Brad and Sam Wagner are building business together with clients such as Advanced Flexible Composites, honoring the high standard set by their parents and their franchisor, Minuteman Press International.
When Dale and Jeannie Wagner bought their Minuteman Press franchise in 2007, they did so with an unflinching sense that they were creating something great. Today, the “something great” is in the hands of their children, Brad and Samantha, a reality that carries greatness forward in honor of their mother, who passed in 2014 and in respect to the wisdom and initiative of their father.
Dale and Jeannie took control of a 25 year-old printing center that was performing respectably, but their ambitions have always been greater than average, so stagnation was not to be. They took their training and went on to upgrade equipment, find ideal personnel and through measurable results and real care, the community of Crystal Lake began to appreciate their family’s standard, one that matches the highest of them all, that of Minuteman Press International. In 2010, their son, Brad graduated from Carthage College and started working in the business again. In 2012, he went to corporate training before merging his own talent with that of Jeannie and Dale. “Training at Minuteman Press International opened my eyes to what I wanted to do, professionally. When I was younger, I said I never wanted to do this, but at training, I realized how much knowledge I gained from working with Mom and Dad and I am thankful every day I spent working with them,” he says.
Brad took over day to day operations in 2014 with an innate ability to remain calm under what most people consider extreme stress. He also has an undeterred and exceptional ability to streamline multiple projects into impressive order. He says, “I love to save the day for our clients. It may be by exceeding their expectations with the final product or by making their lives easier with fast turnaround times. Our center welcomes the opportunity to figure out how to produce something that will blow clients and their audiences away.”
On his experiences as a second-generation franchise owner, Brad is thankful for balance, “I appreciate the freedom Minuteman Press International gives us to do what we want as business owners, while being there with so much support when we ask for it. I cannot imagine being an independent print shop. How do they get by without the support we have? As a franchised marketing services provider, I enjoy the variety of work we get to do and the fact that we are fully capable of helping our clients get back to focusing on the growth of their own businesses. We do it every day.”
“I like to think that we take care of the ordinary so that the client can get back to the extraordinary.” – Brad Wagner, co-owner, Minuteman Press, Crystal Lake, Illinois
A personal blessing and a forceful boost to their family business came when Brad’s sister, Sam, decided to part from her corporate ambitions and pour her passionate talent into the Minuteman Press legacy her parents prepared, one she and her brother build upon with intensity and care. “I’m 27 years old, the youngest of the Wagner clan (of which there are 4 of us). I came back to the family business in October of 2014 after our mother Jeannie passed to carry on her legacy. I have a BA in Accounting from Carthage College and was a corporate accountant for 2 years. I brought back both the positives and negatives from corporate America and we incorporated the positives and do our best to keep the negatives out of our company culture.”
Sam has a timeless wisdom and contagious passion for building business together with each of her clients and she imparts this tone to her staff. To depart from the detached, impersonal corporate way of managing a team, she says, “WE make sure our employees feel like family as opposed to feel like just another person in the office. If they need extra training or if they learn a different way, we help them identify that and nurture it. I do not like the competitiveness in corporate America and use my experience to make our team members feel comfortable to approach us, no matter what the concern. If they notice a job was printed incorrectly or a client makes a mistake, they know we care solely about fixing it, not punitive measures. We tell them we want a solution based feeling in our center and that culture has taken root here to the benefit of all.”
“My favorite part about this industry is the variety and the people. We get to work across so many different industries it’s never a dull moment. We work with manufacturers, bakers, churches and even a company that does custom cranes to repair railroads. I love the relationships that we build with our clients as they grow and evolve their businesses.” – Sam Wagner, co-owner, Minuteman Press, Crystal Lake, Illinois
Both young entrepreneurs recognize the challenges that come with the misperception that being in their late 20s means they are employees or interns, rather than employers and entrepreneurs.
It does not take long before business associates across all industries deal with them and grant deserved respect for their true stature. Sam explains, “One of the reasons Brad and I are excellent partners is that we complement each other’s strengths. He is cool, calm and focused and able to manage from the center in a way that allows me to use my strength as an energetic extrovert. Since I have more trouble sitting still, I take that out and do the networking. But as we are still in our 20s, it is common for older people to assume we are interns and we need to make them realize we are running a business. And one of the most challenging things about hiring staff is being clear that we are leaders when we are interviewing people twice our ages.”
Fortunately, Brad and Sam are both on fire about building business together with their clients; and by doing so, people quickly learn these Millennials are rightfully in charge.
Brad and Sam are excited about emerging print technology and are living examples of what Minuteman Press International means when it proclaims, “We are the modern printing industry.” At the same time, they are grounded and humble with deep respect for their roots. With reverence, they embrace the proven system of operations their Mom and Dad selected as the base of the escalating victories Minuteman Press in Crystal Lake is realizing today, “Our parents made this happen. They gave us a huge foundation and we simply would not be successful without them. Our mom had a huge heart and a non-stop work ethic and we are fortunate to have our Dad providing solid business advice to this day. He has been self-employed for 35 years and when we had the chance to buy a unit next to our center for his TV repair shop, we did it. This way, he remains connected as he does some deliveries on our behalf, too.”
Sam adds her appreciation, “Our mom, Jeannie, came from a print background and worked in a corporate environment as I did. Then, after devoting herself to raising her children, she went back to work and when we were in high school, she and Dad bought this franchise. She truly enjoyed helping people and we carry that tradition. It helps that we have a Regional Vice President, Doug Harlan, who is great in that he is always there to encourage us, while telling us the hard truth when we need to hear it.”
As their client base grows, Sam thinks she knows the reason for the increasing loyalty to their digital print, design and marketing services center, “Of course, our customers come to us because they like us. We are not the cheapest, but we are also not the most expensive. We are providing a service that goes above and beyond ‘black ink on white paper’. Plus, when we see people headed in the wrong direction, we are capable to guide them and help them be confident as we direct them towards just the right way to convey their messages.”
It is for the above reasons and more that one of their clients, Advanced Flexible Composites, counts upon their partnership with Minuteman Press.
Since 1988, this manufacturer of high-temperature, high-stick composite materials has risen to the forefront of its market. Brad and Sam recall a time they needed roughly 20,000 full-color, two-sided Durachef product inserts via a call on Monday night with a Thursday morning due date. “Luckily, we have the technology and work ethic to get it all done. We were able to leverage the high speed of our digital presses to produce the job by splitting the quantity between two machines,” Brad explains.
“The previous printer stuck them with very long turnaround times and as their company was growing, they needed their jobs done faster. We did some emergency jobs and won them over and as time progressed we did more and now, we take care of all of their marketing needs,” according to Sam. She adds, “They are very nice people, great to work with and appreciate that we are known for meeting tough deadlines. It is also known we make sure we are not sacrificing quality for timeliness. We are organized and know what needs to be accomplished each day to meet the “in-hands date” and occasionally stay late to keep on track. It’s all about not panicking and keeping a cool head.”
Advanced Flexible Composites, Marge Johnson, knew and worked with Jeannie and Dale Wagner and is delighted to continue working with Brad and Sam for reasons that sing personal and professional praises. “Our company has been here for 30 years and was voted one of the best places to work in the area. We intend to continue working with Minuteman Press in Crystal Lake as we like to keep our business in the same community, especially since they do such a great job for us. They do all of our printed instruction sheets, special pamphlets and some catalogs. We never have to worry about having what we need on time as they will get it done overnight or sometimes, within hours. Also, they are a nice family owned business and we are family-owned as well, so we appreciate how they operate and are excited for them.”
As the dynamic sibling entrepreneurs take the foundation their parents gave to them and add fresh excitement about print technology to the unblemished Wagner reputation, Minuteman Press in Crystal Lake is flourishing. And a simple but great truth is offered by Brad when he adds, “I love working with my family.”