A Publication of WTVP

GDS Professional Business Displays is another example of how a home-based sideline can turn into your full-time moneymaker. “After 20 years with Marriott in the contract food service, catering, and convention business, I started a small business at home in my basement in 1997, taking advantage of recent developments in digital computer graphics and new large-scale printers for commercial application,” said GDS owner Harvey Meister. “Originally conceived to supplement my income, it quickly grew too big for part time, and I devoted myself to it full time.”

He said “GDS” is the company’s second name. “The original name of Gandalf’s Graphics was a reference to the now-famous wizard from the JR Tolkien books, who was known for creating colorful displays using smoke rings and fireworks. The name was changed in 2000 prior to the release of the film trilogy.”

Meister said he decided to try a new field because he was confident there was a market niche available. “I had a lot of enthusiasm for serving corporate customers with the latest in high-tech solutions for traditional business needs, along with the ability to create new and innovative products based on that technology.”

He was right; the company grew from a one-person company to 15 full- and part-time employees and earning sales approaching $2 million per year. “GDS partners and develops long-term relationships with clients while providing not just products, but consultative solutions to their businesses,” he explained. “We seek to understand what drives profits and make suggestions as to how to improve those profits and achieve targets. When we’re able to present this approach to managers, they welcome our expertise and look forward to what GDS can bring to their company.”

GDS has several major product segments, Meister said: trade show, lightweight portable banners and stands, vehicle graphics including wraps and semi trailer sides, posters and retail displays, complete store graphic packages, outdoor and special event banners, commercial store signs, and museum and corporate exhibits. “Within those segments are many products that can be purposed for a variety of uses.”

Meister said his industry in general is experiencing many technological changes. “From the evolution of business desktops, both Mac and PC, to new software and continuous new printers, it seems every week something significant is being introduced in our industry. Most of this presents huge challenges from both a cost and training perspective. Ultimately, as we adjust and adapt, the results are better products and services to our customers. Change is constant in business today, and you must be willing to embrace it, or you’ll soon find yourself embracing little.”

Over the next few years, Meister anticipates lots of growth for his company. “Technology is bringing new markets into our world. On a national scale, significant percentages of traditional offset, screen printed, and sign shop work will be flowing into our segment. This isn’t because we’re special—although we feel we are—but simply because the technology will afford companies better quality, faster turnaround, more options, lower prices, and, most importantly, print on demand for inventory reduction. It’s a compelling combination for business managers to consider. In particular, large format print on demand is starting to take place and will be a significant contributor to growth.”

Of course, growth has been the name of the game for years now. “We’ve doubled in growth three of the last four years, and while it’s unrealistic to continue at that pace, we’re seeing 20 to 30 percent growth again this year. We now have 12,000 square feet of space, including the ability to handle full semi trailer work indoors. This is a long way from my basement.”

Meister said his company has differentiated itself from competitors by staying abreast of a rapidly emerging technology and expanding their knowledge and equipment. “This has distanced us from marginal providers who put their foot in the water, so to speak, by purchasing a piece of equipment—but don’t devote the equipment and human resources to be a solid supplier to companies. The fact that we have 12 to 15 people completely dedicated to this technology every day imparts great advantages to our customers. We also provide a very high level of customer service from sales through implementation/installation. We set the bar high in this regard, and our customers greatly appreciate it.”

He said new equipment purchases are a must in the near future. “The wave of UV-curable flat bed printers and cutters are here; the potential for them is huge and being developed more daily. Other than that, we just stay up with our customers and their continuously changing scenarios.”

Managing growth has been the most difficult part about growing his business, Meister said. “Going from being a small business to a medium-sized business and doing business with some very large customers has been challenging. Employee hiring, training, and retaining is the biggest challenge and probably always will be. But it’s been rewarding to know we now have an enterprise that successfully provides a livelihood for many people. And these people enjoy the challenges of their work, which is evident in their pride of accomplishment. Our customers notice this all the time.”

Very few people understand his company’s technology and its many applications, he said, which can lead to misperceptions. “For the most part, this technology isn’t taught, although that’s changing. It’s a true 21st century technology, similar but not really like any thing else before. When people visit our facility, without fail, they come away informed, greatly impressed, and excited about the opportunities it provides for their businesses. We believe so strongly that 10 to 15 minutes spent here is worth more than an hour of time on the phone that we offer a $50 reward to all visitors when they place an order. We want our customers to know we value their time investment. If you’re a manager, decision maker, or influencer within your company, visit GDS. You won’t be disappointed.” IBI