PostNet Franchise Review: Q&A with Greg Claiborne of Round Rock, TX

“When we started out, we thought it was going to be a shipping business. Soon after, I realized we had a lot more to offer.”

Greg Claiborne has owned the PostNet Neighborhood Business Center in Round Rock, Texas, for nine years, but he discovered PostNet as a customer. He was looking for an alternative to the terrible service he could never quite get accustomed to at the post office, and when he found PostNet, he realized that he might have found a new career. Greg’s experience perfectly illustrates the change of direction that PostNet has undergone from a business focused on packing and shipping to one that assists small businesses with a variety of needs, especially digital printing and marketing.

How long have you been a PostNet owner? What were you doing before?
I’ve been an owner since 2003. I was with ETS-Lindgren, which manufactures equipment for testing electronic devices, and I was a supervisor over the assembly department.

What attracted you to PostNet?
I walked into a PostNet store after getting frustrated with the U.S. Postal Service. The post office is miserable because of wait times and poor customer service, and I thought the PostNet model was great. I’d been looking for something else. Working for someone else, you’re at their mercy, and I wanted to be more in control of my own destiny.

What changes have you seen in your business over 9 years?
When we started out, we thought it was going to be a shipping business. Soon after, I realized we had a lot more to offer. We really have become a business center. That encompasses a lot of aspects. Now, we’re even doing websites and business plans for startup companies. The printing services are quite broad — it’s grown and grown. When I started, I had an Excel spreadsheet with one page of places to go to help customers. Now it’s a 12-page list with an 8-point font. One thing that sets us apart from any other printer is the extensive variety of products we can offer. I’m not limited. So many print shops will price jobs based on only their capacity and capabilities. What sets us apart is we don’t base our price on just what we can provide in our store — it’s based on all the sources available and what we can do to get job done best. We work with other vendors to provide best for customer in price and quality. Right now we’re doing an outdoor channel letter sign that will be lighted, and I partnered with another company in Austin. We’re the broker for that job. We’ll do creative and artwork and will then outsource it to a sign company for creation and installation. That’ll be a $4,000 to $5,000 sale, which I’ll get to be a part of. I like the flexibility of being able to outsource a lot of jobs or buy equipment to be able to do other jobs in-house.

What do you think about PostNet’s leadership?
Steve and Brian both are great individuals and have thought outside the box. When we started, I didn’t know how much change was happening in the industry. They have some people working for them who have been around awhile who have been very helpful, too.

What changes have you seen in the printing industry?
Things have gone digital. A lot of small print shops have gone out of business. You can do a lot yourself with laser printers now. That’s changed the industry. Digital laser printer technology also has advanced to the point where it allows us to do jobs that used to be done by a small press. It used to be that if someone wanted letterhead done in a certain Pantone color, you had to go to a press operator who would mix the ink. Now, with a laser printer we can match that color and do it in-house. If you’re going to do large quantity, you still use a press, but for 500 to 1,000 documents, you don’t need to. One of the things that makes us valuable to customers is the knowledge of when to go with different types of printing price-wise and quality-wise. I’ve learned a lot. I’m still learning a lot, thanks to my business support coach. Andy Collins, who is part of the support team, spent years in printing and can help with any questions I have, and other stores have become experts who you can go to with questions. Over the years, there have been a lot of stores that have accomplished a lot and who know a tremendous amount. I offer a lot of advice to other PostNet owners. I wish I had had me around when I started! There is so much to know and to learn. One of the great things about all the support and the help from other franchise owners is that I never have to turn down a customer. I never say no, because I can figure out how to do whatever they need. It’s invaluable having people you can talk to. David Petty is one of the top franchisees in the system, and Erik Diaz, and Dennis Cogan. We have a very active message board where we can get answers, and that helps a lot.

How many people work for you?
I have eight people working for me part-time.

How much do you work?
Personally, I work probably about 50 hours a week. I hardly ever work weekends. It’s not like a 70-80 hour a week job like some businesses. I have employees who can handle closing, so I don’t have to stay until the end of the day. I usually start around 7:30 or 8 and get out around 6 or so.

What direction do you think the industry is headed?
67% of the business is printing, and most of the rest is shipping. The printing opportunities are out there. It is a huge, wide field. There are a lot of things we can do. We have good sources. There’s no limit to what we can do. I keep my ears open. I’m always listening and reaching out for other vendors who might be good for my database. If someone tells me about something, I check it out and keep track of it. I don’t lose anything. Today, I had someone who needed temporary tattoos and I had someone who I used years ago, and I was able to help.

What sets PostNet apart?
Onsite ownership is the most important thing — the customer service difference is huge. The knowledge base is different, because owners know enough or care enough to find out how to meet customers’ needs, and it’s someone who cares tremendously about the business and customers. I don’t know that we really have any major competitors. If you compare us to places like FedEx Office, Office Max, Office Depot, there is just a huge difference in terms of the knowledge and expertise that is offered to customers.

The other thing is that most of our business isn’t from people who just come in here. It’s from us reaching out through referral groups. We have people call us where they found us on the Internet. Most of my business clients have never even been in my store. Most of the time we communicate via email or phone. We’ll deliver their materials or drop-ship directly to them. Some of my best clients don’t even know what my store looks like.

What is a typical customer like?
Mechanical contractors and large A/C and plumbing contractors that do a lot of forms are some of my best clients. For the most part, it’s mostly small businesses that found out about us and are very, very happy. We had one lady a couple of weeks ago who was unhappy with the printer she’d been using and she came in and talked about a lot of things and we sent her quotes within three hours, and she said you definitely have best customer service of anyone. We did all her design work, and there will be more printing work to be done in the future.

What do you enjoy about the business?
It’s different every day. You will never be bored, ever. Today we got an email from someone starting a business. They were a referral from a former BNI member. So, they referred this person and she sent an email this morning of six different items she needed — business cards, and a punch card, and a membership card, and a future free services card, and a wrap for a vehicle, a magnet for the back of a vehicle, signs for her building. She needed us to create designs and proofs. We started the design today and the proof can be ready in a day or two. Turnaround for all the printing is about a week. I outsource the vehicle wraps, but some stores do that themselves.

Would you recommend a PostNet franchise to someone else?
Sure. They can be in control of their own destiny and have a lot of support through the PostNet network. You can be as successful as you want to be.