PostNet Franchise Review: Manager Decides to Buy a Center, Builds Empire
Mike Ferretti started managing a PostNet printing franchise in 2004. Three years later he bought one, then another, then another…
Mike Ferretti started at PostNet in 2004 as a manager for a Neighborhood Business Center in Charlotte, NC, and it didn’t take him long to realize it could be a lot more than a job — it could be the business he was looking for. Mike always had the entrepreneurial bug. He took business classes in high school and college, as well as computer classes, and he leapt at the chance to buy his own PostNet in another part of Charlotte in 2007. Then, in 2008, he bought the Center that he used to manage. Mike, who has two daughters with his wife, Katie, just bought his third PostNet this fall, in nearby Mooresville.
What were you doing before PostNet?
I was an independent contractor doing IT work for Wachovia Bank. I had studied IT in college and had a string of independent contracting jobs, but those got harder and harder to get. A lot of companies started outsourcing that work to companies in India, and that really changed the market here. I was suddenly competing for work against guys with 15 years of experience who were willing to work for entry-level wages. A friend of mine who was working at PostNet told me about the opening for a manager at PostNet and said he thought it would be a good fit.
Was is a difficult transition?
I had management skills, but didn’t know much about printing. From college, I knew how to make copies or send things to a printer, but I didn’t know anything about all the special features digital printers and copiers can do. As for shipping, I didn’t know how to package things properly, or how to prepare things according to the rules of UPS and FedEx. I was taught on site by my staff and picked things up easily. I was fortunate that the owner I worked for was a hands-off owner, so I ran the operation. The only thing I didn’t do was wear the tag that says “owner.” But it wasn’t my money that I was playing with — it was somebody else’s. I was ready to take the risk of becoming a business owner, and I love it.
What do you like about it?
I like the concept, and the satisfaction of doing a good job for a customer and getting that “wow” factor. I like consulting with the customer, providing ideas and suggestions, and then building the job, whether it is a complex job where we have to print a lot and assemble the pieces into a finished product, or something simpler. Just the other day a customer wanted us to create a merchandising box they could use as a mockup to show Lowe’s what their item would look like sitting on their retail shelves. Sometimes we’ll do family gifts — someone will walk in with artwork from a grandchild and family photos and they’ll ask us to create a collage. The look in their eyes when they see what we’ve created for them is awesome.
How do you stay ahead of the competition?
There are a lot of ways to educate yourself, not only PostNet’s training and resources, but print associations and web forums, too. I like to keep up-to-date on products we may potentially be able to offer.
We have internal message boards, and if somebody is asking about something or if there is an interesting article out there related to our industry, people will share it with the rest of the organization. A lot of us are connected on Facebook, and then, of course, the franchisees know certain people who are very good at specific parts of the business, and they’ll call that specific franchisee to ask about that topic. The message board is really big. I’m not on it as much with three centers and business picking up, but I try to keep up with it every day or two because I learn a tremendous amount there.
You bought your first two stores right before the recession. How did that affect business?
The economy really shook up the buying behavior of business customers — large customers are placing smaller orders, but they are ordering more often. Instead of ordering 50,000 brochures at a time and stockpiling them somewhere, they are ordering 5,000 at a time on an as-needed basis. Our digital printing keeps the prices low and the quality high, even with smaller orders. Small businesses are taking advantage of consultation, and they will come over to the store since we are in the neighborhood. They’re looking for ways to save money and make sure they are getting a good return on their marketing.
What sets PostNet apart?
A lot of it is the relationships we build. When a customer starts to trust us, and they know they can come to us with a challenge and we’ll make it okay, you’ve won. We will work our magic to get things done. People will come to us for help getting things done on deadline. The people we work with tend to be busy professionals, and the best compliment I get is when they need us to create something and they say, “Just make it happen — we trust that it’s going to be great.” They don’t ask to see proofs, they give us full control over the project and they know it’s going to look great and help them in their business.
How large is the opportunity for your business?
Our customers are anything from self-employed one-man-show guys like plumbers and electricians to sales representatives for large companies — especially sales reps who are targeting Lowe’s as a customer. The Mooresville Center is near the headquarters of Lowe’s, and we have people come in and they have a sales presentation schedules and they need 40-50 bound versions of a PowerPoint presentation so they can pitch a multibillion-dollar deal. It needs to look good!
We’re also near several hotels and restaurants, and every day we get sales people who check in to the hotel, come and place an order for printing, run some errands to prepare for their meeting, pick up their finished products and then go pitch Lowe’s. We’ve done everything from product box mockups to posters. We’re not doing the volume like Dennis (Cogan, who owns a PostNet near Walmart’s headquarters in Bentonville, AR) does yet, but I’m pleasantly surprised by the number of people we’re getting. We’re getting a lot of people who say they come to Lowe’s six, seven, 10 times a year to pitch products, and they have to produce new materials every time.
Dennis Cogan and I have been to a few print-related expos over the years and have actually roomed together a couple of times. I’m always picking his brain. He was the first person I thought of when I found out Lowe’s was right around the corner and I had people asking for mockup boxes. I asked him what materials he was using, his techniques, what he charged — and we’re testing the service out and are close to being comfortable enough to promote it.
We’ve already made a few mockup retail boxes. One was a box for an ironing board, and it was important to be able to show how it would look on the shelves, how much shelf space would be needed. We’ve had several people get excited about the fact that we do mockups — “Great! You’re doing this now!?” — and I was surprised to learn there was so much demand for this.
What strategies have been most successful for you?
I get out in the community to introduce PostNet at networking events, and we also educate customers once they come into the store. They might ask about banners, and we educate them about posters, too. But the most important thing isn’t the product — it’s the relationship, and that’s what we try to build with our customers.
Learn more about how PostNet and the opportunity to thrive as a Neighborhood Business Center
To learn about PostNet, including startup costs, services and our growing niche in the printing industry, visit our research pages at www.postnetfranchise.com. You can also read stories from our franchisees on the PostNet franchise blog. To learn even more, fill out a form to download our free franchise report. We look forward to talking to you!