Celebrating five years in business and overcoming the COVID-19 pandemic with 20 percent year-over-year sales growth to date in 2021, Joseph Lee (pictured above, left) has grown his Minuteman Press franchise in San Bernardino, California by providing essential printing and marketing services with a personal touch.
“I always put myself in the customer’s shoes, and I am always sincere. I ask them, ‘What are you trying to accomplish?’ says Lee. “Then, I let them know how we can help them while also doing everything I can to save them time, stress, and money. I let them know how they can promote their business, and more importantly I listen and get to know them.”
Lee’s personal approach and empathy for his clients and community is especially refreshing at a time where local businesses need to work together as the local economy recovers from the pandemic. “Over the past year, whenever I reach out, our customers are very appreciative and glad we are still open and operating, and still growing,” he says. “The reason I am growing and operating is because of them. No matter how many clients I have, I try to know them by their first names and what they do for a living.
“Providing a personal touch and showing you care, then proving it time and again, means everything.”
Print is Essential
At the beginning of the pandemic, print was classified as an essential business, and with good reason.
Lee explains, “One of the first things I did was keep in contact with customers by letting them know I was operating. This included providing printing for other essential businesses like doctor’s offices, hospitals, and city organizations. I was following guidelines and told everyone I reached out to that we are open and I am here if there’s anything they needed. We printed everything from custom embroidered masks to help keep people safe to critical COVID-19 safety posters, and more.”
Reflecting on the past year, Lee continues, “During the pandemic, what I see is that paper materials and tangible items are here to stay. People might have missed the human connection this year, but print was and always will be there to keep us connected in a meaningful and powerful way.”
Local Business Recovery Trending Upwards
Today, Minuteman Press in San Bernardino is seeing more and more local businesses reopening and ordering more printing products and marketing services.
“I think there was a point in time that printing might not have seemed like it was trending. However, the more you really look at it, printing is always trending and it’s not a passing fad,” says Lee. “Today I’m selling more business cards than before, more flyers than before (we are working on an order for 5,000 flyers that just came in), and more mailers than before (we are working on an order for 3,500 postcards that will be mailed out soon, which is actually seven versions of 500 postcards each).
“Our current growth has been a case of providing a little bit of everything that has worked together. For example, we have an envelope printer and envelope stuffer, with one client doing 10,000 mailers every quarter. We’ve enhanced our in-house wide format printing capabilities for banners. We’ve upgraded in all areas of printing, finishing, and bindery. This speeds up the process for us and meets our clients’ needs quicker. Ultimately, by investing in equipment, I am solidifying my base. My business has grown and is growing today. Even during the pandemic, we remained steady, and now we are already 20 percent ahead of last year.”
Three Keys to Growth & Benefits of Franchising
As part of the Minuteman Press franchise family, Lee is able to utilize various resources to grow his business.
“The three keys for me have been following the Minuteman Press system, investing in Minuteman Press’ Internet marketing program, and simply talking to customers and generating word of mouth referrals,” he says. “Nothing is more powerful or gratifying than gaining new business from customer recommendations. We’ve proven that the high quality and personal service we provide is what leaves the most lasting impression.”
Another huge benefit of franchising with Minuteman Press is the support they provide to Lee. He explains, “The reason I am with Minuteman Press is because I share their core values of what a business is supposed to be. I receive more than just support, instead I like to say I receive ‘kind’ support. Everyone is very honest and genuinely trying to help each other.”
Lee also attended the Minuteman Press International World Expo in 2019, where franchisees, vendors, corporate and regional teams all came together to share ideas, insights, and innovations. “I attended the World Expo and came back home to San Bernardino with so much knowledge and information. Two things that stuck with me were to become an expert on direct mail and to invest in areas such as large format printing, digital production, and digital bindery. I applied these concepts, and it really helped me grow and better serve my clients.
“The corporate and regional support they provide and the relationships Minuteman Press International has built with me is huge. We all work together, from my Regional Vice President Dan Byers and the field team to the other owners I’ve had the pleasure of knowing over the past five years. What this all means is that I am in business for myself, but not by myself.”
Entrepreneurship Runs in the Family
For Joseph Lee, owning a business is a concept he learned from his family.
“I grew up in Houston and was a pre-med student,” he explains. “My father owned a gas station business but he unfortunately passed away. My mother sold the business and then started a deli shop. Owning a business was something I was familiar with as was hard work.
“While I was still in Houston, I worked my up from part-time sales to VP Sales/Marketing for a cutlery company, where I even brought the business to South Korea. After I left that company, I bought and grew two copy centers in 1996 and 2000 before coming to San Bernardino.”
Lee sold the copy centers and moved to San Bernardino in 2005 when he landed the opportunity to work as COO & VP Sales/Marketing for another company. “I have lived here for sixteen years and bought my Minuteman Press franchise in 2016,” he says. “I haven’t looked back since.
“Before I chose Minuteman Press, I looked at so many franchises: pizza parlors, nail salons, and other printing franchises. I looked at this opportunity and saw the greatest potential. I started turning the business around after two months and now it’s been five years of consistent growth.”
As for the rewards of owning his franchise, Lee says, “I don’t like people telling me what to do so the most rewarding thing is that I am the decision-maker. There are responsibilities but also the freedom to decide for yourself what you want to do.
“Also I like to be proactive rather than reactive, and I have trained my employees to be the same way. I feel like we have been successful taking that approach to go above and beyond for our clients.”
Advice for Others
When asked what advice he would give to other aspiring business owners, Lee answers, “For me, there are three keys to building a successful business: (1.) Provide the highest quality; (2.) Build rapport and develop personal relationships with clients while providing personal service; and (3.) Have competitive pricing but don’t operate on price alone. Focus on those three things and that will really help spark long-term growth.”