Falcon Flying High

May 7, 2002
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ADA—Most people might be hard-pressed to see the business connection between building homes and the growth of a commercial printer.

But for Juergen Lohrke that connection was crystal clear.

Lohrke is president and owner of Falcon Printing Inc. His father was a builder of quality homes. Before Lohrke started his printing business in 1992, he said his father impressed him with his intense desire to build only quality residences.

So when Lohrke began his one-man print shop in his single-stall garage, he knew his key to success in a highly competitive industry was to produce quality commercial materials. And nearly nine years later, Lohrke can confirm that father knew best.

American Printer, one of the trade’s most respected publications, recently cited Falcon Printing as one of the 50 fastest-growing commercial printers in the nation – a nice feat for a garage start-up.

Of course, Falcon Printing is no longer set up in Lohrke's garage. He has since sent the presses, his 17 employees, two golden retrievers and a cat named Andy to 6410 East Fulton in Ada. And business has been good at that site, as Falcon has grown by 30 percent for each of the past three years -- an incredible accomplishment in a pretty turbulent market.

“The reason it is difficult to stay in business in this market is it’s one of the top ten largest printing markets in the U.S. per capita. I think it’s number six on the list,” he said.

Lohrke said another reason for his success was that Falcon has managed to keep a solid commercial account list throughout the firm’s life. He has been able to do that by focusing on the philosophy his father followed went he built houses.

“He said you can build 100 great homes. But if you build one bad one, that is what they will remember you for. He was stuck on quality. The most important thing to him was to do the job right,” he said.

“I think that idea has allowed us to grow, more than anything else. We’ve rolled it into our mission statement. We live and breathe doing quality. And that includes service.”

Falcon Printing does materials for quite a few nonprofits and businesses, including the sport franchises. If you’ve attended a Griffins or Whitecaps game, or a Grand Prix, then you’ve seen some of the firm’s work. If you’ve taken your kids to the Children’s Museum, then they’ve seen some of the firm’s work. And many of these accounts have been with Falcon since either their inception or the company’s.

“Since 1992, we’ve had accounts like Progressive Architecture and Engineering,” said Lohrke. “We’ve been very fortunate in that most of our accounts stay with us.”

Lohrke said another reason for the growth is when Falcon makes a mistake on a printing job, it does something that is becoming rarer and rarer with each passing business day -- the firm ‘fesses-up to it and then does a make-good.' Lohrke said that policy has earned Falcon a reputation for reliability and honesty.

“I think what makes us stand apart from the other good printers is that when something does go wrong, we do everything possible to make it right by the customer,” he said. “We certainly haven’t done everything right along the way. But we’ve stepped up to the plate and made it right.”

But quality work, a solid reputation and a $1.50 will get Lohrke a cup of coffee. Needed in that mix, especially in a saturated printing market, is a niche -- a place a business can call its own. And Falcon has always had one. Since its beginning, the firm has been a small-press, cut-sheet commercial printer working in an 11X17-inch format.

“We can print on a sheet a little bit larger than that. But we have stayed within that format,” said Lohrke. “We wanted to take this concept of doing one thing, which would be cut-sheet printing, in this case, and do it well. That’s our niche.”

Falcon started out with one single-color press. Then went to two-color presses, before it reached the four-color models. But along the way, Falcon never increased its press size or swayed from being a cut-sheet printer. Today, Falcon has a pair of four-color presses and two two-color presses.

“We opted to stay in the smallest press size, and call ourselves a commercial printer so that we could focus on commercial markets and nonprofits that required higher-end, higher level of quality printing in the cut-sheet arena,” said Lohrke.

“We manage projects not only as small as you can imagine and up to our sizes of 11X17 and 12X18, the sheet sizes that our presses can handle, we also manage projects on a much larger scale,” he added. “We produce posters, pocket folders and newsletters that are 35 inches across.”

Lohrke said Falcon also has a good relationship with other vendors the firm uses as subcontractors for about 20 percent of its business.

So what does Lohrke see in the future for Falcon Printing? What else? More growth. But at a slower pace.

“I anticipate that we will stay on the same growth- and-prosperity path that we are on now. I would like to think that we’re going to,” he said. “Looking toward the future, we’re looking for nice and consistent growth; 10-to-15 percent growth per year.”

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