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Technology Leads Filmet to Fortune

(May 2007) posted on Wed May 16, 2007

Disastrous property damage, loss of key customers, and evaporating markets would spell the end for most companies, but for graphics producer Filmet, these trials marked turning points that would lead the company to prosper. Read on to find out how th


By Ben P. Rosenfield

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The family factor

Filmet uses a variety of equipment in its 65,000-sq-ft facility (see the sidebar below for a comprehensive look at Filmet’s prepress, printing, and finishing assets) and employs 80 people. The company, as it was in the early days, is still big on family. Bachelder’s wife handles payroll, and her brother works in Filmet’s MIS department. His sister Denise is still with the company in accounting (her husband handles human resources and special projects), his brother Gary handles national accounts and special projects, and his son Andrew—the fourth generation to enter the business—is a marketing assistant.

 

Andrew Bachelder, much like his father, had to prove his worth before he was hired. In fact, Rick wasn’t even the one who hired his son. Filmet’s VP of sales and VP of manufacturing hired Andrew, who had worked part-time for Filmet designing Web pages and helping with other special projects. Bachelder likes to say that Andrew came in through the side door.

 

“I think that’s important because he has to earn his reputation and his spot. I think people respect the fact that they see family members come in knowing they have to earn their spot. They’re not given anything,” he says.

 

In the 1970s, when Rick Bachelder wanted to join the company, his father compelled him to prove that he would be an asset, not an added cost. “When I graduated college, I called my dad and said, ‘I’d like to come into the business.’ My dad’s first words were, ‘I’ve hired everybody I need. Why should I hire you?’ He set the tone very quickly that this was not an employment agency. It was a place of business,” he recalls.

 

Bachelder says quite a few other families at Filmet have more than one generation working there. He also points out that the company’s core management team has been with Filmet since the early 1980s.

 

Training is an important part of keeping the Filmet family together. Most of it is handled internally, though the company has taken advantage of opportunities offered by manufacturers and suppliers.

 

“Because of the ebb and flow of the work, we get very talented, good people, and we move them as we have moved, and I think that’s been one of the things that has really made us successful,” Bachelder says. “We have people who are very eager to learn and very flexible and up to the challenge of learning new things. And one of the strengths of our organization is the ability to digest new things and not be afraid to embrace new things.”

 

Filmet’s philosophies

Each generation of Filmet’s top-level leadership has been confronted by challenges. Bachelder says the business was on the brink each time, practically losing everything, and was forced each time to take the company in a new direction in order to succeed.

 

“It makes you understand that you have to work hard, and it’s over a period of time that you build success,” he says. “If you don’t take the time to build the right foundation, and have the right core values, then you cannot be successful over a long period of time. When we reinvented our business in 2001, I believe we wouldn’t have been able to do it had it not been for the fact that we had the respect and cooperation from customers, suppliers, banks, and employees.”

 

Part of keeping that respect and cooperation involves using equipment that may not be as forward-looking as some of the technologies Filmet uses each day. For example, the company still services photographers by processing film and printing professional photos. But Bachelder explains that it’s all a part of maintaining valuable, long-term relationships. He also is quick to note that Filmet will continue to buy digital and screen equipment because, as he puts it, neither one is right for everything, and the way that they live together is really important.

 

“Finding the right technology, the right customers that you match up well with, the right suppliers, and the right employees who give you flexibility—that’s the combination that lets you win,” he says.

 


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