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Meet Ira Jackson of Perfect Image in Marietta

Today we’d like to introduce you to Ira Jackson.

Ira, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
Perfect Image was founded in 1982 in Marietta, Georgia, marking 35 years in business this year. I assumed ownership and became president of the company 26 years ago.

When I purchased Perfect Image in 1991, the commercial printing industry was nothing like it is today – in size or definition. The U.S. industry was comprised of more than 50,000 printing firms, with 80 percent having annual sales of less than $2 million and fewer than 20 employees. The average firm had 11 employees and approximately $1 million in sales. At that time, Georgia’s market was comprised of 1,100 firms. While the size of the industry revenue-wise is essentially the same today, there are now fewer than 25,000 firms nationally, and about 700 in Georgia.

There are many reasons Perfect Image catapulted such attrition, and I’m fortunate to have had the opportunity to lead the company forward. I have never been satisfied with the status quo, always pushing beyond traditional parameters in both life and business. As an ardent observer of industry trends, my philosophy from the start was for Perfect Image to be an early adopter of print industry manufacturing best practices and evolving technologies. More than 25 years later, this same philosophy is why Perfect Image still exists.

From quality control to protecting the environment and creating a hybrid print manufacturing environment, our willingness and readiness to evolve has substantially contributed to our longevity and success in answering market expectations and demands. Much of what we instituted operationally, especially in the years we took these steps, has been extremely rare for a mid-sized commercial printing company.

For example, our ISO 9002 Formatted Quality Control System is a formalized discipline we have applied system-wide for more than 15 years to ensure consistent high quality. We upped this differentiator in 2008 by sponsoring Six Sigma training for employees who are critical to our service, production and manufacturing processes.

In 2008, we increased our commitment to being environmentally sensitive by seeking formal certification from the Forest Stewardship Council™ (FSC®). Much earlier in our history, by the early 90s, we had already eliminated alcohol solvents from our chemistry, and we have operated a filmless environment since 2003, taking all artwork direct-to-plate.

From a business and growth perspective, a critical factor in our success was our decision in 2004 to reconfigure our all-offset-lithographic operation to a more versatile, hybrid-manufacturing platform that incorporated variable digital printing. Print buyers needed the ability to quickly and more economically produce materials with variable data – for example, personalizing materials to individuals. This is achieved through variable digital printing.

Our continued advancements in technology and services illustrate our understanding and execution of market and client alignment, as well as strategic initiatives necessary to growth and survival. And as a company, we are committed to and known for diversity and exceptional talent among our staff. I am very fortunate to have built a bench representing some of the most experienced, tenured professionals in the commercial printing industry.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
I have experienced many times what a rocky road it can be to stay in front of challenges and opportunities. Growing and staying relevant can be very painful. But while adversity is rarely my dessert of choice, it has often been a great teacher and essential to success.

The most pivotal and challenging era in my company’s history was the dawn of electronic marketing and communications. This evolving environment, in which print and electronic media would have to share the pie, would soon become the new normal. I recognized early on that printers would have to start concentrating on services beyond the printed piece. The printing industry confirmed this was a sound belief. Today, thousands of printers no longer exist because of industry shifts and failure to answer developing needs.

More than a decade ago, when Perfect Image progressed to being ‘More than a printer,’ we were already on the right path in offering services beyond the printed piece. Ahead of our time, our services included online self-service, marketing support solutions, and integrated marketing tools that allow print buyers to blend traditional print with electronic marketing.

Today, all of our energies remain concentrated on providing greater value for our clients’ current and emerging needs. Our tagline to be ‘More than a printer’ has never had greater application or meaning. At the same time, serving people is more challenging than ever before. Our clients’ needs are ever changing, and while there are no fewer expectations of us, we commit every day to exceeding those needs.

I know I’m not alone in believing that success is one of life’s best flavors. Rocky roads make success that much sweeter, forcing us to grow and adapt. I believe we all have what it takes to dig deep and dish up the right flavors – and put sprinkles on top by constantly perfecting what we do best. A good friend once asked if I could do anything I wanted right now, what would that be? Without hesitation I said, “I am doing it.” To me, that is the cherry on top.

Perfect Image – what should we know? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
Perfect Image is an innovative, mid-sized commercial printing company that delivers best-in-class print communications and marketing support solutions.

In addition to high-end lithography and variable digital printing, our state-of-the-art, hybrid print communications environment offers expert premedia services, bindery services, kit packing and assembly, and mailing and distribution.

Beyond the printed piece, we provide multichannel marketing tools and services that deliver greater value and return on our clients’ investments. We also offer access to contract graphic design services, photographers, writers and web designers.

While Perfect Image has served some of the nation’s biggest brands, we are one of the most knowledgeable, experienced and passionate print service providers for specific markets in Atlanta and the Southeast. These segments include schools and institutions of higher learning, nonprofit organizations, and small to mid-sized businesses.

These segments need to maximize their marketing investments and protect their brands just like large organizations, but far too many tend to settle for average or low quality printed materials. One reason is limited budgets, but the main reason is that too few printers have deep, focused expertise in serving their specialized needs.

Having spent the past 25 years helping such organizations improve the results of their marketing and communications outreach, Perfect Image has earned a reputation in these segments as a dedicated brand steward and ambassador.

How do you, personally, define success? What’s your criteria, the markers you’re looking out for, etc?
Success demands that we know with unprecedented clarity the people and organizations we serve, and pull out the stops to give them what no one else can – or will. We make it our job to be a partner, not just a printer. We do this through our understanding of our clients’ organizations, their constituents, their challenges and individual goals – and by working seamlessly to meet their unique internal operating requirements and budgets.

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