(Jeff Swales | Photo courtesy of XPress Printing)
(As seen in The Nugget Newspaper, July 26, 2022)
Jeff and Shanyn Swales bought XPress Printing from founder Tony Meyer in September of last year. The company opened its doors in Sisters in 1989 and offers a myriad of services including commercial printing and mailing-to-marketing services, design and layout and graphic design. Swales who’s been the general manager of the shop for many years, was excited to finally take ownership of the business.
Jeff Swales joined XPress in 2007 after acquiring extensive knowledge in the industry. In 1988, at 23 years old, he worked for Laserquick as a counter person in downtown Portland making $5.50 an hour. “At first it was just a job. Back then my options were to either work for a video store or a print shop,” he said.
An ambitious young man, Swales took advantage of Laserquick’s in-house training program and became manager of the Salem store in 1990. Two years later he relocated the Salem store to a much larger facility. “We grew the business from two employees doing about $4,000 a week to doing $26,000 a week in the mid 1990’s. By that time, we became the second largest shop in the company.”
Eventually, Swales was promoted to operations manager overseeing eleven locations in Portland. He was promoted again to facilities manager and held that position for two years. With all of his experience he felt it was time to invest in his own franchise. That’s when the school of hard knocks came calling.
“I bought a couple of franchises and that’s when I had my first failures. We acquired two franchises in Seattle that were losing money and began to turn them around. But after 911 hit it, the aftermath just crushed us and we had to close the doors,” he explained.
Always looking forward, Swales took stock and put what he’d learned to good use. “There were a lot of lessons from losing the two businesses. Up until that point, my career had always progressed, and I began to develop a sense of invulnerability. I learned a lot of humility and to appreciate successes more. Now, I make sure the business has a lot of funds left in it to have that rainy day cushion. We make sure the business is well funded, and pay our bills as soon as they come in. At fifty-six years old, I don’t want that added stress of worrying about where payroll is going to come from. That’s important to me.”
After his franchises closed, Swales returned to Laser Quick in Portland as their marketing manager. Two years later he took a job with a print shop in Bend. “I made the move because we were hoping our oldest daughter’s allergies would be helped by the climate. It didn’t really help but later she met her husband in Bend and they have three kids now, so it all worked out. I took the job with XPress Printing in 2007. We have lived in Bend, Sisters and finally in Redmond where we’ve lived for the last nine years. We homeschool our kids and my wife found it easier to live in Redmond because it was closer to many of their activities,” he said.
Since Swales has been running XPress for a long time, he didn’t do a lot of changes when he and his wife bought the business. Some roles changed a little bit. “I have a business philosophy that focuses on helping the community and having good relationships with people and businesses. That kind of philosophy is a valuable asset. Our reputation is important to me,” he said.
XPress does a lot of work for local nonprofit organizations, businesses and the medical industry. “We do a lot of mailings for marketing and internal communications as well as election work during political campaigns.
With a philosophy that growth is healthy for an organization, Swales is heading to Denver where he purchased a small business that services similar clients. “We’re going to move all of their accounts over here. So, we’ll hire a couple new people. We aren’t going to expand physically but we’ll keep adding new accounts and broaden our relationships. It’s great to gain additional sales and add staff within our existing footprint. We can make it work. The Denver company we’re purchasing does a lot of national work similar to what we do,” he explained. “Some of our larger accounts are in Georgia and San Diego, we even have a client living in Spain.”
To deal with supply chain issues, Swales had their paper vendor hold onto twenty-six pallets of paper for the fall. “We’re socking stuff away so we’re well stocked. We’re doing all we can to make sure our clients won’t experience supply chain difficulties. Because we haven’t had to turn anyone away because of shortages, our sales are up 40 percent this year. This has been our best year so far. We’ve had the supplies to meet demand. With an election this fall, we’re expecting we’ll use up that paper while which will alleviate potential problems.”
One thing Swales wanted to get across is that XPress Printing is not a Kinko-type company where you get quick prints done. “We’ve seen over the last few years that our local clientele might not be aware of what we can do for them. We are open to working with anybody and hope past clients will give us a try again. We aren’t the cheapest price and don’t try to be. We are competitive on things, but we feel that we provide a level of service that’s reliable and quick. We rarely have issues with projects. We’ve found that’s important to a lot of our customers. There’s value in knowing we will support our customers. People know we’ll do their project right.”