President Dan Pulos attributes the company's success to its phenomenal team of employees who don't need micromanaging.
With its state-of-the-art production equipment, national field-service network, and two strategically located print facilities, S2K Graphics in Chatsworth, California, serves clients coast-to-coast by offering low distribution costs, world class print quality, fast and on-time delivery, and what it boasts as an “unwavering” commitment to merchandising success.
The company, founded in 1989 as Signs 2000, is a nationally-recognized printer in point-of-purchase (POP) execution services, design, manufacture, and distribution of a broad array of innovative and disruptive color-matched POP elements. Acquired by FRANKE Company in 2008, its mission is nothing less than to transform its clients’ marketing and merchandising strategies.
S2K, which celebrated its 28th anniversary on October 20, 2017, provides a variety of innovative, patented point-of-purchase products, ranging from 3M floor graphics and countertop displays to kiosks, standees, readerboard and window graphics, and more. Annual sales are between $10 million and $15 million.
“Our products are designed to give our clients an increased return on investment, using eye-catching color graphics and displays that provide adequate coverage at key areas of a store’s location,” explained founder and president Dan Pulos. Other specialties include wide-format printing, field surveys, and installations.
The majority of its clients are multi-site retailers with a strong focus on quick-service restaurants, including both chains and their beverage partners. It has sales representation across the country, with production facilities in Los Angeles and Nashville. Said Pulos, “We are always looking to expand our sales and production territories.” Indeed, he added, business grew in 2017 “along with the economy.”
S2K’s corporate culture has been designed to be conducive to individual achievement. “I give my employees great latitude to get their work done within the behavioral guidelines of the company,” noted Pulos. “I don’t micromanage, and I believe most of my employees do their individual jobs much better than I ever could. I trust their experience and expertise—it’s precisely why they have the positions they do.”
Given his heavy travel schedule, Pulos explained, he doesn’t have the time to mentor and develop employees, nor does he particularly enjoy teaching. “Therefore, I require that my direct reports bring a lot to the table individually. With this setup and expectation, I can then coordinate my team’s efforts collectively into a win for the company and, most importantly, the client.”
Pulos says he has always focused on surrounding himself with good people, and to providing the opportunity and resources for them to get their work done efficiently. “There is no substitute for talented people taking charge of their functional areas and then working in concert with each other for the company’s collective good. I believe a good leader should recognize what individuals are needed in developing a team, and in what each individual needs in order to succeed.”
At S2K Graphics, Pulos has developed a 45-member team that he praises as having real depth, “and I believe this is something many of my competitors don’t have. Focused leadership, coupled with a skilled and valued team, makes a difference.”
The first half of 2017 was great, Pulos reported, with S2K Graphics earning recognition from Creative magazine as a Top 50 POP company, as well as by being selected as the recipient of the Best in Category award for POP Materials at the Print Excellence awards hosted by PIASC. “Q3 has been a little bit softer than expected,” he noted, “although we did pick up a new QSR account that we’re extremely excited about.”
Earlier this year, S2K outfitted its Tennessee facility with two Jeti Titan HS UV flatbed printers from Agfa Graphics. They replaced two older devices with the goal of allowing the company to provide customers with what Pulos describes as a “higher-quality” experience from product manufacturing to delivery time. “In 2018, we expect to add three replacement wide-format printers to continue our quest for greater capacity and print quality.”
Also during 2017, the company inked an exclusive partnership with Andy’s Frozen Custard. The chain currently operates 50 stores, and is rapidly expanding. S2K Graphics will be responsible for all new store point-of-purchase merchandising, and in September helped Andy’s management with the opening of three new stores.
For the year ahead, Pulos says he and his colleagues would like to see their company diversify its client base “and work toward creating a more viable long-term business model.” S2K’s newest product, R-N-B (repositionable, no bubbles), is a special graphic film product that is viewed as revolutionary in its ease of use and in the finished look.
“It’s a patent-pending exclusive product offering found only through S2K Graphics that was formulated to combat typical window graphic installation,” Pulos explained. “Whereas traditional window graphics often require two people to properly install them, R-N-B was developed so that retailers need not rely on professional or experienced installation teams to properly apply oversized promotional graphics.” The new window graphic material became available in August.
Pulos said that the product has been a dream of his for many years. “I’ve had the idea for about five years now, and have been actively searching for a graphic film that would do what I had in mind. After extensive research, it was determined that the product didn’t exist, so I created my own special formulation, which is custom made for us and only available through S2K Graphics.”
His goal was to make window graphic installation fun. “I wanted employees to fight over who gets to install the new graphics every time a new set arrives at the store. I believe we’ve achieved that with R-N-B.” R-N-B is also very forgiving, with a built-in stiffness that allows a single person to apply, reposition and reapply graphics up to 5-foot-high without damaging the decals. Added Pulos, “I’m really proud of this product.”
Additionally, the product can be re-used if removed within 30 days of initial installation and properly stored for future re-use. The features increase the percentage of correct installations a multi-site retailer should expect in the field. R-N-B prints are priced comparably to view-thru films, providing retailers with a high return on investment in both labor savings and field results.
S2K Graphics’ management remains committed not only to meeting and exceeding client success, but to sustainability. As the company makes clear to potential customers, it performs and manages its daily operations with the environment in mind. For instance, it only produces products and uses raw materials that are sustainably sourced. It ensures that its manufacturing processes are carried out in a sustainable way.
The company also uses a web-to-print workflow system, which allows its designers to work directly with customers to edit the designs and layouts of each project. It also includes automatized email notifications when proofs are ready to view, when comments are communicated, when revisions need to be made, and when approvals are received. Hence, no printed documents are necessary.
S2K has made what Pulos characterizes as a “concentrated effort” to grow the field-service part of its business. “We excel at going out into the field, taking surveys for multi-site retailers, analyzing the data, and making recommendations to help grow a business.”
Its patented POP Placement Program is the company’s signature product for multi-site retailers. It shows them exactly where to place every piece of POP at each location to maximize sales results. The program is currently in operation at more than 5,000 restaurants today. “On the installation side, we installed graphics at more than 7,000 fast-food restaurants in the second quarter, which was quite an accomplishment for our team.”
Indeed, it is a team for whom accomplishment has become business as usual.