Posts Tagged ‘Franchise Development’

April 23rd, 2014

Sales & Marketing Exec Becomes Latest AG Franchise Partner

Screen Shot 2014-04-23 at 8.31.37 AMRalph Umbriano went to college determined to become an attorney, but a low draft number and the prospect of heading to Vietnam caused a change in direction. He jumped into a machine design program, the draft ended, and he was soon offered a chance to go to work designing engineered sealing devices for the industrial market.

The Rhode Island native did product design, provided technical sales support and assumed the role of Sales Engineer with EG&G Sealol, a division of a Fortune 500 company.  Umbriano set sales records, climbing the ladder and continuing to take on more management responsibilities, including Global Business Element Manager and Marketing Director — roles that had him spending more than 25 percent of his time in Europe and elsewhere.  They put him through extensive training, including Kellogg Executive Marketing and Leadership Development programs, among others.

When EG&G was acquired, he decided to work with another company in the industry, A.W. Chesterton, where he streamlined the marketing and strategic accounts functions from five divisions into one and oversaw 45 people.  He had spent a career focused on consultative, solution-based selling and marketing, but with his wife running a successful retail store, the corporate life was getting old.

“The climate was changing, and the corporate approach was getting to be too impersonal,” Umbriano said. “I wanted to get back to a more hands-on approach, with direct responsibility for running a business, and I needed to be with my family. It was time to do something different.”

He knew he wanted to use his sales and marketing background in a business-to-business environment, and he recognized that the “printing” industry had become a dynamic marketplace. A business broker introduced him to AlphaGraphics.

“I didn’t have any pre-conceived notions, other than I wanted a comprehensive approach, something that brought value to customers, something that could be built upon,” he said. “A number of opportunities were presented to me, but AlphaGraphics was really attractive. I visited with others in the industry, and felt that AG was the best positioned for the future.“

Now having purchased an AlphaGraphics Business Center in Framingham, Mass., he says his marketing background offers an easy transition to helping other small businesses succeed—focusing on processes and efficiencies and cost savings, from a marketing standpoint.

“It’s a higher-level mindset, a step above in terms of approach,” Umbriano said. “Nobody was filling that gap, and AlphaGraphics recognized the opportunity. This isn’t about printing… it’s about helping businesses build an identity. I’m still working with customers to make them better as I have for 30 years, but now I’m doing it through my own company.”

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August 27th, 2013

LIVE From Nashville: AG Annual Conference Celebrates Unprecedented Growth

AlphaGraphics franchise owners from all over the country converged on Nashville, Tennessee, earlier this month for the company’s annual conference. Owners and corporate staff look forward to the conference every year – not only for the strategy sessions and professional development opportunities, but for the camaraderie.

This year was particularly exciting, as AlphaGraphics President Art Coley announced that AG had signed an unprecedented 41 franchise agreements in 21 states in the fiscal year ending June 30. This unit growth is more than double our fiscal year 2012 signings, which we attribute to the successful implementation of the strategy to evolve from a printer to a trusted marketing communications partner serving small businesses.

“Our AlphaGraphics franchisees are reaping the rewards of providing small businesses not only printing services, but strategic marketing solutions,” Coley said. “This success is attracting entrepreneurs across the country to join AlphaGraphics and several of our existing franchisees to expand their territories. Both are signs of a healthy business opportunity.”

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July 15th, 2013

Future Looks Bright for Franchise Financing

Michael Brown is AlphaGraphics’ development director for acquisitions, real estate and financing – the guy who helps get the deal done for franchisees. As such, he has unique perspective on the current economic client for entrepreneurs. And he sees good signs on the horizon.

“It used to be that you could just about walk into any bank with a decent FICO score and a reasonable net worth and get whatever you wanted without a problem,” Brown says. “The Recession changed all that. Today, there are no guarantees, but it appears that we are headed into a period where it will be easier to secure financing than it has been in recent years.”

Brown says AlphaGraphics’ failure rate is very low, something that brings credibility to the table. It’s his job to go out and sell the AG story to prospective lenders.

“Our franchisee success rate is very high, which says a lot about AlphaGraphics as a company and the level of support that we provide,” he says. “Whereas we used to work primarily with three or four lenders, now we’re working with a dozen or more. We’ve expanded the pool to provide more opportunities to our owners.”

Part of Brown’s role is to find innovative financing, non-conventional means by which to put together deals that make dreams come true. For instance, some franchisees are leaving the corporate world and rolling 401(k) funds into self-directed IRAs, or C-corps that can use those funds now to finance a business without paying early-withdrawal taxes or penalties. Companies like Benetrans and Guidant Financial are helping with the transactions, and it’s an option that more than 50 percent of AG’s new franchisees are taking advantage of.

“A lot of new franchisees don’t know how much money they need or how to fund it – whether they are going to open a new center, purchase an existing one or even convert an independent print shop – and that’s where we can help,” he says. “It’s important to start these conversations early, and we can help guide you through the process.”

Brown says interest rates are starting to increase but are still at a very competitive 6% to 9%, versus the 3% to 5% at the historic lows.

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May 15th, 2013

HP Indigo Partnership Driving Down Cost for AG Owners, Customers

AlphaGraphics Vendor Services facilitator Joe Wise has been watching the monthly volume metrics for some time now, waiting for the magic moment when 17 AG owners across the network would reap the rewards of a reduced production cost for the HP Indigo. It happened last month.

“This is a fantastic piece of equipment, and we were able to get many of them for about half off of the retail price as a result of the franchise network buying power,” Wise said. “But once we crossed six million multicolor impressions a month, the per-piece production cost on these went from five cents to four. That’s a lot of pennies.”

It’s $63,000 in savings, per month, to be exact, spread across the Indigo users group. The 17 owners have worked closely together, meeting on a monthly basis to develop strategies that grow sales. Wise says he’s seen their efforts pay off since those meetings began.

“Over the past couple of years, it’s been the capability of the equipment that’s attracted attention – these franchises are maximizing the machine – so the fact that we’ve done enough volume to drive down cost is a real bonus.”

The HP Indigo digital press runs heavier stock weights in four-color process with a range of synthetic and natural paper options. Wise says the units rarely need service, and maintenance is typically something the owners can do themselves.

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April 23rd, 2013

Eight AlphaGraphics Franchises Celebrate 25 Years in Business

We’re excited to announce that eight of our franchise owners are celebrating their 25th anniversary this year. In addition, another 22 franchisees have been in business with AlphaGraphics for more than 20 years! Congratulations, everyone.

· Larry Winzeler, Provo and Lehi, Utah

· Frank and Barbara Kohout, Wheaton, Illinois

· David Orpin, Nashua, New Hampshire

· Connie Levinson and David Goodare, Concord, Massachusetts

· Mike Sparaco, Tempe, Arizona

· David Boone, Camp Hill, Pennsylvania

· Cash Bestor, Scottsdale, Arizona

· Tom Hopkins, Hillsborough, New Jersey

“It is incredibly rewarding to see our franchisees reach this milestone anniversary,” said Art Coley, president of AlphaGraphics. “Their longevity is a true testament of the commitment they have made to each of their business centers. We look forward to many more years to come with these franchisee partners!”

Each of these silver anniversary centers has a unique story of success; however, the franchisees have communicated that part of their growth is attributed to the support of the corporate team at AlphaGraphics and the adaptability in the business model.

“Another key factor in AlphaGraphics’ continued success is our nimbleness to change,” adds Coley. “Because of improvements in technology and our relationships with vendors, franchisees are first to benefit, adapt and change as the industry does.”

AlphaGraphics was founded in Tucson, Arizona in 1970. In 1979, the company began franchising its unique business model, which offers a comprehensive suite of marketing and print solutions for B2B customers. Today, there are nearly 300 franchises across 30 states.


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April 17th, 2013

Weekend Crisis Brings AG Staff to the Rescue

Barbara Harkins in Portland, Oregon had one of those Fridays not long ago. Her project management software crashed on a Friday afternoon, and shortly thereafter the Apple store told her that her Mac was a goner.

Saturday morning, she put the word out to AlphaGraphics’ franchise support team that she needed help. What transpired left Barb shaking her head and smiling with amazement.

Within an hour, she’d heard from one VP on paternity leave, and operations support manager on vacation, and three other team members who were just off for the weekend. One left his family by the pool and jumped in to help with data recovery.

“He was the first to call me on the phone and patiently waited as we gathered information, provided me links to download the master software and stayed on the phone until he knew my back up was restored and my workstations connected,” Harkins says. “THAT IS FANTASTIC!!!! I hate to think where I would have been without his help.”

AlphaGraphics Portland was up and running on Monday morning.

These are the things that make AlphaGraphics a different kind of company. To learn more, visit

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March 26th, 2013

New AlphaGraphics Owner Lands Big Client with SEM

Dan Hayes has owned a quick-copy shop in Olympia, Washington for nearly 24 years. He’s had a lot of success as a small business owner, but AlphaGraphics owner Chuck Stempler in nearby Seattle convinced him he could do so much more.

Hayes converted in September, and one of Stempler’s suggestions was to implement a search engine marketing campaign to attract more business. The results were better than anyone could have imagined.

“Within the first month or six weeks, we landed a major project that really set us on a new course,” Hayes says. “The interesting thing is the client is right down the street, but if we hadn’t converted to AlphaGraphics and launched the SEM campaign, we would have never known about each other.”

As it turns out, Dan’s new client had been using a big offset printer in town for years, and wasn’t happy with the service or the pricing. They needed several thousand books printed for an annual event—typically they ordered 10,000 but Hayes was able to deliver 12,000 and still beat his competitor by $4,500!

In the end, Hayes had attracted a $57,000 project by positioning his AlphaGraphics store to win the business… but the customer had to find him first, and they did so through a search engine. Dan’s focus on marketing the business through search engine optimization has already paid for itself many times over.

“Our strategy was to fill the void our competitors left wide open, and to truly focus on customer service to complement our highly skilled graphics person,” he said. “That’s what this really all comes down to—the emotional investment our current or prospective clients are willing to make based on our performance. If we perform well, they will invest in us.”

One of the biggest advantages to being a part of the AlphaGraphics network is the camaraderie among owners in neighboring markets–they help each other succeed, rather than working against themselves.

If you’re interested in learning more about what makes AlphaGraphics an industry leader, please let us know.

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January 18th, 2013

Three New Owners Join Our Global Network in November

AlphaGraphics added three new franchisees to its global network in November, the sixth consecutive month of record growth for the brand recently highlighted in the Franchise Times Top 200.

Curtis Gropman in Marietta, Ga. recently acquired an independent print shop and is in the process of converting it to an AlphaGraphics Business Center. He brings 15 years of senior sales experience with the Coca Cola system, most recently as vice president of category management for North America. Gropman holds a degree in merchandise management from Michigan State University.Headquartered in Salt Lake City, AlphaGraphics, Inc. plans, produces and manages visual communications for businesses at nearly 300 owner-operated, locally based business centers worldwide.

Chris Iacuzzo recently acquired an independent print shop and is in the process of converting it to an AlphaGraphics Business Center in Orlando, Fla. He was previously a senior staff engineer at NDI Recognition Systems, having held senior positions with Northrop Grumman and other prominent corporations in the defense and space industry. He is currently completing a master’s in engineering management from the Florida Institute of Technology and holds a bachelor’s in electrical engineering from the University of Florida.

Ken and Barbara Adams of Colleyville, Texas have signed a franchise agreement, and are exploring AlphaGraphics options in the Dallas area and in other states. Ken spent 18 years with Pepsico, serving most recently as national account sales manager. He has also owned two small start-up businesses. Barbara is retired from American Airlines, where she held a position in administration.

“My decision to leave the corporate world and become a small business owner is driven by my need to create a ‘win-win’ scenario, and to utilize skills that I have developed over the last 24 years,” Mr. Adams said. “With AlphaGraphics, I believe I can fully develop my passion and apply my knowledge and skills to a business that will provide me with the financial freedom I work so hard to achieve.”

The AlphaGraphics network, a 41 year-old brand, continues to be at the forefront of the printing franchise industry. Backed by state-of-the-art technology, the world’s highest quality standards and a global network, the company’s trained and experienced team members are committed to delivering creative solutions that enable customers to grow their businesses and increase their reach. For more, visit or

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November 14th, 2012

17 AG Centers Rank in 2012 Quick Printing Magazine’s Top 100 List

Last year, 15 AlphaGraphics centers made Quick Printing magazine’s Top 100 list – more than any other brand in the industry. The 2012 rankings are out, and AG once again leads the pack - this time with 17 centers!

This prestigious list acknowledges the Top 100 quick and small commercial printers in North America from the previous year, and being a part of it presents a uniquely valuable marketing opportunity.

Chuck Stempler, owner of AlphaGraphics Seattle, received the highest AG ranking on the list at #6, up from #12 last year.

“Recognition of our achievements is for our 66 employees collectively,” Stempler said. “None of our success could have been achieved without all of their outstanding efforts.”

“In a competitive environment, we continue to find ways to grow the business and remain profitable while doing it,” say Mike Sparaco and Darin Osborne, owners of AlphaGraphics on University in Tempe, AZ. Like Chuck, Mike and Darin increased their ranking from last year’s list, jumping from #32 in 2011 to #23 in 2012.  

Other AG center owners who nabbed a spot on the list included Bill and Clare Meehan (US514, #42), Jim and Sally Hewell/ Mike and Martie Cowan (US376, #44), Ed Rothschild (US612, #51), Mike Burgard (US690, #57), Grant Richey (US088, #60), Rudy Baron (US242, #62), Karen Brinker (US162, #63), Larry Furlong (US011, #64), Rob Johnson (US034, #69), Steve Adams (US291, #73), Dick Moran (US525, #82), Carol and Ed LeClair (US398, #94), David Kovacs (US281, #95), Tom and Lisa Slade (US370, #97), and Paul VanVeldhuizen (US451, #99).

Congratulations, all!

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November 13th, 2012

Three New Owners Join AlphaGraphics Global Network in October

More Franchise Growth for Leader in Print and Marketing Communications Services

Three new franchisees joined the AlphaGraphics network in October, marking another strong month of unit growth for the brand. Headquartered in Salt Lake City, AlphaGraphics, Inc. plans, produces and manages visual communications for businesses at nearly 300 owner-operated, locally based business centers worldwide.

Jeff and Deborah Smith in Missouri have signed a franchise agreement with AlphaGraphics and are currently exploring business location opportunities. Jeff brings an entire career in sales, sales management and marketing to AlphaGraphics, most recently with Coast Brands as vice president of sales for the mid-west region. Deborah works as a recruiter and trainer for the American Greeting Card Company in St. Louis. He holds an associate of arts degree in law from the University of Missouri.


Scott Wethers in California has more than a decade of experience in sales for print, mail and promotional products, including stints in management for companies like Workflowone and SmartSource. He holds a degree in business administration in marketing from Oregon State University, as well as an MBA in marketing, finance and eBusiness from the University of Washington. Wethers plans to open a state-of-the-art AlphaGraphics Digital Business Center in Southern California in the coming months.


Mark Lee in Texas recently took early retirement from his role as director of customer management at Frito-Lay, Inc., having spent his career with that company and, previously, with General Electric. He plans to employ his sales, marketing and customer engagement talents to an AlphaGraphics franchise opportunity. Lee graduated from the University of Texas with a bachelor’s degree in advertising and a master’s in advertising and marketing.

“While a number of brands in the print industry have struggled through the Recession, AlphaGraphics continues to grow because of our vision for the future and the way in which we’ve embraced the rapidly evolving marketing and communications business,” said Dave Buzza, vice president of global development for AlphaGraphics.

“With our focus on serving as an outsource marketing provider, we’ve been able to expand our offering and provide greater value to our customers. New owners like these three recognize the unlimited potential, and we’re proud to have them on the AlphaGraphics team.”

The AlphaGraphics network, a 41 year-old brand, continues to be at the forefront of the printing franchise industry and was recently ranked in the Top 200 Franchises by Franchise Times. Backed by state-of-the-art technology, the world’s highest quality standards and a global network, the company’s trained and experienced team members are committed to delivering creative solutions that enable customers to grow their businesses and increase their reach. For more, visit or


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