The Start-up Process
Decide on whether you will buy an existing shop, a franchise or start your own large format printing business. For a large format printing business, buying an existing shop will require less work in start-up and finding a location, but you will most likely want to hire new staff or management. A franchise is best if you understand the business of printing, but need help with sales and marketing. Starting from scratch can take more time, but it will allow for greater latitude in decision making. No matter what approach you decide on, it will be important to either have experience in printing or hire staff that does. As a start-up, the best way to differentiate yourself from the larger, more established market, is through the level of service (see Resources). For a printing shop this means always paying attention to detail and being able to process or help with most any job.
The Importance of Technology
Outside of staff, technology will also help to differentiate your business from your competition. Technology changes fast in the copier business. Getting stuck with an outdated copier can have a huge effect on your ability to get parts. A service contract can prevent this and is a must for all expensive equipment. Talk to a salesman about different brands; be sure to set aside time to meet with these salesman on a monthly basis. They can help to keep you updated on the latest technology and discounts available. They might also be able to provide you with free subscriptions to trade magazines.
Do not be afraid to haggle. Large printing presses sometimes cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. While you can lease equipment, the expense can still be considerable. If leasing, compare base rates for something called "click charges." This refers to the amount charged for every copy that goes through your leased machine. It might sound insignificant, but 1/10th of a cent can make a large difference to cost structure when doing millions of copies a month. From a sales and marketing perspective, large format printing is most popular for low vision aids. Test market your product with the vision impaired community and refine for ease of reading. For additional revenue opportunities try outsourcing to a business partner for services like wedding invitations. The markup can be well worth the extra effort.