It’s become a tradition in late summer for me to update our customers, coworkers and partners on Heeter’s progress over the past 12 months.
While our first 6 months were record-setting, we collectively faced many challenges beginning in March. I am pleased to report that Heeter has weathered the lockdown and pandemic well, and we are positioned to continue our growth.
2019: A Record Year!
2019 was our best year ever. We added a number of new customers, grew business with existing accounts, and kept costs contained, all of which resulted in a healthy bottom line. We had a very nice holiday party and announced our largest employee bonuses ever.
We have excellent people throughout the company. We ended the year with over 100 full-time employees and supplemented the team with temporary employees when needed..
As I look across the company, I’m always amazed at our smart, talented, creative and dedicated team members.
Early 2020: Continuation of Strong Sales + Leadership Change
During the first 2 months, we again posted record sales results.
In January we named Kirk Schlecker as the President of Heeter. For the first time in our 75 year history, our President would not have the last name of Heeter.
Kirk had been with the company for 6 years as Vice President of Operations. He is one of the brightest people I know in the industry with a tremendous work ethic and high level of integrity. Kirk has done a tremendous job in helping the company become more process-oriented and technology-centric.
Our customers benefit with faster turnaround times and the ability to produce more sophisticated, personalized campaigns at strong ROI’s. Read more about Kirk’s new position here.
And Then March Came…
While many businesses and some regional printers closed due to Pennsylvania’s shutdown order in mid-March, Heeter has operated continuously as we were designated as ‘essential’ for our considerable projects in the health and life sciences sector.
Our work like that of many other businesses has been adversely impacted by the economic downturn. Fortunately, we landed two very sizable jobs in April. Along with PPP funding in the same timeframe, we have been able to keep the production floor busy and to get back quickly to almost full employment levels. We continued to operate with nearly complete staff throughout the summer; we are forecasting a busy fall.
The health of our employees is of paramount importance to Heeter. We have invested significantly in programs and equipment to protect their well-being. Most importantly, we have had zero known COVID infections. Our entire team is working hard to maintain this metric.
The cooperation we got since March from our teammates is amazing. There has been no complaining or grumbling; everyone just did their job to make sure we could meet customer deadlines. We are grateful.
What Does COVID-19 Mean for Print?
Marketing Departments are certainly rethinking their strategies and budgets. While there will be changes, we are optimistic that Print will continue to play a major role.
“Digital print in particular is poised to maintain consumer engagement at a time when in-person communication isn’t possible.”
Applying Lessons from Past Downturns
In these uncertain times, our Senior Team is intensely focused on what it can control at Heeter.
Fortunately, Heeter has acted pragmatically in recent years. We learned a lot of lessons from The Great Recession of 2008-2009. One of the biggest takeaways was to limit our debt.
At the same time, we continue to reinvest in the company, focusing on top notch equipment, people and technology.
Kirk has been leading our team through some very significant projects in 2020.
We fully implemented an intelligent production scheduling software called Printflow throughout the entire organization, making us one of only a handful of companies in the country with complete integration of all departments.
And maybe the most exciting announcement is our IT team is on the verge of attaining HITRUST Certification. It provides our customers the assurance that Heeter has the most up-to-date practices, software and hardware to handle sensitive, confidential client data. We expect to receive the certification this fall.
With our Critical Communication business growing, we run into some production bottle necks in our finishing area, particularly book finishing, from time to time. After a lengthy search, we found the right equipment and purchased a second book stitching line for our digital production area. This inline machine will allow us to more than double our digital book production capacity.
These investments put Heeter in a very favorable position to be able to serve its customers. In addition, Heeter is one of the few companies that have organically grown over the past 10 years, as well as paid down debt to build up cash reserves for a “rainy day.”
We know businesses have many choices of print, mail and fulfillment providers; we are very appreciative of clients and partners working with us. We expect to serve them for many years.