Ridgeland — When Nick Strickland Sr. opened his business 30 years ago, he knew nothing about the industry or the market he was entering. Within the first 10 years of operation, he saw his shop destroyed — twice — and his company’s franchisor went bankrupt.
But not only has Strickland’s printing company, Alliance Business Services, survived, it has prospered. And, the company is staying in the family as Nick Strickland Jr. was named president earlier this year.
“It’s a fun business, and, though like any business we’ve seen our ups and downs, we’ve done well,” Strickland Sr. said. “As I looked back, I realized we have met 780 payrolls. That’s incredible. There have been times when it’s been hard to meet some of those payrolls, and other times not. But that’s what being in small business is all about. Your people are depending on you.”
A graduate of Mississippi State University, Strickland Sr. went to work for the Illinois Central Railroad after finishing his education. A transfer to Chicago left he and his wife feeling a little homesick. Looking to return to Mississippi, Strickland Sr. found a quick-print shop franchise was available in Jackson. He had absolutely no experience in printing, and the Meridian native had no knowledge of the Capital City. Still, the Stricklands mortgaged everything they had, and within weeks of exploring the franchise opportunity were open for business in downtown Jackson.
Known originally as Big Red Q, the print shop was located on Lamar Street. While that location put the shop at the epicenter of Mississippi business and government, it also placed it in the crosshairs of Mother Nature. The Easter Flood of 1979 devastated the facility. Then four years later in 1983, a fire destroyed the shop. And the company rebounded from that disaster only to watch its franchisor go bankrupt in 1986. (Strickland Sr. subsequently changed the name to Quick Print Plus.)
Alliance Business Services is nothing if not resilient. It is still going strong today, operating from its main shop in Ridgeland on East State Street and employing 38 workers while still maintaining two locations in Jackson. The company offers a full range of products, including everything from advertising specialties and annual reports to surveys and wedding invitations. Services include binding, foil stamping, stitching, logo design and many more.
Alliance Business Services counts customers from across Mississippi, with clients ranging as far away as Tupelo and Ocean Springs. Quick Printing magazine has ranked Alliance Business Services the 85th largest company of its kind in the U.S.
Alliance Business Services’ Customer Service Center is open 24 hours a day. The company’s Web site (http://www.absms.net/) also never sleeps. Customers and prospective customers can request an estimate, place a new order, send a file, view a proof and gain access to a document library, all online. The Web site also offers frequently asked questions, a glossary of terms, software downloads and “tips and tricks.”
The Internet is responsible for a lot of the company’s growth by allowing Alliance Business Services to become a fulfillment shop. As a fulfillment shop, the company acts as a “warehouse” for clients’ office needs such as pens and pencils and letterhead. When a client needs supplies, it simply goes to the intranet and places an order, which is fulfilled by Alliance Business Services.
Strickland Jr. said the decision maker the company seeks when selling its fulfillment service is the CFO, who understands the waste and expense of multiple people ordering multiple products — which also requires multiple checks.
This service has allowed Alliance Business Services to expand its customer base into 14 states, and it is fulfillment that the company is expecting to be the big growth-generator in the future.
Technology has been a focus of Alliance Business Services since Strickland Jr. came on board approximately six years ago. (One of the first things Strickland Jr. suggested when he arrived in 2000 was to change the company’s name from Quick Print Plus to Alliance Business Services to reflect that the company offered more than just copying.) Also a graduate of Mississippi State University, Strickland Jr. has earned his new title. Over his life, he has worked every position in the company.
“I used to work here summers and holidays,” Strickland Jr. remembered with a smile. “That was back when Dad was working 12 hour days. He paid me $1 an hour, and said I was overpaid.”
Strickland Jr., who is in the process of buying out his father’s interest in the company, said technology would continue to be a major focus at Alliance Business Services.
Variable data is one concept he is particularly keen on. The technology allows a business to customize a piece. Instead of “Dear Customer,” the piece is personalized for the individual client — even specialized artwork can be added.
And, Alliance Business Services, which when it opened housed a grand total of one piece of printing equipment, is still investing in its printing technology. Strickland Jr. currently is eyeing a new press, costing a cool $1 million, and will need a new facility to house it. He said that could be coming within the next three years.
Contact MBJ staff writer Wally Northway at email@example.com.