With just a six-color printer, Tony Denning grew his own online custom printed discs company, Blank Media Printing, from 1,000 orders in the first month to one of the largest custom disc printing and duplication companies in the United States. Started in 2009, Blank Media Printing is an online and automated marketplace that lets creators and business store and share their designs through custom printed products.
Since the 1970s, Tony Denning has been involved in the audio and video manufacturing industries, which has influenced his work at Blank Media Printing. He has worked with all the big manufacturing companies such as Sony, WEA, Polygram, and Phillips, which has given him the knowhow and expertise to build his own custom disc printing company from scratch.
Regarding their work at Blank Media Printing, Tony Denning and his team have earned consistent rave reviews from customers. They have scored a near-perfect 10/10 at ResellerRatings.com, a score that no other company has ever equaled. They have also received zero BBB complaints, and they have earned a superb rating of A+. Not only are they the top custom printing company in the US, but they have also risen to the top spot in Canada as well, shipping products to Quebec, Toronto, Winnipeg, Montreal, Ottawa, Vancouver, and more.
Jerome Knyszewski: What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
Tony Denning: Without a doubt it’s our customer service and turnaround times. Our aim is to ship products to customers within 1 business day of receiving the order or client artwork. Repeat orders are almost entirely shipped same day. We hear from customers all the time that they’re blown away at how fast they get their orders, even internationally. We’re proud when we read the reviews, for sure!
We have also improved the company over the years by automating the specialty printing production using unique machinery, so that we can focus primarily on connecting with customers and the creative aspects of the printing process, ensuring excellent customer service and a product that has never touched human hands. One machine can print up to 4,000 discs per hour! This has been a useful thing during a pandemic where physical contact comes with risk, and where the team can work from home more easily because our communications are predominately via phone or online, and not in a storefront.
Video of our printing process here: https://www.blankmediaprinting.com/Disc-Printing-Video
Jerome Knyszewski: Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
Tony Denning: Stop focusing on your pricing! Focus on customer service and quality. Customers want to be treated as if they are the only ones you care about. Truthfully, they are! It pays to do things right.
Jerome Knyszewski: None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
Tony Denning: My Dad was the one that first steered me towards the audio industry — first supporting me for earning a degree in Audio Engineering, and then by suggesting we start a business back in the 70’s to support the brand new industry of computer games. Back then, video games were first supplied on audio cassettes. We ended up turning a spare bedroom back in the UK into a duplication room and we used cassette duplicators, which I modified to achieve the best results for data cassettes. Those were the days!
Jerome Knyszewski: Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. The title of this series is “How to take your company from good to great”. Let’s start with defining our terms. How would you define a “good” company, what does that look like? How would you define a “great” company, what does that look like?
Tony Denning: A ‘Good’ company is the one that provides what the customer wants. A ‘Great’ company goes above and beyond what the customer believes they want and educates the customer on their best possible solutions.
In technology companies with complex product options this is especially crucial as clients aren’t always versed in the complexities of the industry.
Jerome Knyszewski: What would you advise to a business leader who initially went through years of successive growth, but has now reached a standstill. From your experience do you have any general advice about how to boost growth and “restart their engines”?
Tony Denning: Research your competitors — Always know what they are doing and offering. Research why your growth has stalled. Maybe the market has become over saturated because others saw your growth, you need to stay one step ahead — always. Diversify to other areas that your business could serve. Be willing to try, test, and adapt.
Jerome Knyszewski: Generating new business, increasing your profits, or at least maintaining your financial stability can be challenging during good times, even more so during turbulent times. Can you share some of the strategies you use to keep forging ahead and not lose growth traction during a difficult economy?
Tony Denning: We use whatever resources are available to us and get creative. We don’t let anything stop us — we prototype all of our ideas in house and then if the idea is solid we follow through.
We have versatile printing machines which can be used to print on various objects, so we eventually expanded outside of printing on just discs or paper. We also bought our own 3D printer for internal use, which got us started on creating our on holding molds: we developed, all in-house, our own holding jigs using rare earth magnets and the 3D printer. This made it possible for us to try selling new products, like beer bottle caps. Once the concept was realized, we built the product pages on our website, automated the artwork templating and handling, and then launched.
We used the resources we had in-house to expand and diversify the business — and we saw continuous growth for it. We are currently working on other new prototypes. We never shy away from a challenge — instead we research it, test it, prototype it!
Jerome Knyszewski: In your experience, which aspect of running a company tends to be most underestimated? Can you explain or give an example?
Tony Denning: Never take your employees for granted — they are the rock to your business. Without your loyal employees you really don’t have anything. They are your greatest asset. They create lasting relationships with customers and are part of your community. Really, they’re family, and the significance of family speaks for itself.
Jerome Knyszewski: Great customer service and great customer experience are essential to build a beloved brand and essential to be successful in general. In your experience what are a few of the most important things a business leader should know in order to create a Wow! Customer Experience?
Tony Denning: We provide our customers constant updates on the progress of their order. As soon as they upload artwork, they get an email confirmation, as soon as their order goes into production, they are notified, and as soon as the order ships, they are provided tracking information.
Most companies will only provide a status update once an order is shipped, but that’s not considerate when many shipments are delayed due to COVID. Because we provide constant automated updates, the customer knows that their order is being looked after. Often we’ll get an email back with a ‘Wow, that was quick!’ — this is our assurance that we are doing a good job and doing it right.
Jerome Knyszewski: What are your thoughts about how a company should be engaged on Social Media? For example, the advisory firm EisnerAmper conducted 6 yearly surveys of United States corporate boards, and directors reported that one of their most pressing concerns was reputational risk as a result of social media. Do you share this concern? We’d love to hear your thoughts about this.
Tony Denning: Your responsibilities to a community are just as important online as they are offline. In that sense, not much has changed in the digital age. Be open to feedback and making changes, and be compassionate. Social media is the one area where you can share your company values with a wider audience, so take advantage of that. Post about your work in the community as often as you promote your products, and allow your reputation to grow by simply showing that you follow through on your values.
Jerome Knyszewski: What are the most common mistakes you have seen CEOs & founders make when they start a business? What can be done to avoid those errors?
Tony Denning: Wanting to scale a business too fast is reckless. A new business is like a bottle of wine, it needs time to breathe and mature. If you rush, the wine will be too bitter or sour to enjoy — just like a rushed business. We don’t expect to see profits from a new product we launch immediately because we understand it takes time for it to settle on the web, for people find it, for it to mature long enough for people to appreciate it and buy more. A 2015 wine tastes better — and sells better — than a 2020 wine — it’s had those extra 5 years to mature.
Jerome Knyszewski: Thank you for all of that. We are nearly done. You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
Tony Denning: Not all people can afford a photographer to capture their baby’s first moments, an adoption celebration, or a happy day spent outside in nature. Even more cannot afford to buy prints and spend time to make a photo album, relying instead on social media to retain their photos for years to come.
We tend to rely on our phones, cloud storage, and social media to store our photos, but often these services are unreliable: subject to being consolidated, bought out, or shut down. Optical media (discs) have a long lifespan — they can live for many decades — making them a reliable backup method for family photos. Additionally, they’re available at all times to access — no internet connection or login credentials necessary, no rummaging through a social media timeline for that one missing photo. People need permanent, offline backup services like discs and photo albums, and our company would like to make that process easy and affordable for all families.
We would love to work with photographers and local organizations to help preserve these wholesome moments, so that years later a family can always look back on their favorite memories — even if it was once a bittersweet time in their life.
Jerome Knyszewski: How can our readers further follow you online?
Tony Denning: You can find me on:
Jerome Knyszewski: This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this!