State of the Industry Report: Chasing Dollars
ON PRINTED FORMS
The Expert: Jeff Russell, president, Major Business Systems Inc., Hillsborough, N.C.
What are your thoughts on the current state of the business forms sector?
Jeff Russell: Business forms are a direct economic indicator. Without transactions taking place, you have a flat or declining market, which is the state of our current economy. The net result for the industry is over-capacity, which brings pricing pressure, mergers and reductions. However, there are some niche markets and products that are performing well. (We find that wholesale distribution, governments and segments in health care are still very paper-based oriented.) Creating boutique products and services for these markets is a key to realize some net growth.
What do you think the biggest changes will be this year, and what will drive them?
JR: Continued diversification into nontraditional products and sales will be the driving force[s] this year. Our market will continue to remain flat until post-election time. The business sector lacks the confidence to make any growth decisions until it sees ... how the country acts to a new administration.
How is your company spreading the message that print forms aren’t dead?
JR: Our company has focused on niche markets that are actually exhibiting print growth and [are] somewhat impervious to the inroads of electronic technology. Our marketing strategy has been directed solely at these opportunities with an awareness campaign of the substantial value-added potential over and above the traditional commodity forms market.
How has the recent uptick in mergers and acquisitions and closures affected the forms market?
JR: There is no doubt that our industry is experiencing the effects of being in the “mature” cycle of business life. The net result will be a strong and versatile segment that will serve the industry well. Those players will be lean, flexible and adaptable.
How can the forms sector do a better job of attracting millennials?
JR: The print market is dynamic; however, the forms segment is not the more glamorous part, and it has been aggressively marketed against by technology suppliers. The focus must be that the opportunity to earn a better-than-average income does exist in our business. With the impending wave of retirements that our industry is going to face shortly, there will be ample employment opportunity as well. Our industry has been populated primarily with family-owned companies. This legacy has allowed subsequent generations to realize the value in it.
Based on past trends, what are your expectations for the short-term future of form products?
JR: I think, post-election, we will see a rebound in our market. Those who have adapted will be much stronger and will then prosper.