Simplifying direct response marketing to achieve better results
Shaun Buss is the CFO of IBS Direct, a marketing and printing company in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania. Founded over 40 years ago, IBS Direct provides its diverse clients with high-quality campaign materials aimed at driving direct responses from consumers. Several years ago, the company hired new leadership and merged with multiple marketing organizations in the Pennsylvania–New Jersey area, tripling in size and doubling in revenue.
EDWIN WARFIELD: What’s IBS Direct’s origin story, and when did you join the company?
SHAUN BUSS: George [Schnyder] originally inherited took over the business from his father, who ran a plumbing supply business and had a customer in the printing space who owed him a lot of money. And instead of paying the debt, he eventually just gave him the company, and George's father very quickly turned the business over to George, and George has been successfully running it for over 40 years. He did a great job with the business.
When I found it, it had an incredibly strong balance sheet, excellent credit, and an excellent reputation, so it was easy for me to make a couple changes and improve the profitability. George had already migrated from the forms business into the direct mail business, which was an excellent decision. He had already made one major product transfer, but he felt like he had sort of plateaued in terms of revenues, and that he would need outside talent to grow the business. I think that’s a very risky time for entrepreneurs, and finding outside talent that you can trust and that can actually deliver on that vision is very difficult. It requires a lot of trust as an owner to be willing to turn your baby over, and George has been incredibly gracious in turning his baby over to Ted Sherwin and myself, and letting us run the business. He has given us a lot of flexibility and a lot of credit. He’s really a fantastic owner.
Q. How has the company changed since you and Ted stepped in?
A. Starting about five years ago, we had maybe 40-45 full-time employees. Today, we have about 105. We have grown the company, in terms of revenue, about 300%. It’s a combination of organic and acquisition growth. It’s doing something new that you weren’t doing before.
I mentioned just before the new products we’ve added; we were a direct mail forms printer, and we started really focusing on printing envelopes for envelope converters. That added a significant amount of volume that was really just organic growth. We had to acquire new equipment, but we didn’t have to buy companies to do that. We moved into a different type of printing called heat set printing that we didn’t have, and that was an acquisition. We then, most recently, have expanded our marketing services, which is where we perform that outsourced production function for customers. That was done through a combination of organic and acquisition growth.
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