Mike and Aaron Berg direct their staff at Minuteman Press in Ashland, VA to assist James River Equipment. With 40 full-service locations and over 100 field service vehicles, James River Equipment provides services including equipment sales, parts, service, and rentals.
For 20 years, entire departments reported to Mike Berg as he earned respect as a plant manager in the pharmaceutical industry, priming him for what came naturally, business ownership. Yet, it wasn’t until 2007 (when Pfizer acquired his company), that he decided it was time to retire from the corporate workforce. He talked to his son, a recent graduate from ECPI University, about looking for options that would offer a fulfilling career opportunity for both.
Mike says, “I definitely wanted to do something on my own and my son, Aaron, had the same desire. We didn’t know what kind of business to buy, but we had our criteria which included ‘nothing perishable’, no work on the weekends, and no late nights.” They knew what they wanted and were about to learn they did not have to search far to strike entrepreneurial “gold” through a local Minuteman Press franchise for sale.
Regional Vice President Bob Heimbuch welcomed Mike and Aaron to join him on tours of up-and-running Minuteman Press franchises so they could put the veteran B2B services industry franchise leader to the test against their strict criteria. “As we met and spoke with franchise owners in the area, we learned it was a great business that met all of our demands. I bought my Minuteman Press center in Ashland that year, in 2013.”
Mike continues, “It is so different from dealing with large organizations, as I did in my previous career, and I never before had to meet payroll, so it was a total learning curve experience. I would not say that a lot of my skill set transferred to entrepreneurship, but what makes the business succeed is the support I get from Minuteman Press International. Bob Heimbuch and Eric Shank, our Field Representative, have really helped and supported us. We had no absolutely no knowledge about the printing business, however, after two weeks at corporate training, we were given a lot of exposure to most aspects of the industry.” Today, their thriving digital print, design and marketing center proves that a formidable work-ethic can help you fill a fresh-slate with expertise if you have a strong ally and a proven system.
The decision to purchase a printing business that was performing under its potential in a new industry is not for the common man, but it was just the challenge for this father and son venture. “The shop was struggling and marketing was being neglected. We were taught how to turn this around during corporate training and implementing what we learned definitely paid off.” Over time, with their own drive and local support, Mike and Aaron rebuilt trust and their Minuteman Press center rose to the familiar standard of excellence most of the world expects from the brand.
“As we went out into the community, met our clients and proved they could rely on us through actual results, our business kept growing from there. From the beginning, we greatly emphasized customer service to past clients,” Mike explains.
Sometimes, they realized making all of their customers happy meant leaning on the healthy connections they now have with other Minuteman Press franchises within close proximity to their center. “If needed to satisfy customer demand, we have relied on other Minuteman centers for help. It has been a benefit to have these shops nearby, as we have a great rapport and always help each other out.” A family of fellow franchisees is a deserved prize for Mike and Aaron who, joined by Mike’s wife, Patricia, not to mention a talented design and production staff, have made Minuteman Press of Ashland highly respected today.
In order to sustain growth, Mike and Aaron decided more space was required for additional staff, new equipment and finishing. In June 2017 they moved into a newly constructed industrial park complex close to their old location which provides three times the space and will support growth for years to come.
They have not only gained a family of allies through Minuteman Press International, they also discovered that being a marketing services provider gives them much satisfaction. One of the ways they can now say, “We Are the Modern Printing Industry” is through engaging in novelty and designing prototypes for games, specially ordered. “We are currently developing two prototypes for board games, including a card game with custom-printed, multi-faceted cards. Our client came in with this request, we did the research, then gave them options that met their expectations. Providing our clients with solutions is one of the more exciting things running our own business allows.”
One of their long-time clients, James River Equipment, counts upon the superior service Mike and Aaron provide. They are a full-service John Deere equipment and tractor dealership dedicated to the needs of agriculture, construction, forestry, commercial and residential customers in Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina.
“Originally, our one job was printing training manuals for James River Equipment. Now we are dealing with their multiple sites and do much more work beyond training manuals for their company,” Mike is happy to say. In fact, their client is so pleased with the quality of their products and services, they count upon Minuteman Press to produce all of the printing for their offices, signage (metal and coroplast), banners, direct mail, branded apparel and the continuing production of their training manuals as the company grows. “They have multiple locations, about 30 (in the Mid-Atlantic area, too, but mostly in Virginia) and their headquarters is very close to us. They have a training department in each of their locations so when they sell equipment, the companies buying it send their mechanics to train at James River Equipment and they use the books that we keep on file, print and ship to North Carolina.”
“Recently, we produced 50 large wall plaques for all of the employees that have earned specialization on their equipment. We replaced the old plaques with a fresh design, added the new ones and now they have a nice literal spotlight at the office on the new design we provided. It was a pleasure to work with the James River Equipment team on this special project.” – Mike Berg
Genna Mills speaks on behalf of James River Equipment when she says, “Minuteman Press always exceeds expectations with the quality that they provide. Even with our complex logo, our shirts and other marketing items always hold up through the test of time as for service, we could not be happier. They always seems to make us feel like we are their number one priority and their timeliness of turn-around really does speak for itself. There have been a few times where we have been in a bind with needing products by a certain time and they have always come through. One in particular that comes to mind is when we were having a major event. We needed a number of signs made up in a very short amount of time. Minuteman Press came through, delivering the signs the evening before!”
The future between two brands with rich histories of success is ensured according to Genna who adds, “They will always be our first call when in need of specific advertising. In a world where customer service seems to be losing stride, Minuteman Press proves time and time again that their top priority is in fact, making the customer feel as though they really are part of the family. Their attention to detail as well as timeliness is also second to none. We will continue to outsource many of our marketing needs to Mike and Aaron, as well as spread their name where we see fit!”
When father and son first bought their business and became premier marketing services providers, they knew it was because they deserved more than a typical job. Mike, currently in a position to compare where he is now to where he was in his career, says, “If you compare my past job to my current role as Minuteman Press franchise owner, my current role wins. For instance, if the metrics were good, I got my accolades from the company for which I worked. In this job, marketing services entrepreneur, I get to watch someone’s face when they open the box containing something we created for them. I get satisfaction from seeing their excitement and be part of building a business together with them and that is so much more gratifying than praise from good metrics alone.”