As I’ve written about before, we have been engaged with Aileronfor over two years. Aileron has helped us put a professional management system in place, define our mission and vision, as well as helping me to assemble a very strong board of advisers (which I would recommend to any business). Anyway, my contact at Aileron, Bill Barkalow threw out an idea of having an MBA team from University of Dayton conduct a study on Oregon. So, a little explanation on this; UD has a program called the capstone program (part of the MBA program) where they put a team of MBA student together, and as their final project prior to graduation, they do a full fledged study of a selected business.

At first glance I thought “a study”, what does that mean? But the more we thought about it, the more we thought “let us define” what study we want done. In a changing bnusiness like the printing and graphics business, there is a lot of wild speculation about what the industry is changing into. I read a lot as well as see a number of printers going the MSP (Marketing Service Provider) route. I also see print companies that are going the total automation route…figure out a way to convert everything to CMYK and automate the rest (that means not much customer service, and if it does not fit into a square hole, it’s kicked out). Then of course you have the printers out there that just refuse to believe the world is changing at all, and they are just going to keep doing what they have been doing for the last 20 years. Conclusion: yes, we’ve thought a lot about our future, and although we have a pretty good idea of where we are headed, why not have the MBA Team give us their 2 cents.

So, my challenge to them was this: If you just found yourself owning this company, where would you take it to assure success in 2015? The great thing is that if we did not like the results, we were not in any way committed to following them. So we proceeded with the Capstone project over the last 4 months, and believe it on not….I was more than pleasantly surprised.

Our team consisted of 5 students, Joe, Joe, Nathan, Mark and Celine. I won’t dig to much into the finding’s right now (I’ll save that for the next 5 months worth of blogs), but I’m thinking each team member had 125+ hours into this report. They started with a whole industry overview, and like a funnel, they narrowed it down to our local region, then to how Oregon fits into this region, and then on to new trends. They studied all of our product lines (and an industry overview on each product). After that, they made some recommendations, and even had some implementation plans for some of their recommendations. Actually, I was absolutely blown away by their thoroughness, and all the research that went into this.

So, since blogs that are to long probably never get read, I will hit upon some of the specifics of their study as well as our future plans in coming blogs. After weathering the recession of 2008-2010, I’m thinking that 2015 is looking pretty good in this business.

As a side note, everyone that was present for their presentation at Aileron a couple of weeks ago (and who had seen one of these before),  said this was the best Capstone project they had ever seen done