July 14, 2022

Episode #43: John Zarse – Specialized Printed Products

Specialized Printed Products is located in Fort Wayne, Indiana and has been proudly been serving it’s community and surrounding area since 1983. SPP is truly that one stop shop for all of your printing and marketing needs. They specialize in digital paper printing, wide format printing, variable data direct mail, and corporate apparel. In 2018, SPP had the opportunity to expand and acquired Broadway Press in Anderson, IN. Between the two locations they have a total of 17 valued team members and boast over 150 years of combined printing experience. They offer competitive pricing, fast turnaround, high quality products, and the best customer service in the industry.

John Zarse is the President and Owner of Specialized Printed Products and is a Purdue graduate from 2007. He grew up working at Broadway Press and has a lifetime of experience in the world of digital paper printing. Feel free to reach out to him at john@sppdirect.com for more information on how he can help your company.

SPP just had the opportunity to acquire a new building in Fort Wayne. If you’d like to learn more about what they do and see the facility, please check out this virtual tour. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DPFZ3…


hello this is coach Tim Campsall and I’m your host for the self-made is a myth make a difference together show where we’re talking with successful business owners to learn of their story of the journey to building their business and because we know that achieving success in business is not something we can do on our own we recognize the folks who have been there along our journey and helped us to excel today I’m excited to have a fellow business owner from Indiana with us my guest uh had only been to Fort Wayne twice prior to moving there and both times that he went there it was for an REO Speedwagon and Styx concerts he enjoys taking his kids swimming uh grilling steak and watching Purdue Sports and he’s most proud of how his company navigated kovit and actually grew through it it’s my pleasure to welcome John to the show today hello John hi Tim how you doing I am fantastic hey well let’s start with having you introduce yourself and tell us a little bit of your personal story where you were born where you are now tell us about your family and some of your hobbies sure thing so my name is John zarcy I am originally from Alexandria Indiana which is um close to Anderson a little North of Indianapolis so I grew up there with a great family I graduated from high school in 2003 and went on to Purdue University so um did well there graduated in four years quickly found out I was not going to be an engineer or a management student there so I went into organizational leadership and supervision and I then graduated and I stayed there on campus actually for a few years ran a screen printing company and then actually met my wife she came in and was a client so she came in and ordered shirts and sweatpants and all this stuff for her organization and she just kind of kept hanging out after that so um she took a job back in her hometown of Fort Wayne and I had been there on campus for four years after I graduated so eight years total and I decided to follow her back to Fort Wayne and and took a job so we’ve been married now for eight years and have three great kids Elizabeth Thomas and Olivia so they’re all under six years old um so it’s a little crazy at home and uh and then I’ve been an entrepreneur now since 2013 area so um I own specialized Printed Products here in Fort Wayne and we’ve got a great facility here and 15 team members and we specialize in digital paper Printing so we do a lot of direct mail variable data printing wide format printing such as like indoor signage

corrugate yard signs vinyl banners um and then let’s see we also own Broadway press in Anderson Indiana so we have two locations now and a couple great team members down there so um yeah a lot has changed in the last seven eight nine ten years of my life and uh I’m proud to share a little bit of that today yeah sounds very exciting so what do you like to do for fun I I try to be a jack of all trades um so I love to water ski I love to snow ski I play guitar I love to golf but for the most part my life revolves around my three kids right now where it’s just a lot of what we do is fun for them so um they’re into anything and everything so um coaching t-ball right now for my four-year-old son which is just 13 four year olds if you can imagine uh trying to organize them but it’s my life revolves around them having fun at this point fantastic so John tell us is there a funny story that your family likes to share about you that you’d be willing to share with us well so as I mentioned my kids are all really little so uh they’re humorous it’s interesting so their favorite things are when I do like I’m a little dramatic sometimes so like we’ll be playing baseball in the backyard or something and I’ll say like they they always tell this story so I’ll get up and I’ll step up and I’ll be like I’m gonna hit this one over the neighbor’s house and then I’ll swing as hard as I can but like whiff the ball or barely nip it and I mean they just all go berserk and I mean they’re they all just point and laugh so we’ll be going you know we’ll go anywhere uh grandparents house or church or something like that and they’ll like all just hear my four-year-old or you know one of my kids telling just random people like Dad Dad tried to hit the ball and he just missed it he thought it was going to go over the neighbor’s house so um that’s that’s kind of like the stories that we tell right now so I don’t know if it’s really that funny but it’s just kind of funny that they think it’s funny yes yes that’s cute so John tell us how the business came about and at what point did you have the confidence that you could run your own business so that probably happened in a few steps um I’ll give you a little bit of background so I said I own a company in Anderson Indiana called Broadway press so that was actually my father’s company that I ended up buying off of him in 2018. so I grew up working for him in that business so Middle School uh Summers you know I was in there working uh same with high school and then when I’d come back from college so like I always had kind of a I I got to see I got to learn from him you know I had first-hand experience of what it takes to run a small business so uh that was one step that was really important and then as I mentioned after I got out of Purdue I had just a great opportunity to open a screen printing store for another company and they were just they were young technology driven and uh what they were doing is they had a big production plant up in Ann Arbor and then they had screen printing satellite stores all throughout the Midwest and so I got to open one of those from scratch and kind of like you know do everything like build out the store sit there and just facilitate sales and just learn all about being an entrepreneur and I got the ability to do that with uh somebody else’s money yes which has like a no risk situation so it worked out really well um so then you know I gotta obviously I said I met my wife and and followed her back to Fort Wayne and at that time I kind of just took the first job that I could get moved to Fort Wayne it was with a paper Printing Company and I thought it was going to kind of be like the screen printing company that I worked for prior to that but it was just a very different Beast where they weren’t technology driven it wasn’t sales driven and things were just very slow um and so I was there for just a little maybe like six months before I’m the type of guy where I’m like all in on everything that I do yeah and I was there for about six months and it took about that long before I wasn’t all in and I think even though I brought in some good Accounts at the time uh I think my bosses also saw that I wasn’t all in and inevitably how a lot of entrepreneurs get their start I was relieved of my position as a Salesman and you know I I took that as just an opportunity and I said you know what I’m 26 years old at the time and I said I’ve got very few responsibilities and I’m gonna go for this and I’m gonna try to make it happen and so that at that point I was just kind of forced into entrepreneurship I knew that I didn’t want to really I wanted to be the one that made the decisions and so I I started my first company which um it’s called easy print Indiana and I started brokering print my dad did the printing and I basically took the model from the screen printing company yeah that I was at prior and I was a satellite office my dad was a production facility and we I grew a business in Fort Wayne to the point that it validated purchasing another company which is now specialized Printed Products so it’s a little bit of a roundabout way how I got there but it’s uh it’s just a fun story that I like to share yeah fantastic I appreciate you sharing what a what a a fun turn of events to to get to to where you are today yeah absolutely and I mean we just been uh very blessed we we just moved into a new facility and a really nice big building and um I’m just really excited about the direction everything’s going good for you so um John Share us a story where someone pushed you or inspired you that you could do it maybe even when you didn’t think you could and the impact of that person had on you so I’ve got a friend who I actually met him through our church and his name his name’s Mike he owns a couple different businesses in Fort Wayne and he’s just invested in a lot of different things but when I I kind of brought him this idea of trying to go purchase another company and um he he had my back and he completely was just like man you got to get out there and swing the bat in order to be successful you got to be aggressive sometimes and I’m the type of person that I I believe that you can get into the Baseball Hall of Fame by hitting singles all day long and I you know there’s nothing wrong with just racking up a lot of small consistent wins and the you know positive steps in the right direction um Mike likes to swing for the fence occasionally and he is a guy that really got me out of my shell a little bit and gave me the confidence to be able to do what we’ve done what we’ve done here today so without Mike’s push uh sometimes pull or shove however you want to put it I I wouldn’t be in the position that I’m in today that’s awesome what’s Mike’s last name so Mike Zuber fantastic cool so John what about um your biggest learning as a business owner what would you say that is so the biggest learning is probably that my role is just always changing so um and in 2017 when I first bought specialized Printed Products like my my goal was just to make it survive right and so now we’re what five years into this and my role has just consistently changed so like at the very beginning I was that person working 65 70 hours a week just pulling everything together make sure we don’t drop the ball on anything and uh running different machines running different departments and um like I’ve learned a lot over the years that I I need to delegate more and that’s pretty much what the the biggest thing that I’m trying to mention so um I learned where the bottlenecks are and then I alleviate those bottlenecks by either adding team members to that position or Machinery that uh is more efficient so I do it in a lot of different ways and I mean that’s that’s the entrepreneur’s role right is you figure out where you’re most needed and you go to that spot so that’s been my learning is that I need to be a chameleon I need to fit in if I need to do sales one day I have to do it you know if I need to be HR one day that’s what it is if I am needed in production that’s where the bottleneck is that’s where I need to go and I need to be able to do it all and continue to have a grasp on all the different aspects of the business I I like your uh your mention of delegating I find you know a lot of business owners you know do the hustle and grind like you were talking about in the beginning right working those long hours and the business you know starts to take off right becomes successful but oftentimes what will happen is after that growth spurt they’ll level out and oftentimes the business owner doesn’t know why and it’s it’s simply that the business can only grow to their capacity and if the business owner doesn’t delegate right and and offload stuff then the business can’t scale beyond the business owner’s capacity so thank you for sharing that because that’s a huge Insight that all business owners can benefit from realizing that they’ve got to let go of some stuff yeah and I mean like my biggest thing was alleviating burnout which I know is a really popular term but I’m one of those guys that when I first started in 2017 just the emotion and energy and excitement for the business was enough to keep me working really long weeks but once once you get past that point where we’re like all right this business is going to survive things are going well um it’s harder to work 70 hours a week and that’s when burnout really sets in so um you have to grow you have to become smarter and you have to so my title of this company has always been president but I feel like I’ve only been acting like a president maybe for the last year and a half to two years and that’s that’s how I’m growing yeah awesome I love it we talk about burnout a lot and you you tell the story better than I do is right when we’re we’re in the first you know call it one to three years it’s easy to work 60 70 80 hours a week because of that adrenaline right we’re excited about what we’re building but it’s certainly not sustainable and you know we all know the stats that 80 of businesses go out of business and the number one reason for that is burnout because the the owner just simply can’t maintain that that was long work hours so congratulations on having that realization and putting the changes in place that are needed that’s awesome yeah thank you so John we know that business success doesn’t happen and I isolation so tell us about one of your biggest challenges as a business owner and maybe another fellow business owner who you know came alongside you and helped you get through that challenge so the biggest challenge that we’ve probably faced has was um we didn’t really see it coming which maybe I should have but has to do with covid so covet has just put so many bottlenecks in our supply chain mainly paper I mean we do a lot of digital paper Printing and our machines go through hundreds of thousands of sheets a month and so you think like I grew up in this industry prior to covid I could order as much paper as I wanted and it would show up the next day like it was it would blow my mind if I wouldn’t be able to get stuff you know yeah and now it’s just a completely different Beast where we have to spend hours searching for certain Paper Stock for clients that need things to be specific to their brand and it’s turned into for my general manager Carrie here and I like I help her a lot with this it’s turned into like almost a full-time job trying to track down our are what we need in order to print jobs so that’s been probably the toughest thing because it was something that we we didn’t see and it just happened prop about a year a little over a year ago it was just this bottleneck just came and there wasn’t any paper to buy yeah and what’s a printing company if it doesn’t have any paper you know right so that that was probably the biggest challenge that we faced and uh We’ve we’ve worked through it and figured out how to deal with it matter of fact when we moved into our new facility we bought much larger pallet racking storage system things like that so we can keep a larger inventory so when we do have the opportunity to get paper we can buy more of it so we can do a little bit of forecasting so we don’t know when that bottleneck is going to alleviate hopefully soon yeah but it’s it’s our biggest challenge and then a constant Challenge and then it in addition to that we also um you know there’s things that we don’t have the capability to produce here but you know we Source out to other uh other vendors and during covet a lot of those vendors just quit answering the phone went out of business just you know people that we had relied on for years and that’s really difficult when somebody’s been ordering something for us from us for you know in this case specialized printer products has been around since 84. it’s been ordering the same thing from us and then all of a sudden we can’t get it and that makes uh that makes things a little bit harder so those are a few things that we’ve really had to figure out how to be a little bit more proactive on and um we’ve that’s how I’ve grown as a business owners I’ve I’ve done some forecasting so yeah um what was the second part of the question um was there somebody that a fellow business owner you know somebody outside of the company that helped you with some of that stuff yeah absolutely so I mean I’ve got a good buddy Christopher who um he’s not in the paper business but he’s he’s actually he’s a lifelong friend but he’s like walked with me through every phase and my favorite Christopher is brilliant but he’s also a great arguer so he would you know he will argue with me about every single last aspect of my business and make me prove to him why I’m taking this path or going this route so um a lot of my big decisions I always run by him he’s just kind of like a great I would say like almost like a board of directors for me where it’s just like hey I’ve got this idea I’ll throw it to him he’ll chop it up tell me why it’s a bad idea you know I’ll respond and say hey this is why it’s a good idea and then he’ll finally agree with me and then he’ll play Devil’s Advocate and and make me prove to him why why it is or isn’t so it’s good to have people like that in your corner oh for sure what’s his last name Christopher Mormon so he’s down down in Indianapolis and uh Consulting and doing various things yeah that’s it’s that’s fantastic because it it can be very lonely at the top right and you know when we’re an employee we always have somebody above us that we can go to to do exactly what you just explained right to bounce ideas off of get some feedback get some critical input and we’ll become a business owner we generally lose that person that we can go to and so it’s great to hear that you’ve got a friend that you can have those types of conversations with and they’re not going to hold hold back the punches right they give you the the truth of what you need to hear maybe not what you want to hear yep and I’m sure he’ll watch this uh at some point and I will say he definitely does not hold back any punches when it when it comes to um helping me out so Christopher I appreciate you fantastic so John if if I asked you to pick three people in your business owner Journey that you’re most grateful for being there for your business’s growth who are those three people and how they help you so I mean the first one’s easy first and foremost my dad he’d been in the printing industry for over 30 years he had successfully done what I’m trying to do you know way before and I got to watch him and learn from him but the most I mean the best thing is just when you know when there’s a lot of different jobs that flow through here that have a lot of different variabilities and sometimes you don’t know exactly what process to put first and so I’ll call my dad and he’ll be like oh no you don’t want to do it that way that have you thought about doing like this it’ll be much more efficient if you try it like this you’ll save paper to save costs and he’s saved me from stubbing my toe a thousand times so I’ll just call him and he’ll have advice for me and it’s kind of like you know that ultimate cheat code or they get out of jail is always in my back pocket so uh he has saved me a lot of a lot of time and a lot of money so it’s always good to good to have my dad and my corner and what’s dad’s name my dad his name’s dick Cersei Council okay and do you have a couple other people that come to mind so um let’s see a couple other business owners I mean I already mentioned Mike Zuber but he’s obviously a really big influence and I could I could talk a little bit more about that but um Mike’s always pushing me to take it to the next level to never be like all right we’ve we’ve reached some success and things get a little bit comfortable now it’s time to make it so it’s uncomfortable again and and and reach the next Plateau so I appreciate Mike for that and then I think the last one would be uh there’s a guy that I actually bought specialized Printed Products from his names uh he’s actually just became a doctor so as Dr Mark Hagar and he he’s got an interesting profession where he he buys businesses that are kind of struggling and then improves them and and sells them so he had owned specialized printer products for it I think over a decade or so maybe two sorry Mark if I don’t know that the history of my own company

but he has been a huge influence and every time I try to learn something from every person that I ever talk to and Mark has just a lot of really valuable information that he can give to me and and one thing I remember that he taught me early on is he said sales covers and that’s a thing that has always just like implanted right in my brain where it’s like sometimes we don’t have to be the most efficient sometimes you know we can mess up a job and then reprint it before it gets the client but if sales are continually coming in you can afford to be a little messy sometimes and because you know because at the end of the day you got to make profit and you got to pay your bills and you got to pay all your team members so we try to run it as tight of a ship as possible but mistakes are going to happen sure and it’s good to um it’s good to have a big funnel of sales uh coming in so that’s been one of my goals is just to always I’m a sales guy at heart and I think sales is kind of the gasoline that goes in the car and um I’ve I’ve kind of learned from Mark that you want to keep the gas tank full yeah I love that perspective because there’s only so many cost savings initiatives that you can do you can only make it uh make the business so efficient before there’s a diminishing return and it starts to impact you know customer service so if we keep filling the top of the funnel with more sales then right we’ve got more Breathing Room on those profit margins so John as you think about the next three to five years what are the biggest challenges you see in achieving your goals and who are the types of people that you’re going to need in your corner to help you overcome those challenges so I think some of the challenges would be I mean consolidation of paper companies is a huge one so a lot of our suppliers are getting bought up by larger companies so we actually just had so we have three or four main paper suppliers right now the smallest one was just actually bought out by somebody else and that that makes me a little nervous because it’s always good to have a lot of different directions to go when you we need to need to buy paper so that makes me a little nervous that I’m not saying private Equity is a bad thing but a lot of those companies are coming in and buying up either the competition or our suppliers and things change after that happens so sometimes for the better and and sometimes for the worse so um like with this paper company we’re hopeful that things will just improve and get better but you never know so um that’s one challenge that I see us facing and then the other is just to continue to grow on the technology side of things so I mentioned earlier you know in my introduction that we do a lot of variable data Printing and a lot of people aren’t familiar with that but basically what that is is clients provide us with like a mailing template and then some raw data like a Excel or a CSV file that has the client’s name and address and we just got into it about two and a half years ago three years ago where we have the capabilities to print unique pieces off every sheet of the press So like um you know if if a bank comes to us and they say hey we’ve got information on Tim and John and Tim likes boats and John likes guitars and they want to sell each of us alone like they will your your postcard will say hey Tim check out this boat where mine will say hey John and they’ll have a picture of a guitar so all of it’s done off of the same press the same run but it’s just the technology side of it where we’re you know I’m not exactly sure how my pre-press team does it but we can swap out PDFs we can change colors of backgrounds we can make your name big and beautiful so it’s not like like a traditional mail merge which you would see in a letter in the past where people are trying to get money and mine just says John at the top and yours says Tim you know so the technology side of things we just have to continue to grow because that kind of sets that gives us a huge competitive Advantage so we’re always trying to gain in knowledge and information because it’s been said a million times but knowledge is power and and knowing how to do that just gives us a huge advantage over our competition and that personalization is incredibly impactful right from the end user standpoint of reading something that is tailored to them right and versus something that’s more generic that’s that’s awesome yeah like when I get stuff in the mailbox at home first of all I always go through all of my mail probably way more in depth right but like I’ll pull stuff out and I’ll be like I’ll go to my wife and I’ll be like babe you gotta look at this this isn’t the absolute best variable data marketing that I’ve ever seen and I’ll bring it in and I’ll show it to my team how do we figure out how to do this like you know because there’s companies out there that are just phenomenal at it we’re and we’re getting to that point that we can about figure out anything but it’s just good to see examples of what our competition is doing but also like recognize it and come in show it to people and be excited about it yeah awesome so John um Jim Rohn one of my favorite authors says we become the average of the five people that we spend the most time with so when you think about that from a business standpoint what are your thoughts so from a business standpoint like we have like I spend a lot of time with the people under the roof that I’m currently at and I’m I’m really excited about that we’ve got a great culture here right now and so that’s makes me really excited because you know you are the average of the five people that you spend time with but I’ve got a really happy go lucky like just Jolly group of people in here so it’s exciting um I I try to push us in One Direction and but the morale is just is great so that makes me really happy to hear and then um just some of the influences that I’ve already mentioned about in my life um are some of the main people I I spend a lot of time with and so I’ve got a lot of people kind of pushing me to the next level and and I try to be one of those people that also lifts people up to the next level fantastic so uh last question here if there was something catastrophic that happened in the business who’s the first person you’d call and what would you want from them

um I mean I would call my wife so uh I always I always ask her all the time I say babe you still gonna love me if uh you know when I’m getting ready you know like I said we were blessed to be able to buy a building here yeah and you know there were a lot of times where that type of investment makes you really nervous right yeah and so I approached her a couple times and just said hey I think I’m making the right move and a lot of people tell me I’m making the right move but you’re still gonna love me if it’s not there right so um my wife Molly is uh you know out of all these influences she’s the most important by far and to have just a spouse in my corner who’s always there for me and and um not worried about whether I succeed or fail and love me no matter what like that’s that’s the most important thing so she would be my first call no matter what that’s awesome I I agree with you wholeheartedly of knowing we’ve got our spouse in our corner is is huge I had a similar you know situation when I was buying this franchise is I I you know went back and forth should I do it shouldn’t I should right and and uh my wife’s like yes you of course you should right you’ve wanted to own your own business forever and I’m like yeah but how about and what ifs and and I didn’t think that she understood my what ifs and so I said what if we can’t afford the mortgage and we lose the house and she’s like I make enough to get us an apartment if that happens who cares right at least you’ll know that you you gave it your best shot I was like Wow right and I’ve I’ve pulled out that line with my wife as well and uh it’s it’s so important to have somebody at home who supports you because it’s you know you know it I know it but it’s it’s a different life being an entrepreneur sometimes you know I work until midnight or one in the morning and then you know it’s Saturday morning and I I just have to still be up at eight with the kids and I’m tired and you know I need a little extra attention I said I was dramatic and I am dramatic so you know like it’s it’s great to have her in my corner who’s just always there for me that’s awesome so John you’ve mentioned a number of people it seems like you’ve been blessed with some incredible folks in your in your business owner Journey who have helped you along the way if they were all here on the show today what would you want to say to them I just wanna I mean I I want to give them my heartfelt thanks so uh I’ve told all those people for the most part that I do love and appreciate uh just all their guidance along the way and um they’ve been an impact on helping me get to where I am and I just want them to know I appreciate it I’m always there for them as well if they need it fantastic well John it’s been a absolute pleasure speaking with you today thanks again for being on the show Absolutely happy to do it wonderful to those who tuned in thanks for listening to the self-mages of this show with your host coach Tim cancel be sure to help us spread this Movement by liking the show and posting about it on social media and to join our movement go to bmadtogether.com all right folks that’s a wrap make sure to pay it forward and I’ll see you all next time take care thanks Tim