Anyone who read the post from a couple weeks ago on the state of the economy may have been sickened by the seemingly bleak outlook, and might now be thinking, “Why should I read this guy’s blog? He’s just going to talk about bad stuff that’s out of my control. I’m depressed enough already.”
Well I’ll admit, said article was a bit of a pessimistic look. But it’s not necessarily the official outlook. This week I’m looking at evidence that the economy will in fact rebound, and that even those whose livelihood is most at risk may in fact come out of this with a new-found prosperity.
Let’s start by looking at a story that began several decades ago, a story that is still playing out today. This is the story of David Pressley, the owner of this blog and the CEO of Quantum Digital, a diverse Internet company based in Hudson, Wisc.
The tale begins in rural Wisconsin. Pressley’s mother was widowed when he was only 12, which left her with the unenviable task of raising six children on her own. They eventually moved from the small town of Rheinlander to Milwaukee’s famed East Side. Not having a lot of money, many of the kids had to get jobs and eventually join the military to support the family. This gave each child a good sense of the value of hard work.
“I’ve wanted to own my own business since I was 12,” says Pressley, who always found odd ways of making a few bucks as a child before it was his turn to enter the military.
Luckily, he narrowly missed being sent to Vietnam and retired from the army after his initial contract was up.
He married his wife Karen in 1971. They moved from Milwaukee the town of River Falls, Wisc., near the Minnesota border. They both attended college at the UW-River Falls. It was here that Pressley worked at the campus print shop for a time, until he decided to open his own shop. After consulting with one of his professors, the two of them went into business together 50/50 and opened a quick-printing shop. The quick-printing mentality was to produce printing jobs at a quality that fell short of the big clunky offset presses run by traditional printers, but made up for it in efficiency and price. Pressley’s company began posting their prices at flat rates, something their competition refused and were unable to do.
Needless to say this made the printers for the River Falls Journal, the local paper, angry — so angry that the editors refused to print advertisements for the new start-up competition. This prompted Pressley to write the Wisconsin Newspaper Association and allege that the Journal was not fulfilling its obligations to the community by refusing to print ads from local competition. The WNA agreed, and the Journal was sanctioned.
Eventually, Pressley sold the business to a printer out of Osceola, Wisc., in a deal that he now believes was arranged by publishers at the Journal to buy him out. Nonetheless, he opened another shop in Hudson, Wisc., where he bounced around a few times before buying a building on Main Street with the help of several other investors. (This building is where the Twisted Grille sits today.)
Over the next decade the company, known as Copy Cat Printing,
switched to another Hudson location (where a business by the same name sits today) and opened two more shops in Stillwater and St. Paul.
In the mid-’90s, some of the other investors began to grow concerned that the company may be losing money on its St. Paul venture. Shortly after, they began to plot against Pressley and eventually attempted a hostile takeover aimed at throwing Pressley and his wife out of the company altogether. After a complex and grueling legal battle, Pressley came out on top. While he conceded both the St. Paul and Hudson locations to the betraying investors, he held on to the Stillwater shop, which had become the central hub of the company’s new World Wide Web endeavors. Pressley recognized that the Web was the future of the company, something the other short-sighted investors did not believe.
As anyone in the printing business knows, the World Wide Web has not been good for the industry. Many businesses who flourished for decades were wiped out by a drop in demand and rising prices of resources. Yet with Pressley’s foresight and courage to leap into new territory, his company, Quantum Digital, is doing better now than ever before.
They’ve diversified their business to focus on several different industries, including web design and hosting, video production, paper sales, and digital printing. The company has survived numerous recessions and shows no sign of slowing down during the current economic slump.
Despite all odds, Pressley has persevered and, so far, continues to come out on top.
So there’s a little inspiration for the self-made businessman who feels like it could all go awash in the next couple years. Indeed, it could — everything you’ve worked for could be swallowed up by the failing economy. But if you’re smart about it and look ahead into the future — not one year but several years, maybe even a decade — and base your decisions on what changes are going to occur, you’re sure to have a leg up on the guy who’s just kicking back and enjoying the ride.
Entrepreneurial-ship is not about starting a business, making money, and watching it grow. It’s about staying on top of changes that threaten to undermine your hard work, adjusting to those changes, and waiting for the next ones to crop up. Because business never stops changing. And neither should you.