American Success Story
American Success Story At nearly 80 years old, family-owned Boyd Brothers Inc. is an example of good old-fashioned hard work and ingenuity By Wendy O. Dixon
The year 1931 was not an ideal time to start a business. Investors were still suffering from the stock market crash of 1929. The Great Depression was hard on a majority of companies. Most people wouldn’t dare (or couldn’t come up with the cash) to start a new business.
It wasn’t easy, but Alton Beauregard Boyd scraped up $175 to start a small printing shop. From there, the second and third generations of the Boyd family have turned it into a multimillion-dollar business in Panama City.
Boyd Printing, as it was first known, opened in 1931 as one of the first small businesses in Panama City. A crippling childhood illness led to Alton Boyd’s decision to get into printing.
"He had polio and had to wear a brace on one leg," says Jim Boyd Sr., the son of Alton Boyd and current chairman of the board for Boyd Brothers Inc., the modern incarnation of his father’s business. "So he had to have a trade he could do sitting down."
Alton Boyd borrowed $175 from friends and family to purchase a small printer and collected brown paper scraps from his friends who worked at the paper mill to use as the paper on which he would print.
The business grew with the town. Years later, the second generation — Jim Boyd Sr. — took over. Several years after that came the third — Jim Boyd Jr., the current CEO and president.
Although his MBA from Emory University armed Jim Boyd Sr., now 64, with valuable accounting skills, it was his father’s wisdom from the school of hard knocks that helped him run a successful business. Over time, the company expanded its service capabilities by adding presses and a sales staff.
Jim Boyd Jr., 41, never planned on joining the business. Although he spent his high school summers working for the company, he had his sights set on being an attorney. Boyd practiced law for four years until his father, as he puts it, "made me an offer I couldn’t refuse."
Since Jim Boyd Jr. came on board in 1996, the company has grown from being an
$8 million business to what it is today, worth around $21 million.
As part of the company’s expansion, a massive web press facility was added in 2008. Boyd Brothers places emphasis on maintaining quality control and efficiency, which are paramount to the survival of the company.
"We work hard on ergonomics to keep people from having to bend over and make each individual as efficient as possible," Jim Boyd Jr. says. "We need to be able to produce as many sales dollars as we can per employee we have."
The way things get done at Boyd Brothers has changed quite a bit. The Linotype machine gave way to newer technology. Printing machines are faster and more efficient. Clients can now send files over the Internet.
"My oldest press is a 2002; everything else is newer," Boyd says. "That’s what allows me to do more. Our goal was to grow my business with my employees by becoming more efficient."
But the company’s formula for success has never changed. More than new technology, both Boyds value their employees, resulting in a low turnover rate and loyal workers.
"Some of our employees have worked for us for 40 years. We don’t have turnover," Jim Boyd Sr. says. "We didn’t lay off anyone during this depression. The most important thing we do is taking care of our 110 employees and their families — making sure they have a job for as long as they want."
Finding Opportunities in Obstacles
From the Great Depression until today, with several economic downturns in between, Boyd Brothers Inc. has persevered. What keeps the company from becoming another casualty of the recession? Thinking outside of the paper box, for one.
"The downturn affected us," Jim Boyd Jr. says. "We lost several real estate publications. We lost some high-end advertising pieces. But we firmly believe in the publication business."
Boyd sees a fundamental shift in the budget people have for print and admits that he doesn’t know if it will ever come back. So he has taken advantage of the opportunities that have risen as a result of the Internet era.
"In this day and age, it’s not just printing," Boyd says. "It’s also the integration with other forms of communication — the Internet, texting, and being able to drive marketing campaigns for our customers … that’s part of the future of the industry. Printing is not dead. It will always be part of our communication."
It may seem counterintuitive to think of printing as a "green" industry. After all, magazines, pamphlets and books all come from trees. But reports indicate that the remains of old televisions, obsolete computers and other electronics containing lead and other toxic materials are building up in landfills, causing environmental damage. Jim Boyd Jr. points out that trees are among the most recycled materials on the planet.
"We plant trees, grow them, cut them down and plant again," he says. "What we’ve done a poor job of, as an industry, is promoting how green printing actually is."
Jim Boyd Sr. spends fewer days at the office now and says his son is the one who really runs the company. The elder Boyd hopes to return to his love of traveling the world when the economy allows.
"I’m doing the exit strategy," he says with a laugh. "But I’ll never retire."
His son jokingly responds, "I can’t get rid of him."