Beth Pence had directed human resources for 30 years when she learned the commercial printing plant where she worked was closing its doors in 2015. Living in suburban Savannah, Ga., Pence was offered a number of executive positions, but another idea intrigued her.
Pence and her husband, Chris, had lifelong friends in Knoxville who had become AlphaGraphics Franchisees, and were having great success. When the Pences noticed that the AlphaGraphics in their hometown of Martinez was for sale, the wheels started turning.
“The Lohers (in Knoxville) have been entrepreneurs their whole careers, and Chris and I have always worked for large companies,” Pence says. “Some could say I was crazy for passing on some lucrative job offers to do this, but if I was going to start over with a new company, why not do it for myself?”
The Pences’ son, Phillip, was graduating from college with a marketing degree, and was exploring sales positions.
“We sat him down and told him we had a deal for him – in 10 or 12 years, the business could be his, and we would retire. We had a lot of conversation about how we would work together, and I can honestly say we’ve not had one day where we were concerned that we had made the wrong decision.”
The Pences took over operations at AlphaGraphics Martinez on April 1, absorbing a talented staff and establishing a bonus program that includes sales goals to incentivize the team. Each month since April, they’ve hit the goal, and they beat the previous year’s sales by six percent within the first three months.
Pence says her HR experience has been instrumental in building the culture she was looking for, and the opportunity to help other small businesses has been deeply rewarding. They’ve produced everything from business cards for Realtors to large-format signage for retail locations, along with brochures, vehicle graphics and more. This fall, they will launch a new website that facilitates online ordering for their customers.
“Our production manager, Lisa Davis, is phenomenal, and we recently hired another designer. We’ve made some mistakes, but we learn from them,” Pence says. “I think we’re all a little surprised with how much fun we’re having – meeting people, attending networking events, selling ourselves. I would have never known that without this experience, and it’s completely different than doing it for someone else.
“Our plan is to work hard for the next 10 or 12 years, set aggressive goals and every couple of years sell a little more of the business to our son Phillip,” she says. “Ultimately we’ll hand it over to him and his family, which creates a legacy opportunity that just isn’t possible with a big corporation.”