It’s early afternoon and the work of the young bindery team at Little Rock Printing is in full swing. President Brian Kroeker and his dad, COO Rick Kroeker, are considering their working dynamic in the midst of the upbeat din. After a moment, Rick says, "I’m the caution, Brian is the passion.” Then he adds, “Though I took a lot of chances to get here.”
Brian nods and continues, “We went from drafting to what we do now by being able to say yes: yes, we can do it in two days. Making it easy to order, easy to get back, so you don’t feel like you’re bothering somebody — that’s important to the kind of experience we’re trying to create.”
And when Brian says “what we do now” he’s talking about everything from high-end copying to printing on promotional merchandise, commonly referred to as swag. The shop also prints regulatory documents, SAM Award-winning brochures and hip signage for venues such as Cowboys Casino and The Nash, and the list goes on.
Whether you’re a corporate giant or you walk in off the street with an ancient Polaroid you'd like scanned, you’ll get the same attention at Little Rock and the same guarantee of speed and transparency in everything from pricing to your project’s position in the production line.
“Our production team has gotten very good at lining up the smaller jobs and seamlessly integrating them into the work flow. We’re built for it. You’re never going to hear ‘When we have time.’ You’re never going to see your job disappear behind a wall. Or onto that little printer in the corner.” Indeed, Little Rock doesn’t have those little printers. Or walls, for that matter. The sprawling Inglewood shop features open-concept transparency. So, though the shop's state-of-the-art copiers are typically used for larger runs, “We treat every job the same,” says Brian. “We built our business on that.”
Rick started Little Rock in 1994, when Brian was 10 years old. He was working in drafting at Golder & Associates, a geotechnical firm. Back then, a single colour copy took as long as 10 minutes to process. Frustrated by the limitations of having to send work out and getting poor results, he threatened to buy his own colour machine if Golder didn’t. “They called my bluff,” says Rick, with a smile.
“I had to find more customers to pay for the equipment, then more equipment to serve the customers.” A few years later, with Golder’s blessing, Rick was off on his own. He moved into a space right in the Golder building. “They’re clients now,” Rick adds, with obvious warmth.
In 1999, Rick went to school for his MBA and Brian’s mom took the reigns. Rick graduated in ’01, and today Karla Kroeker is CFO. Little Rock Printing now features three locations: the original in the Golder Building, a second at Stampede Station and the Inglewood shop, which opened in 2011. The company has ridden the tides with Calgary over the years. “Spike, boom or bust,” says Rick. Brian adds, “We have a good year, we buy a new piece of equipment. Bit by bit. That’s how we’ve grown.”
And they continue to grow. Team members often start fresh out of school, but they’re encouraged to stay with the company with generous five-year-anniversary bonuses. The crew on deck this busy day is a bright combination of youth and experience. “Our bonuses have paid for a wedding, a honeymoon, the start of a new family. There have been a lot of pregnancies this year, Brian adds, and he and his Dad share a laugh with a mixture of pride and exasperation. “It’s all part of it.”
“A lot of small businesses end in one generation,” says Rick. “We don’t have that. I feel very comfortable with the future of the company being handled by Brian.” And with that moving notion of legacy, Rick is off, and back to work.