David Arnold started ESP Solutions, Inc. like how many small businesses begin — in his basement. It may have humble beginnings but ESP Solutions has advanced a great deal since 1981. The company is no longer in Arnold’s basement, but has 25 employees and is a strong player in both divisions of its business — decorated apparel and medical device accessories. Arnold adopts an aggressive approach to owning, expanding and maintaining his production equipment, which has helped him stimulate growth in an industry where speed and quality directly relate to equipment technology.
Two Competitive Divisions, One Growing Company
ESP Solutions is one of the larger players in the decorated apparel space while also holding a strong presence in producing materials for medical device accessories. In the decorated apparel division, ESP produces a large amount of promotional products in-house. “We are one of the larger facilities that do screen printing, embroidery and digital printing,” says David.
The other division of the business is ISO-certified to produce medical device accessories such as straps for emergency response systems like Phillips’ Lifeline and for masks used by sleep apnea patients. ISO-certification is a prestigious manufacturing standard that is hard to achieve, especially for smaller businesses. “If you buy a product from an ISO-certified company, you are pretty much guaranteed that you are going to be getting top-quality merchandise,” says Arnold. So how did Arnold grow his business from out of his basement into a key player in two entirely different, yet quite competitive markets? Staying current with technological advancements, wise investments in production equipment and an aggressive equipment maintenance approach all played a role.
Knowing When & How
Staying in touch with technology in the decorated apparel industry can be crucial to a business’ success. However, having the means to do so is not always that easy. The industry has a long history, so a great deal of technology has been developed to improve its operations and outputs. While traditional equipment is effective, David believes that it’s more difficult to produce with the same quality and speed using older equipment. Upgraded, newer models allow for greater production in a shorter period of time. In addition, technological advancements are allowing today’s apparel decorators to produce far more advanced designs. Those with the latest model equipment, like ESP Solutions, are able to more effectively compete. However, the reality is that the equipment is not cheap. Not every business can always afford to upgrade to the newest model. “Very few printers will have [the latest] technology. They can’t always get into this equipment [because its] expensive. That keeps a lot of players from buying,” says Arnold. ESP Solutions is no exception, so Arnold takes an aggressive approach to maintaining his equipment. [mks_pullquote align="left" width="300" size="24" bg_color="#468492" txt_color="#ffffff"]“With printing equipment, if it’s out and we have to wait three days for a part to come in, we are out of business. We can’t afford to do that.”[/mks_pullquote] ‘What many companies in our space do is react to problems when there is a problem. If a machine breaks down then they have a repair person come in and fix it. We can’t afford a machine to break down. We have a repair person every month to maintain our equipment and do whatever is necessary to make sure the equipment never goes out,” says Arnold. David understands his equipment and thus, knows what parts and pieces are likely to break. “We keep the parts that we know will need replacement on hand all the time,” says Arnold. While maintaining current equipment has been critical to ESP Solution’s success, growing businesses also reach a point where an equipment upgrade is necessary.
Equipment Investments That Open Doors
The company’s approach so far has been to invest in new equipment to keep up with demands of present customers but at the same time, to open doors to new customers. “[We lease] equipment that we need to meet customer demand [and] to stay in touch with changing technology. Without [the new equipment], we would not be able to sustain our growth,” explains Arnold. That’s where a good partner for investing in equipment is key. With Beacon Funding, David was able to structure a “lease to own” transition so that ESP Solutions could continue to generate revenue with the equipment well after the final payment was made. While well run businesses with an established time-in-business may have many equipment financing options, Arnold’s experience has been that the equipment knowledge and quick, convenient process of a niche lender like Beacon Funding is important to his business. “We looked at Beacon as our only option for leasing…granted you save a little by going to a bank but dealing with a bank also comes at a price,” explains Arnold. “We chose not go that route. You have to pay for the equipment one way or the other. Our Beacon Funding consultant made everything easy and simple. The deal was always moving and was never hung up on regulations.”
Recently, ESP Solutions leased a new direct-to-screen digital printer with Beacon. It’s a newer technology and should be much faster and produce higher quality work with less labor and less resource waste, according to David. This equipment lease is integral to Arnold’s plans to merge the two components of his business. The new printer could help him meet business needs of medical clients that want ESP Solutions to print on their medical devices rather than just creating the straps or neck bands. “If we end up with this account, we will be using at least one [direct-to-screen machine] to print on the medical devices,” says Arnold. David’s success is largely a part of his willingness to accept change and adjust his business to grow. Also important has been Arnold’s insight to partner with a niche equipment lender like Beacon Funding, allowing him to accelerate that growth by acquiring the latest technology sooner rather than later. Arnold’s willingness to embrace the industry’s technology in order to produce a high quality product for his customer has helped him to grow his company. Beacon Funding has been there to help him in his goals so that he can upgrade when he needs, in a way that fits his business model and fits his industry.