Interview With PostNet CEO and Co-founder Steve Greenbaum
Company leader discusses strengths, services of design, print, and shipping franchise
Since co-founding PostNet in 1992, PostNet CEO Steve Greenbaum has helped establish the design, print, and shipping franchise as a frontrunner in the $380 million industry. His franchising expertise has helped position PostNet as a go-to resource for many of the 27.9 million small businesses in the United States, and his industry insights have helped PostNet deliver an attractive and feasible business model for prospective franchisees in search of a worthy investment opportunity.
“We’ve designed a powerful business model that allows you to get started with a modest investment and build a very strong business,” Steve says. “We are also an innovative brand that has embraced technology.”
The PostNet design, print, and shipping franchise makes life easier for local businesses by providing graphic design, marketing, printing, and logistics solutions that help them reach and win more customers. The range of services and technology we offer makes us unique, as do the personal business relationships that our franchisees offer fellow entrepreneurs in their communities.
In this interview, Steve discusses the PostNet franchise’s range of services, the reasons behind our staying power in the industry, and why entrepreneurs should consider opening their own PostNet franchise.
Tell us about PostNet. What services do you offer? Who should be using them?
Our Neighborhood Business Centers provide convenient printing, shipping, and graphic design solutions for small businesses, and for others in the community. We’re a full-service printer — we handle everything from business cards and forms to large signs, posters, vehicle wraps, and trade-show displays. We’re also a full-service shipper, and we work with UPS, FedEx, the U.S. Postal Service, and DHL so customers can choose the carrier that works best for them.
PostNet centers are a huge asset for local businesses and organizations. We help business and community leaders develop marketing materials and can help them put those materials in front of potential customers in a variety of ways — including direct mail and email marketing. These are tasks that can be a huge time-sink for people who aren’t experts. Small business owners and other leaders who have a lot of demands on their time love PostNet, because they know they can hand projects to us and get excellent results. That frees our clients up to focus on their core strengths and not get bogged down designing fliers or managing mail lists.
Why do small business owners like companies like PostNet? How do you make their lives easier?
Small business owners often have to split their attention among a lot of tasks and responsibilities. Marketing is a hugely important task for business owners, but many people struggle with it. We make life easier for them by providing a printing partner that can design and produce their marketing materials and business forms, and can even execute some of their marketing campaigns.
Our mailbox and shipping solutions are also invaluable. Our mailboxes allow home-based businesses to establish a professional street address, and we provide a secure place for them to receive deliveries. Our shipping services allow them to send items to their customers from one place, rather than driving all over town to access multiple carriers.
Ultimately, customers like PostNet because we offer personal service. Our centers are locally owned and operated, and PostNet owners form a tight bond with their clients. We like seeing clients succeed.
Why should we consider becoming a PostNet franchisee? What are the benefits?
PostNet has been part of Entrepreneur’s Franchise 500 for 22 consecutive years, and we also win consistent awards for franchisee satisfaction from Franchise Business Review. We offer a lot of tools to help franchisees run a successful design, printing, and shipping franchise, and those tools have been developed and refined for more than 30 years — since (PostNet co-founder) Brian Spindel and I started our first business together. We’ve designed a powerful business model that allows you to get started with a modest investment and build a very strong business.
We are also an innovative brand that has embraced technology. We’ve used it to empower franchisees and help them get strong support from our headquarters team and from one another, we’ve used it to develop new services that keep us ahead of competitors, and we have used it to allow franchisees to embrace e-commerce, which allows customers to place orders and complete sales even when brick-and-mortar locations are closed.
For people interested in launching a small business, what are the advantages of franchising?
All successful businesses rely on systems, and systems take time to develop. A lot of entrepreneurs who start independent businesses fumble through a painful, and sometimes fatal, learning curve. Franchises offer entrepreneurs a proven business model with established systems and manuals. If that was all, it would already be a big advantage, but franchises also offer training to new owners and ongoing support to existing owners. As a franchisee, you have someone to turn to when you have questions. You also have a headquarters team that is studying the marketplace, refining the business model, and working hard to negotiate with vendors on your behalf — all of which helps your business be more efficient and profitable and helps your brand stay strong.
A strong brand is a also huge benefit for franchisees if they are eventually ready to sell the business. While it may be hard to find a buyer for “Al’s Print Shop” or “Bob’s A+ Shipping,” people shopping for a business are likely to know the PostNet name, and they will appreciate knowing that they will have support to help them master and grow the business.
What considerations do you think prospective business owners should make when choosing the type of franchise they should open?
Don’t just think about dollar signs. Think about what life is going to be like within the business. Is this a business that is going to demand your attention 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year? If so, are you comfortable making that type of commitment for a decade or longer? One of the things PostNet owners love about their businesses is that we have pretty normal business hours, so owners get to enjoy evenings and weekends with their families. You absolutely need to consider the lifestyle implications of the business you are considering.
You should also ask what owners need to do to be successful in the business. For instance, a behind-the-scenes CPA might be great at running a handful of restaurants. They need to track a lot of details, but they don’t need to be directly in front of the customer every day. As a PostNet owner, it’s important to be comfortable meeting customers either in your Neighborhood Business Center or while networking with small business owners in your community.
Talk to existing franchisees to get their opinions, not just about the business, but about its impact on their lives. (You can read some of what our franchisees have to say on our blog at postnet.wpengine.com.)
What do you think are qualities every savvy small business owner should possess?
You need to be a self-starter who plows past obstacles on your way to accomplishing your goals. Building a business is not easy. There will be challenges. The strongest business owners have a mix of confidence, discipline, and humility — confidence that if they work hard they will succeed, the discipline to do the hard work that is necessary, and the humility to ask for help and advice from peers so they don’t have to overcome every obstacle alone.
When it comes to franchise options, are all franchises created equal?
No. Some franchises base their business model upon a passing fad. Some have a great business model, but poor systems that make it difficult for franchisees to succeed. Others have a good business model and good systems, but their leadership team struggles to innovate or to lead. As you evaluate franchises, it is very important to consider the business model and the thoroughness of the systems, and just as important to gauge the quality of the people within the organization.
What should prospective franchise owners be wary of when looking into a business?
If the business is based on a fad, be wary. Fads can change very quickly; if a brand is narrowly defined and overly associated with a fad, revenues can dry up quickly when the “next new thing” comes along. You should also be wary of franchises in which the franchisees have little input in the direction of the company. Franchisors make most decisions about the direction of a brand because it’s important to offer a consistent customer experience. However, franchisors should continually seek and embrace the input of franchisees. Franchisees are on the front lines, working with customers every day. You hear what customers want, you see how they use the brand, and if a franchisor is not listening to you, then they are not listening to the customer. Over time, they’ll lose their customers.
On the flip side, what are signs of a good franchise opportunity?
I think a good franchise opportunity targets a broad and sustainable market. PostNet provides solutions for printing, shipping, and marketing. Those are three big marketplaces that are as old as the pyramids — the need isn’t going anywhere. Similarly, a burger chain like McDonald’s doesn’t have to worry that Americans are going to stop liking hamburgers in five years. The market is stable, and if you have a strong business model and execute it well, you should succeed.
What are three things everything franchise owner should do to ensure the success of their business?
Talk to top performers within your organization and learn what they are doing, then bring those lessons to your business. Get involved with a franchise advisory council to make your voice heard and stay plugged into the leadership team. You can help steer the future of the brand by sharing your ideas. Finally, take advantage of all the people and resources that are available to you. If you are having difficulty with an aspect of your business, don’t feel like you have to solve it on your own. Your franchisor has a dedicated team of people to help you, and your fellow franchisees are usually eager to help you, too. Ask for help when you need it, and offer help when you can. A lot of people have your back.
Learn more about starting a PostNet franchise
Ready to learn more? You can read interviews with PostNet franchise owners on our blog and learn more about our business model by reading over our research pages. To request even more information, download our free franchise report.