As part of my series about the “How Business Leaders Plan to Rebuild in the Post COVID Economy,” I had the pleasure of interviewing Bart Jordan. Bart is the President and founder of Dorado Graphix LLC, an authorized reseller of Canon U.S.A., Inc.
Thank you so much for your time! I know that you are a very busy person. Our readers would love to “get to know you” a little better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
I have worked in and around the printing and graphics industry most of my life — all starting in a small print shop setting lead type on a letterpress as a summer job. From there, I then started working in an envelope plant where I packed printed envelopes at the end of a jet press. After four years in the Army as an interrogator and Korean linguist, I went to work for a distributor of 3M copiers. I started as a service technician and then moved into sales mostly dealing with the “new technology” of plain paper copiers.
My next job was working as a salesman for a large southeastern distributor of printing papers. After 14 years as a commissioned salesperson, the company asked me to open a graphic supply store and a satellite envelope printing operation. Three years later, they moved me back to my hometown of Jacksonville and I was tasked to help build a new graphics division for the entire company — a territory that encompassed nine states in the southeast. We grew this division from $1.5M to over $25M in 13 years. A few years into this assignment, we began to migrate towards selling wide format technologies and, early on, forged a very successful relationship with Canon. As the graphics division grew and new management was brought in, a decision was made to re-align our focus to other print technologies and abandon the aqueous program, a decision I highly disagreed with. After leaving that company, I made a comment to Canon that if it would allow me to become a re-seller, I’d start my own company. Well, it did, and, from there, Dorado Graphix was born.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?
The most memorable and funniest mistake I remember making was when I first started my career as a service technician on copiers. I was dispatched to a business that had recently purchased a copier and it stopped working. I opened my toolbox as the office manager gave me directions on how she thought I should go about fixing it. I removed panels and parts and checked boards and traced wires. When I paused and opened my service manual, the office manager finally left in a huff explaining that she was calling my company, I’m sure to get a more experienced tech to come replace me. While she was away, I realized that I didn’t start troubleshooting the basics. The unit was completely dead. No lights, no noise. I had started my diagnosis based on her assessment and jumped right into disassembly to fix a worst case scenario. I re-assembled the copier and started over from scratch. As the manual instructed, I checked the energy on the supply side of the transformer first (where the power cord goes into the machine). Amazingly I got no reading. So I followed the power cord and found that it was attached to an extension cord that continued around a corner and into the warehouse. After moving several boxes, I found the outlet where the cord was hanging more than half way out. I pushed it in and returned to the copier. I flipped the power button and the copier came to life. When the office manager returned, and I told her what I found, thinking she’d be happy that the answer was so simple, I received an earful about how much of her time I wasted by not seeing this immediately.
What I’ve learned is to always remain persistent, and look to the simplest solutions — 99.9% of the time, it is the simple solution that works.
Is there a particular book that you read, or podcast you listened to, that really helped you in your career?
There are two books that I have read and re-read from time to time; Who Moved My Cheese by Spencer Johnson and Getting Things Done by David Allen. Who Moved My Cheese has helped me re-focus my go-to-market strategy when I felt that my direction needed to be refreshed. It drives home the message that if you’re not moving forward, you truly are moving backwards. Every time I read Getting Things Done, I find new ways to improve my personal productivity by applying the suggestions to the way I deal with the barrage of tasks and clutter that never seem to subside.
Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven business” is more successful in many areas. When you started your company what was your vision, your purpose?
When I was tasked to develop a new market for the company I worked for previously, I felt that we needed to stay focused on a manageable group of products where we could achieve an expert level of proficiency, promotion and support. As the division grew and we became more noticed as a viable resource to the industry, we were approached by a multitude of manufacturers asking us to represent their products. Many were direct competitors to the products we were already promoting.
My vision for Dorado Graphix is to stay focused on a specific group of products and be the best — the most knowledgeable resource for those products in our market space — and I’m happy to be known as the best resource for only those products we represent. I hope, as we grow, we have the wisdom to only bring on products that we can reasonably support at an expert level. In the wake of COVID-19, we’ve had to expand our market focus to offset the disruption caused to our traditional customer base, which has allowed us to broaden our product offerings while also balancing the additions against our support capabilities.
Do you have a “number one principle” that guides you through the ups and downs of running a business?
Be positive, even when the light at the end of the tunnel is unseen. I’ve found that there’s always an answer, a way to get assistance, and a way to think through things differently when a seemingly overwhelming challenge presents itself. And most of all, don’t stop believing in your dream. Determination to succeed is 95% of winning any battle.
Thank you for all that. The Covid-19 pandemic has affected nearly every aspect of our lives today. For the benefit of empowering our readers, can you share a few of the personal and family related challenges you faced during this crisis? Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?
Today the challenge is trying to keep our spirits up and positive. Between the gloomy headlines and the new normal of social distancing, it’s easy to become pessimistic about the future. My mother, who is 88 and had to make necessary adjustments to enable her safety, now stays with us and we often console each other when the events of the day become overwhelming.
The best thing I can tell people is to surround yourself with those you love — strength truly comes in numbers, and with that, we’ll be able to do our best to think positively and overcome challenges. It was even my 88-year old mother who helped to support Dorado Graphix as we shifted our business by utilizing our machines to create signage designed to support local Jacksonville small businesses as they reopened.
Can you share a few of the biggest work related challenges you are facing during this pandemic? Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?
It seems that March, Friday the 13th, was the day the world stopped. We had just come off our best month ever in February, and the first two weeks of March promised to be even better — until that Friday.
As it applied to my staff, in the beginning of this pandemic, everyone had the option to work remotely until we knew more about how to remain safe. My wife and I manned the shop and pulled orders. I took the “down time” to address our website and take a new look at the business plan. Trade shows were a major source for customer prospecting and all were cancelled until further notice. So we made the decision to bring in new product lines and broaden our market footprint — again evaluating whether we could adequately support them. I had my team work on updating the website platform so that we could digitally market old and new products as much as possible in the short term and be ready to hit the streets when life returns to “normal”.
We also looked at our local community, and creatively came up with some ideas in order to support Jacksonville small businesses who were facing economic difficulties during these times. As small businesses began to reopen in Jacksonville, Florida, we began utilizing our imagePROGRAF PRO-4000S, imagePROGRAF PRO-2100 and imagePROGRAF TX-3000 printers to provide local small businesses with large format peel and stick banners to display on store windows and doors to attract customers. The banners read, “We’re Open; Here to Support You; #JaxStrong,” to let customers know those who hang the signage on their storefronts are open for business and prepared to support customer needs. As a small business owner myself, we wanted to produce something to help our local businesses attract customers into their storefronts as they begin to reopen, and Canon’s imagePROGRAF solutions have helped bring that vision to life.
Many people have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the coronavirus pandemic have understandably heightened a sense of uncertainty, fear, and loneliness. What are a few ideas that you have used to offer support to your family and loved ones who were feeling anxious?
The daily news is unnerving to say the least. As a business owner, my advice is to always stay hopeful. With hope comes solace.
Obviously we can’t know for certain what the post-COVID economy will look like. But we can of course try our best to be prepared. We can reasonably assume that the post-COVIDeconomy will be a trying time for many people across the globe. Yet at the same time the post-COVID growth can be a time of opportunity. Can you share a few of the opportunities that you anticipate in the post-COVID economy?
In March, one of the first things we did was revisit our business plan because we knew we had to make changes to support our business. As we navigate through the new normal, businesses have the burden of making their customers feel safe and comfortable to visit their locations, which has created a new need for short-term signage –floor graphics that give direction on where to stand and even which direction to travel down the aisles of a store and signs that explain the policies enacted by the business to help mitigate the risks. As we expanded our product lines, we chose to add supplies, equipment and technologies that would help us fill some of these demands — many that were non-existent before this scourge.
How do you think the COVID pandemic might permanently change the way we behave, act or live?
The way people work, live, and even shop have been changed forever. Although new working conditions have presented challenges, they have also inspired opportunities. These times have forced people to think outside of the box to come up with new revenue driving ideas that they may have not before, which has led to some positive numbers in cost and production. It’s hard to say to what degree this will happen, but I believe COVID-19 has forever changed us all.
What do you plan to do to rebuild and grow your business in the post-COVID economy?
Every day, my team and I look at our marketplace and explore new ways that can give our company a better footing to compete, grow and win market share. As I explained earlier, we have had to make adjustments to our business plan and tweak our go-to-market strategy. Although we’re still small enough to make quick course changes if necessary, currently our sales and profit numbers are encouraging, and I would say that our chances for survival are pretty good right now.
Similarly, what would you encourage others to do?
Stay positive and believe in your dreams. This year has tested all of us, and I have immense hope that we’ll all come out stronger in the end.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
By Reinhold Niebuhr: “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.”
How can our readers further follow your work?