Firm Moves Way Out Of Old Niche

January 7, 2005
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GRAND RAPIDS — Just days into 2005, CompleteSource is projecting a banner year.

That’s because of a three-year contract that went into effect last week between giant health-care purchasing group Novation and the International Business Solutions Alliance LLC (IBSA).

A consortium of 58 suppliers and 115 independent printing distributors, IBSA was created to allow distributors to compete with major direct-selling manufacturers for large medical buying group contracts, Fortune 500 accounts and government business.

IBSA achieved a major victory last month over national printing companies when it signed as a supplier to Novation, the nation’s largest group purchasing organization. Novation’s clients account for $1 billion of the health-care industry’s $2.8 billion in print usage.

And as West Michigan’s IBSA affiliate, CompleteSource expects a massive windfall. It will supply 13 product categories to local Novation clients, including Spectrum Health and members of the Spectrum Health Regional Hospital Network.

“This has never been done in the printing or promotional business,” said CompleteSource President Paul Schweitzer. “Before this, there was no way to go after national contracts because there was no way to service them.”

The Spectrum network includes most of West Michigan’s medical community: HollandCommunityHospital, MaryFreeBedHospital & RehabilitationCenter, MetropolitanHospital and ZeelandCommunityHospital, to name a few.

Prior to the IBSA agreement, local printers like CompleteSource were unable to do business with many health-care institutions. Hospitals allied themselves with purchasing groups like Novation to gain cost breaks through mass purchases.

IBSA formed under some of those same tenets, providing its affiliates strength in numbers but allows members to maintain their identity and local management.

An early affiliate of the group, CompleteSource will be able to serve local hospitals in all 13 categories, including printing, business forms, marketing, mailing, printing services, filing, filing supplies and promotional products.

That ability to fill such a wide array of needs has the 15-year old firm seeing growth on a number of fronts.

“Our business is filled with tons of competitors,” Schweitzer said. “But our business model gets a lot of attention because people are looking for complete solutions.”

Founded in 1989 as Professional Business Supply, which primarily focused on specialty and promotional printing and products, the firm began concentrating five years ago on expanding its offerings. At that time, it adopted a moniker to better fit the company mission.

Since then, CompleteSource has thrived while much of the industry has struggled. Schweitzer said revenues have grown 20 percent to 30 percent each year, while the company has expanded its reach across 23 states and three countries. It also has landed high-profile national accounts with General Electric, Boeing and NBC Universal.

“We’ve been doing very well in a time when our industry has really been struggling,” Schweitzer said. “Part of the reason for that is we’re not tied to any one market.” He said the firm distributes a broad spectrum of products, allowing customers to get a wide array of print and promotional products from a single vendor.

Schweitzer said many printers focus their business on a narrow area of the market. They will do printing but not promotional, apparel but not labels, or awards and incentives but not envelopes.

CompleteSource covers the printing gamut, from silk screening to office supplies.

“That allows our clients to narrow their vendors down dramatically and increase their buying power with us,” Schweitzer said. “We can provide anything they need at any given moment. It’s never ‘Who do we call for this?’ but ‘Just call CompleteSource.’”

Through that, Schweitzer said that the company is better equipped to respond to clients’ changing needs.

“When they want to change directions, we can help them change directions,” he said. “They don’t need to change vendors if they’re moving from dot matrix to laser printing or thermal printing. In the industry, that has often been the case.

“A commercial printer is good at commercial printing, but what if you want business forms? Maybe they don’t do that well. Or if you want a promotional incentive to go along with your marketing campaign?

“We’ve been very successful at wrapping it all together.”

While much of CompleteSource’s gains have come in services and markets other than the promotions, the company has found rapid growth from that segment by embracing a technology-driven marketplace.

“We’re looking for 2005 to be a great year,” Schweitzer said. “We’ve spent a year and a half putting together the infrastructure to implement this. It’s really the biggest gap between us and what many of the smaller distributors are doing.”

Schweitzer said he expects record growth in the next year based on the new online store software for clients (see related story).

Hosted by either CompleteSource or the client, the store allows employees and salespeople to order promotional or business products, and it also can be a retail outlet.

According to Schweitzer, CompleteSource also has done very well within the safety and quality markets, driven by a new addition to the company, Kim VanSolkema.

“The reason for the great success of CompleteSource is all of the people who work here,” he said. “They are the company’s greatest asset by far.”

The firm plans to double the size of its facility at

4455 44th St. SE
this year.    

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