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Monday, Nov 11, 2019
US Air Force Veteran Kendall Lemley Talks Transitioning to Entrepreneurship as Minuteman Press Franchise Owner in Cincinnati
It was not just his sixteen years in a high-demand corporate career but also 20 years in the US Air Force in which Kendall Lemley became an expert problem-solver and friend to people under pressure. “I started my career as an active duty US Air Force officer, specializing in IT, Communications, and Cyber Security. After almost a decade, I transitioned to the Reserves, where I served another 12 years as an Admissions Liaison Officer for the US Air Force Academy. In my civilian career, I worked as an IT Program Manager for the General Electric Corporation for over 15 years.” It was as 2017 approached that Kendall decided that he was weary of being a relatively small cog in a massive organization. He was ready for a fresh start.
He made a bold move and left GE with a severance package that gave him a little time to figure it all out. After three months, he prepared a resume, but was having a hard time getting excited about the job descriptions he found on LinkedIn, Monster and Indeed. “I found plenty of jobs I was qualified for, but nothing I was at all enthusiastic about. I needed something to get me excited about my career again, and the autonomy of small business ownership was appealing,” he says. He spent nearly a year researching various options, ranging from independent family-owned businesses, to partnerships, start-ups and franchises spanning a wide range of industries. “I was beginning to think that a business that fit my needs didn’t exist until I found Minuteman Press.”
At first, he’ll admit he didn’t know exactly how a franchise worked, but in the spirit of starting fresh, he was about to learn. He had enough financial cushion to take as much as two years to do his research before buying any business, but he didn’t need that long. He was immediately intrigued by Minuteman Press International, but proceeded cautiously into a multi-month-long due diligence process.
Slowly but surely, the issues and red flags that emerged with every other business he considered buying, did not seem to be a factor with Minuteman Press. “I knew I needed to switch gears and look at small business ownership and I picked up a lot of advice along a 6 to 9-month path. But the more I examined Minuteman Press and met Gary Nowak, my Regional Vice President, the more excited I got about it.”
Kendall ultimately determined that he did not want to purchase a new business with no existing customers, so he made his move instead into the printing industry with a store that was already firmly established. He bought a Minuteman Press franchise that has been in operation for around 35 years with two previous owners. He was fortunate to inherit a very experienced and loyal staff with an old-school work ethic, and an eye for customer service and quality. He says, “Now that I have owned the business for 18 months, I realize how critical it is to have a great staff. Bonnie is our main customer service contact and has been with us for nearly 20 years. She is fantastic at making our customers know they are in good hands, and at setting and then exceeding expectations. Dave handles graphic design and print production, and has been with the company for over 23 years. His attention to detail is outstanding, and nothing leaves the store unless it meets his high-quality standards.”
With no experience in the print industry, Kendall leaned on the world-class training provided by his franchisor, but he also brought his consumer-centric mindset to the business. “I put myself in my customer’s shoes and try to anticipate how they might react to our interactions with them, and to our products and services. Because it is known that people want to do business with people they like, we aspire to be friendly and likeable, while delivering high-quality printed materials lightning fast. That goes a long way toward building customer loyalty.”
Setting expectations is key as far as customer service is concerned, and it all starts with honesty and transparency. Kendall also believes it’s important to take every opportunity to go the extra mile for his customers. “We make sure to communicate what we can and cannot accomplish within the time constraints we’re given. Then we get creative. Sometimes it’s delivering a partial order early, then following up with the rest a day or two later. Sometimes it’s driving to a supplier to get same day delivery of materials that it might otherwise take a day or two to receive. Sometimes it’s figuring out an alternative approach that will shave some time off the project. In any case, we are usually able to find a solution that will exceed our customers’ expectations.”
What sets Minuteman Press apart from the online print industry and big box printing stores is that you feel at home within the walls of the center and on the other end of whatever line of communication you need to use. Kendall expands on this, “If we are not personalized with our customer service, we will become irrelevant. So we work very hard to know our customers and work together with them to give them high quality printed materials that allow them to achieve the results they are looking for.”
“I enjoy engaging with customers, because in my previous career I’d be involved in multi-year projects and not get to see the end result. Here, I always see the end result and can help on short notice. People are delighted and it’s such a departure from my past career to interact with clients who see the value in what we do every day.” – Kendall Lemley
Patterson Dental Cincinnati has “no doubt” they made the right move partnering with Minuteman Press
“We recently received a referral that resulted in a particularly interesting project for a wonderful new client, Patterson Dental Cincinnati. They needed a plaque design created for their “Customer Appreciation Event” that would honor the “Top 30” customers within their practice. They also needed a generic plaque ahead of time for photo opportunities,” Kendall says.
Danielle Eitel speaks on behalf of Patterson Dental with appreciation for Kendall and his staff. “I had no idea where to start and had nothing planned as all I knew is that we wanted to display our 6 sponsors’ logos on the plaques, along with our own logo and some form of Thank You to our customers. Kendall & Minuteman Press took the little information I gave them and ran with it. Not only did they provide me with multiple options for plaque sizes, colors, and pricing, but when it came to actually picking a plaque and putting the design on it I had 5 different design options to choose from. Kendall came to the office and displayed them for me as we discussed what we liked and didn’t like about each one. Within minutes we were able to pick the winner, and the rest of the process was so easy.
She adds, “I was so impressed with his staff as they created something with such little guidance and the best part of all is when one of our sponsor’s logos were not printing exactly like Kendall wanted. He provided a solution that made the logo look so much better on the plaque . . . this was very important, as these sponsors were paying big money to be a part of this event. It is like he knew that it wasn’t going to be top-notch and didn’t even want to try and go with it. I think at that moment I knew I made the right decision going with Minuteman Press. I think the biggest compliment of all came from the President of our company who was extremely pleased with how the entire project turned out.
And Danielle joins thousands of representatives from businesses everywhere, when she adds, “There is no doubt in my mind that I will never look for a different company to use besides Minuteman Press; they are, overall, a great customer service experience and the process itself was incredibly smooth.
Today, Kendall realizes that he never really thought of himself as an entrepreneur until he found out that it’s not necessary to start from scratch if you have the right ally. “My perception of an entrepreneur was someone with a million-dollar idea who set off to build a company from scratch around that idea. I now realize that description fits only a small percentage of successful business owners. It wasn’t until I found a successful franchise model that offered the right balance of autonomy and support, and realized that business savvy, discipline and hard work were more important than million-dollar ideas, that I determined business ownership was the right fit for me.”
He looks to the future with his children in mind when he adds, “My kids are teens now, but if some day, one or both of them shows an interest in joining me to run my Minuteman Press center, it’s something I would consider. We have time though, and right now I am just focusing on our growth and enjoying how liberating the experience of business ownership can be.”
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