to order properly and manage an inventory. We used a par system for all of our goods. For instance, the “par” for beans was 5 cans and if I only had 2 cans on hand, that meant needed to order 3. I was able to modify and incorporate this par system as I manage our paper inventory here at Minuteman Press.”
Jeff Sirota had the chops to take a modest start and work himself upwards to the heights of success many reach for, but fall short. He channeled his talents forward into the next phase in his professional journey, one that led him into what he learned to be an unsteady newspaper industry in which he eventually became a well-paid executive: “After the restaurant business, I was a headhunter for a period of time, then I started my newspaper career which spanned 25 years, starting with delivering newspapers to paperboys. Eventually, I worked my way up to Retail Sales and Operations Manager for a top 25 major metro newspaper.”
Sirota had enough after his second corporate lay off and decided it was time to take matters into his own hands, as the saying goes. A quarter of a century in the newspaper biz left this newspaper executive with questions about the printing industry, in general, as he saw the inconsistency and downright instability in this particular field. He recalls, “In the newspaper industry, even though we had 400,000+ daily customers, we were churning through customers and losing them left and right for many reasons, primarily due to the Internet and instantaneous news that we couldn’t compete with. Due to revenue losses, layoffs were inevitable and I was one of them in 2013. Soon after, I decided to visit a franchise show.”
Jeff discovers the vitality of the printing industry from a completely new position
“When my family found out I was going to a franchise show, the one thing they told me was to not bring my checkbook! I was looking at all opportunities at the show but stayed in the middle of the aisle so I could keep an equal distance from all. However, Dan Byers, (Regional Vice President in Southern California for Minuteman Press International) reached out, greeted me and led me into his booth. Quite honestly, from when we first started talking, everything started to fall into place and like the old saying, it simply fit like a glove. I have to admit, I was a little gun-shy about the printing industry as I was never fired from a job, but I was laid off twice from the same newspaper because it is an industry that’s dying.”
Mr. Byers reflected on the time he met Jeff: “I told Jeff that people often mistakenly transfer the negative impact that the Internet has had on newspapers and Yellow Pages to the entire print industry. I explained that we’ve never printed newspapers or Yellow Pages and that the Internet — specifically, the opportunity to advertise online and the ability to transfer digital files — has become a complete blessing for our franchise owners. We have never been able to do as much in terms of total sales with fewer employees and less space. As a result, our stores are not simply surviving in spite of the Internet; they are thriving because of it.”
After all of his questions were answered, Jeff Sirota took the time to tour numerous stores and Dan Byers made several after-hours home visits with Jeff and his wife Olga. Soon after, they came to the conclusion that buying a Minuteman Press Franchise was right for him.
Jeff’s interest was piqued when Dan revealed that there was an existing franchise opportunity in a location familiar to him and he explains, “When I was with the newspaper, I was doing business with the Minuteman Press franchise in Carlsbad. When Dan told me that particular store was for sale, that clinched it for me. I already knew the owner and the pressman who worked there and ultimately, it all fell into place. I will say, I wasn’t sure at that point if the print industry was thriving because the store was not operating at full-steam, but I felt strongly that I could turn it around.” And turn it around he did.
Dan Byers is happy to highlight the fact that Jeff assumed command of this existing franchise opportunity and used his determination, business skills and willingness to follow the proven franchise system to redefine his destiny. He has brought the Carlsbad location to new heights and it is performing with excellence today, producing better results now than it has in 20 years.
When your professional history comes together to serve you as an entrepreneur…
“I think some of my newspaper experience transferred over very well into my experience as a Minuteman Press franchise owner,” says Jeff, who is motivated to keep the business-building momentum at a high level, never settling for “good enough” as an entrepreneur. “In the newspaper business back in laid-back San Diego, it was a shock to our system when they brought in a vice-president from New Jersey to run our business. He taught us that east coast ‘nothing personal-in your face’ mentality which means to fight for your goals and your business with street smarts. It definitely opened my eyes!”
“I still have that same mentality that was so necessary in the newspaper field and ask the same question each day which is ‘How can I sell more product today?’ I brought that ’24/7 newspaper drive’ into the Minuteman Press franchise so I could build the business,” adds Jeff, who also learned to employ a most basic and necessary premise of communication to his advantage, active listening. He adds a little humor and humility into the story, saying, “I am a good listener. Learning from those experienced in the business to business services industry and listening to my customers allows me to give them what they want. Personally, I don’t have good looks, but I rely on my good personality to help me work with people and appeal to them so I can earn their business for a long time.”
Sirota was also delightfully surprised by the versatility of the day to day life of a business to business industry professional. As he says, “In the digital print, design and marketing angle of the print industry, the daily grind is more like the box of chocolates Forrest Gump references in the movie. You never know what you’re going to get and that makes every day unique, which keeps it, definitely, interesting and entertaining!”
A rich professional background that afforded the chance to develop a bounty of business skills has culminated in what Jeff Sirota is today, an outstanding business owner with the chops not only to build his own success, but to stand as an example to other entrepreneurs who may just need a little extra incentive. “When I took over the business, the employees were a little fearful of the new owner. Their thinking was I would cut jobs to improve the bottom line. Dan Byers calmed their fears before the change of ownership and I repeated that on our first meeting with employees. I assured them that I was not going to cut our way to success, we were going to grow our way to success. I tapped into their experience to overcome my inexperience as a way to help turn the business around.” he explains.
What is known commonly as “the printing industry” actually has many facets and Jeff discovered that becoming a digital print, design and marketing franchise owner positions him at an angle of the industry that abounds with vitality and opportunity for continued growth. His experience may have shown him that the newspaper industry is becoming unstable, but the myth that “the print industry is dying” is indeed nothing more than a myth and the impressive results he has generated at the helm of Minuteman Press in Carlsbad, CA, is one of many triumphant stories that illustrate this truth. Jeff remarks thoughtfully, “Now my employees watch the revenue numbers more than I do and their goal is to have Minuteman Press awards drape the walls of our store. They want to drive the business forward as much as I do. I have a great team and its fun for all to be on a winning team. As I am successful, they know they will be successful, too.”
“The resulting outcome of Jeff’s decision to become a Minuteman Press franchise owner was never in doubt”, as Dan Byers recalls. “As if inspired straight from the pages of Napoleon Hill’s Think and Grow Rich in which thoughts are described as ‘things’, Jeff Sirota’s number one reason for purchasing a Minuteman Press franchise as written on his questionnaire was, ‘I know I will be successful.’”
Dan concludes with sincerity, “I know Jeff will continue to grow his business even further and it is enormously gratifying to see his expectations realized. Congratulations, Jeff.”
Jeff Sirota’s Minuteman Press franchise is located at 6353 El Camino Real, Suite H, Carlsbad, CA 92009. For more information call (760) 438-9556 or visit their website: www.mmpcarlsbad.com.
Learn more about Minuteman Press printing franchise opportunities at www.minutemanpressfranchise.com.