18 August 2020
Family-owned businesses are one of the most important pillars of any economy. The key to their success lies in strategic planning, a legacy of shared values and mission, and integrating and balancing the needs between ownership, family, and business. That said, only a handful can manage to survive several generations.
Now operating in its 67th year of business, Oil City Press Ltd., a Calgary-based company, has not only stood the test of time, but has also continued to invest in its commitment to creating continuous value across generations. Strong principles of excellence, innovation, accountability, and exceptional customer service have positioned this family enterprise for long-term success.
Sign Media Canada recently spoke with Pam Kletke, director of business operations at Oil City Press Ltd., to know more about the company’s history, signmaking process, recent projects, and how this seven-decade family business has stayed firm in its resolve to look ahead despite multiple challenges in the midst of a global pandemic.
Sign Media Canada (SMC): What is the history of the shop?
Pam Kletke (PK): Oil City Press Ltd., has been providing printing services since 1953. The business was purchased by Ron Kletke Sr., and his son, Ron Kletke Jr., in 1963. The company is now fully owned and operated by the third and fourth generations of the family—Doug, Dave, and Pam Kletke. The values on which the company was founded and the quality service it continues to provide enable us to adapt to the changing needs of customers, excel as a family business, and weather all economic climates.
SMC: What makes your company unique?
PK: Oil City Press Ltd., began as a letterpress and offset printing company. Over the years, our management and ownership have done a fantastic job of staying on top of industry trends. The growth and expansion over the decades has allowed us to provide a variety of printing, finishing, and installation services, including digital, offset, as well as large-format signage. The broad range of options and services we offer our clients makes us a one-stop shop for all of their printing requirements.
SMC: How large is the facility?
PK: We own a 1579-m2 (17,000-sf) facility in southeast Calgary, as well as a vehicle wrap bay adjacent to the building. The shop currently has 25 full-time employees, including administration, graphic designers, account managers, production staff, and installation crews.
SMC: What type of signage does your shop primarily make?
PK: Our shop specializes in commercial, retail, and point-of-sale (POS) signage. The most commonly produced items include retail POS, indoor digital and light-emitting diode (LED) signs, banners, vehicle decals and wraps, directional and wayfinding signage, standoff display signage, sandwich boards, wall graphics, Coroplast (corrugated plastic sheet) signs, lawn signs, corporate displays, and construction and fencing signage.
Oil City Press Ltd., is an “if you can dream it, we can build it” business. We love special projects that demand creativity and thinking outside the box.
SMC: What type of projects have you been working on recently?
PK: We have been focusing on COVID-19-related signage lately. The staff has been busy producing plexiglass barriers for front-line workers, face shields, directional and social distancing messages, hand washing prompts, and signs of encouragement and inspiration.
SMC: How much of the signmaking process is handled in-house?
PK: Almost all of the signage we manufacture and install is produced in-house. We have diversified our machinery and acquired skilled employees to handle most our projects.
SMC: What tools/equipment do you currently use to complete your projects?
PK: Our large-format signage department consists of ultraviolet (UV) and latex printers, a computer numerical control (CNC) router, a heat bender, hot/cold laminators, stick welders, and lots of elbow grease.
SMC: What does your planning and design process involve?
PK: The creative team at Oil City Press believes in collaborating and brainstorming ideas to come up with innovative solutions. We work with the client to bring their dreams to fruition; many times this involves our team visiting a site to ensure our ideas can be executed once production is complete. Above all, we treat every new project, no matter how big or small, equally.
SMC: How is technology changing your business?
PK: It is amazing how technology has changed the printing industry in so many ways. Much of our business can now be conducted online, including order placements through our online storefront. Customers can request secure private access to a catalogue of their own items, which allows them to place orders anytime. We can also manage a buyer’s print inventory through their catalogue.
In the next six months, we plan to increase our productivity and efficiency by installing a new management information system. This set-up will automate the transfer of information throughout our print facility and provide us with tools to determine profitability in each area of the business. It will also provide us with real-time data of all the production within the facility.
SMC: What is the key to staying successful in this industry?
PK: Staying on top of emerging trends is essential for success in the print industry. Those who let their machinery age and never invest in the company are the first to disappear from the landscape.
Building customer relationships is also critical to staying ahead in the game. Without our clients, we have nothing. We go above and beyond for our customers every day, doing our best to provide them with products that exceed their expectations.
Further, as a company, we believe it is important to give back to the community. Throughout the year, Oil City Press provides print donations to many non-profit organizations that offer amazing services to Calgarians, including Alberta Children’s Hospital Foundation, Easter Seals Alberta, and YWCA of Calgary.
SMC: What are the future plans for your business?
PK: The largest area of growth for our company has been in the signage and installation departments. We aim to continue to invest in the latest and best technologies to stay current with market trends and cater to all of our customers’ signage needs.
SMC: How has COVID-19 affected your business? Are there any tips/best practices you can share to help industry professionals get through these difficult times?
PK: The global pandemic has presented many new challenges that businesses have never experienced before. It has been difficult, and we knew we had to act quickly to ensure the safety of our employees. We immediately reduced the number of staff members within the office at one time. Most of our employees have been working from home. We are also staggering working hours for administration and customer service workers, and we are keeping our production employee numbers
to a minimum at all times.
Social distancing practices have been implemented and high-touch surfaces within the office are cleaned multiple times throughout the day. Our office has also been closed to anyone who is not an employee.
We have been hosting virtual meetings with our clients and offering no-contact curbside pickup for all orders.
Sadly, on April 22, 2020, we lost our president, Ron Kletke Jr. (the second generation of the Kletke family) to COVID-19. When the virus hits close to home you realize even more the importance of keeping everyone safe during this time. Ron was incredibly proud of the business and loved telling everyone he met about the wonderful projects we were working on.
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