PostNet Franchise Owner is Mr. Small Business in Vienna
PostNet provided a platform for James Cudney’s passion: Helping his community succeed
In just a couple of years, James Cudney has established himself as “Mr. Small Business” in Vienna, Virginia. Even before he started his PostNet printing and marketing franchise in December 2012 — while the business was still in its planning phase — he began networking extensively in the local business community, joining the leadership of the chambers of commerce, the Town’s Business/Liaison committee, the Rotary Club, a local BNI chapter and more.
All the activity has helped his PostNet become one of the fastest-growing in franchise history — and it also has helped him with his primary mission: giving back to his community. James yearned to own a business that would allow him to help build and guide Vienna, and that’s what drew him to PostNet.
This is his story.
What were you doing before PostNet?
While matriculating at Florida State University, I put myself through school as a lobbyist for the Florida Osteopathic Medical Association and three major pharmaceutical manufacturers. I met my wife at FSU while we were both pursuing our master’s degrees. She’s brilliant accountant and got job offers out of college from all of the Big 6 accounting firms. Our careers took us from South Florida to Paris, France and now to Northern Virginia. I started working with technology companies and became a defense contractor specializing in research and development of homeland security and defense technologies. My core strength is building command-and-control centers to prototype these technologies and manage the complete life cycle.
There are multiple technologies being deployed all over the world, and they all need to go through a vetting process — everything from unmanned drones to robotics to sensors used to detect biological, chemical and radiological threats. From 2000 to 2011, while I was building my businesses, I was on the road 40 weeks a year. I would leave Monday morning, fly somewhere and not be home until Friday evening.
Increasingly, I had a strong urge to develop a local small business.
How did you find out about PostNet?
I wanted to have a local business that would allow me to give back to the community and watch my kids, who are 9, 12 and 18, grow up. One of the things I started looking at were the types of businesses that were already in our town, and what gaps were in services. Vienna needed a back-end back office company to help small businesses and home-based business, and to help all the telecommuters who work at home rather than fighting the D.C. traffic. These are people who need to be able to print out a 100-page presentation on a whim. We didn’t have anything to meet that need in Vienna — no FedEx Office, no Staples. I realized PostNet offered the perfect opportunity to provide the service.
I did a significant amount of due diligence. I liked the phrase “Neighborhood Business Center.” I talked to four or five other franchisors in the printing and shipping spaces, but I really responded to the innovation and forward thinking that (PostNet co-founders) Brian Spindel and Steve Greenbaum have demonstrated. I spoke to them individually before I made any decisions. I like the fact that the leadership team is willing to invest time, talent and money in refocusing their services and providing a strong support system that is able to ease that transition. (PostNet started as a pack and ship franchise and has evolved into a printing and marketing franchise.) I think it’s been exceptionally well-handled. It takes dynamic leadership to grow a franchise business, and I responded well to them and the people they worked with. In our due diligence, we didn’t want to meet just Steve and Brian — we wanted to meet with the people providing support and to study financials, and that is what really sold the franchise for us.
How is life different as the owner of a community-focused business?
It has really allowed me to become extremely involved in the community, and I have really dived in. I am part of a lot of organizations that are shaping the future of our community. We formed a new chamber of commerce — the Vienna Business Association — 18 months ago, and I am one of the founding board members. We present three of the more significant events in town: the Vienna Halloween Parade, Vienna Oktoberfest and First Night Vienna. I’m also on the board of directors for the Rotary Club, which puts on the biggest annual event, our Viva Vienna! I’m also Chairman of the Town Business Liaison Committee, which helps entrepreneurs work with the city to set up new businesses. We help arrange ceremonial ribbon cuttings and coordinate Small Business Saturdays to promote the small business community. I stay fairly busy and try to have a big impact on shaping the look and feel of the town of Vienna.
Is your wife involved in the business with you?
Elaine is one of my heroes. We’re celebrating our 21st anniversary this year, and she is a guide and a mentor. She has a lot of business savvy. I couldn’t do all this without her. She has to have a hands-length relationship from the business, but she is the backbone for me. And she is an awesome mother and has the ability to masterfully juggle having a high-level job while dealing with three boys.
How do you help your customers?
We are consultants to the people who come in. We can provide different marketing tools, such as signs, bulk-mail solutions and Every Door Direct Mail. We can recommend different types of printed collateral to help them in their sales cycles and with their marketing. If they are going to a trade show, we can create banners or promotional items for them.
We are a great resource for established businesses, too. Maybe they already have a good marketing company that knows what they want to do, but they need a printing partner to help them execute the plan. One of our customers is a huge HVAC company that does $30 million a year and appreciates the ease of using PostNet’s online print center to reorder 175 different managers’ business cards, as well as office-specific collateral for 30 locations. They love it. We also serve a hotel company that has 23 hotels in the metropolitan D.C. area. They like that we are fast and responsive to their needs. If they’re having a special promotion at their bars, and they give us art and materials on Monday, we will drop-ship materials and have it to them by Friday morning.
For brand new startups, we’re awesome because we know everything they need to do to start a business in Vienna, and we can help them navigate the process. Then, once they are ready to open, we are great at developing marketing materials to get them in front of customers very effectively. Our direct mail services are especially useful. Thanks to bulk mail rates, we can print and deliver custom marketing pieces for usually about 28 or 29 cents per piece, which is less than it would cost you to send a postcard. We are also good at targeting messages to prospective customers. When a new business has a ribbon-cutting, depending on the type of business, we might invite 50-100 people who are likely customers.
How large is the opportunity for growth?
We came out the the chute extremely fast. When we were setting our initial goals, we took a standard PostNet cash flow projection and doubled it for our internal uses, just because we had confidence in our marketability. We were very fortunate and pleased to win the Fast Start Award for having one of the fastest starts in franchise history. We’re still growing quickly. Year-over-year, last month we were up 100%.
Part of that has to do with where we’re located. We are within a few miles of Tysons Corner, Virginia, which is a massive financial hub; and Dulles, the Silicon Valley of the East. We have one of the highest median incomes in the country, and we have top-ranked schools, too. Because of those factors, people aren’t as price-driven here as they are in some places — they put a higher premium on ease-of-use, convenience and service. High levels of service are what we offer. People also like working with companies that support the community, and that’s something we love to do. We are launching a “52 weeks of giving” program where we will let customers select a nonprofit or cause and we will give back 5% of proceeds to that organization. We’re even allowing people to take advantage of that promotion using gift cards. That way, if they know they’ll need printing a year from now, they can go ahead and buy a gift card and support their local nonprofit. For instance, the parents in the booster club for James Madison High School can buy a $1,000 gift card for PostNet services ‚ which they’ll use sometime in the future — and that will generate money for athletics programs.
Do you interact with other franchisees much?
Yes. The support system connecting the franchisees is tremendous. The national message board is highly used by franchisees to help each other. We share ideas for different vendors, supplies and marketing ideas. It’s like joining a family.
What does your workweek look like?
Some of the best advice we received, and which I was already conditioned to do, is to be ready to multitask. It’s critical to get out in the community and network and market yourself. I focus on marketing and networking, as well as developing a staff that you can train and trust to run back-end operations while you are getting your center’s name out there. I am the face of PostNet in the community.
One of the best compliments I’ve gotten recently was when the vice mayor told me that PostNet was becoming a verb: “Just PostNet it!” I spend about a third of my day on networking, marketing and/or community service. About 5% of my week is dedicated to HR, accounting and the back end of the business. I spend 30 to 40 hours physically in PostNet each week, doing day-to-day business, interfacing with customers, being a consultant as need be. All told, I’m active for about 70 hours a week, but here’s the thing: the community service, the serving on boards, the networking — none of that is really work. It’s what gives me energy and makes me happy. I love it. I see PostNet as the means for me to be a part of the community. To me, it’s more like I’m working 30-35 hours a week and the rest of the time I’m enjoying giving back to the community.
Would you recommend a PostNet franchise to someone else?
Absolutely. Being a PostNet franchisee is hard work, and it’s a lot of fun. One of the things you’ll find is that there is a big need for the services PostNet offers, and the support you get from PostNet International and the team atmosphere at corporate is fantastic. The support and camaraderie you get from fellow PostNet franchisees is excellent. I think if you took a poll of PostNet franchise owners running operations, you’d find that almost everyone is ecstatic about being part of it.
PostNet offers a full range of digital printing solutions for small businesses, as well as graphic design, direct mail, websites, email marketing and shipping. We have been consistent innovators, and have been ranked a top franchise opportunity by “Entrepreneur” magazine for 20 years in a row and also have won consistent awards from Franchise Business Review for franchisee satisfaction.
To learn more, fill out a form to download our free franchise report and start a conversation. Want to learn more first? Check out our research pages for the answers to many questions about the PostNet franchise opportunity, and visit our blog for more franchisee interviews and news. We look forward to talking to you!