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Co-owner brothers, backed by devoted employees, lead The RAM Companies to phenomenal 30-year growth, business service diversity, and a bright future

In a fast-paced world racing with change, RAM has maintained a firm focus on its commitments: commitments to its customers, to its employees, to providing superior service, to the community, and to the environment. As a result, the mid-size offset commercial printer in southern New Hampshire has experienced 30 years of growth. In fact, RAM recently celebrated its 30th anniversary with an open house gala event and a re-branding of the company to The RAM Companies to unify its four diversified businesses under one umbrella.

Today the company produces the same sales volume in a week as it produced the first year that brothers Buddy and Wally Zaremba bought the company in 1981 when they were in their early twenties.

About six months after Wally was hired as a salesperson at RAM Printing, Robert A. MacAuley, who founded the company in 1976, asked Wally if he wanted to purchase the company. Wally and Buddy had worked in production at different companies for years and knew how to operate the equipment.

"We were 22 and 24 when we bought the company," states Wally "We were kids. Because of our ages and our knowledge of printing, we weren't afraid of the changes in the printing industry and didn't resist them."

Being in their 20s when the Zaremba brothers took charge infused RAM with a vitality and cando attitude that has persisted ever since. "Back then we never said no to a job, and today we never say no," says Buddy, "unless it physically doesn’t fit our equipment. If we can produce it, we will."

Leading with innovation
In the first year that Buddy and Wally owned the company, RAM Printing produced mostly black-and-white and some two-color work with six employees. They generated about $175,000 in sales. Today, The RAM Companies encompasses four diversified businesses, employs 65 people, and produces full-color projects on a wide array of equipment.

RAM reached its current size by constantly evolving to meet the needs of its customers. To keep up with the growth of its services, the company has added on to its facility several times. It moved into its current East Hampstead, N.H., location in 1984, however, what once was a 4,000-square-foot building is now a 28,000-square-foot operation that encompasses two buildings.

RAM Printing has been committed to innovation by continuously implementing the latest printing and other reproduction and workflow technology. On many occasions, the printer has been alpha and beta sites for various products and equipment, demonstrating its charge to be on the leading and bleeding edge. In production, the list of equipment includes Heidelberg Topsetters, an Agfa Azura chemistry-free digital thermal plate system, five Heidelberg presses, and a Ryobi two-color press.

In 2004, RAM installed a Heidelberg Speedmaster CD74-5 five-color press with Aqueous Coating capabilities. "The CD has been a nice addition—it has opened up some markets for us," says Buddy. "With the press we can do packaging. We can print on heavier stocks and on heavy plastics."

For the New Hampshire State Lottery, for example, the company printed thousands of die-cut plastic materials for store-bound lottery machines.

As technology offers opportunities to expand, it can also take them away. As more and more customers move to PDF proofing, a fraction of that business declines. To generate new sales, the printer added largeformat services.

In 2005, RAM acquired Concord Printing's large-format graphics division and now produces large-format graphics on its HP DesignJet 2500 and its DesignJet 3500 printers. "We've had wide format for two years: it's another piece of the pie we can offer our customers," Buddy said.

For its retail customers, RAM opened Hampstead Print & Copy in 1991 in a site across the street, and moved the operation to the RAM campus in 1996. With equipment that includes a Canon ImageRunner 110 high-speed system and Canon Color Laser Copiers, Hampstead produces color and black-andwhite copies, personalized products, reports, presentations, banners, posters, and displays.

When the company realized in 1997 that it was delivering about 35 percent of its jobs to mailing houses, RAM brought direct/bulk mail services in-house. Today, RAM Mailing Service can help turn print jobs around much faster.

Another major expansion involved purchasing long-time client Guestmark International, a marketing company servicing the hospitality industry, in 1998. Now instead of just providing the printed materials that go inside guest services directories found in hotel rooms, employees help customers create and customize their directories to fit with the decor of the hotel rooms. Hard Rock Hotel and Casino ordered directories for their 600 rooms, for example. Hilton Gardens also requested menus to be printed and delivered.

"Many times we get contracts because customers know [Guestmark] is owned by a printing company," explains Buddy. "Margins are going down and customers need to cut their costs. They know that cutting out that middle party and working directly with one [solutions provider] saves money."

Leveraging the capabilities of its four diversified businesses—RAM Printing Inc., RAM Mailing Service, Hampstead Print & Copy, and Guestmark International—RAM delivers a wide range of services to its customers. It prints jobs such as marketing pieces, publications, and direct mail for New Hampshire colleges, marketing collateral for corporations, and guest directories and menus for hotels and restaurants. For the Timberland Company, for example, the printer produces sign packages, promotional materials, and sales collateral, and distributes the products throughout the country.

Customer Satisfaction
RAM's commitment to its customers is evident in the many longterm relationships it has established. "We will do anything for our customers," says office manager, Kathi Dunn. "We have three trucks on the road. We're delivering and picking up proofs and delivering completed print jobs."

"We offer the quality of print and the quality of service," adds Wally. Buddy remarks: "We don't give them a reason to go anywhere else."

Protecting the planet, attracting business
In addition to its unwavering support of its customers, RAM has demonstrated its commitment to the environment by proactively taking charge of its impact on the planet.

In March 2006, RAM became the first commercial printer in New Hampshire to receive Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) Certification. FSC, an international, non-profit organization, supports responsible management of the world's forests.

Being FSC certified enables companies to place a logo on their materials that portray that they're taking steps to help preserve the environment. When RAM purchases FSC-certified paper, the printer follows a chain of command that tracks the paper back from the distributor to the manufacturer to the forest—all ensuring that the paper originates from sustainable forests.

To become FSC certified, an independent third party, the Rainforest Alliance, with its SmartWood program, audited RAM and verifies that it operates with excellent environmental and social practices.

To continue the chain of promoting environmental responsibility, RAM encourages its customers to select papers that have been FSC certified. More and more customers are interested because their products can carry the logo as well.

"We're helping educate people," says Wally. "A lot or our customers can use the FSC logo to market their own company to say they're environmentally sound. Many customers say 'What's it going to cost me to put the logo on there?' But there's no extra cost to being environmentally correct or to use the logo.

"We had to pay for the certification, which took about six months," he continues. "That gives us the authority to put the logo on our materials. It's not easy to do. It costs us time and money. When the paper comes in, we have to record the tonnage we use, and let the distributor that we buy from know they have to mark it, so it's a chain of custody command. We're the last in the chain of custody before the customer."

RAM recently produced an annual report for Northeast Delta Dental on certified paper, enabling them to place the FSC logo on their printed products. "They're telling their stockholders and readers that they're helping the world by using environmentally sound paper to print their report," states Buddy.

RAM has even gained new business as a result of its green practices. One potential customer, a propane company, called to inquire about printing a quarterly newsletter. When the CSR informed her about being able to place an FSC logo on the printed pieces, the customer didn't just bring on board one or two newsletters, but 11—amounting to 50,000 printed pieces each quarter or 200,000 additional pieces a year.

"We told the customer that putting the FSC logo on was great advertising for them because they're energy conscious," explains Dunn. "We got 11 different newsletters. She was thrilled that we brought it up."

Another new customer, Granite State Conservation Voters Alliance, called for a quote for a newsletter and after hearing about the FSC logo, brought on quarterly newsletters with a run of 25,000 each.

To educate others about its environmental practices, RAM hosted a tour of its facility co-coordinated by John Sobczak, sales representative for RAM for over 16 years, for members of New Hampshire Businesses for Social Responsibility. RAM is a member of NHBSR, an organization of businesses leading social responsibility in New Hampshire. The organization provides a network of businesses that can learn from other members how their business practices can enrich their own operations and the community, and sustain the environment.

As more attention is placed on environmental stewardship and conservation, many companies want to participate and show their own awareness and use of environmental friendly practices. Today about 181 printers are now FSC certified, compared to just 80 a little more than six months ago.

Consequently, finding earthfriendly papers is getting easier. Last year about 30 percent of the papers RAM purchased were FSC certified and this year that number is growing fast. "Every month there's more and more FSC-certified papers. "Right now it's easy to compare to last year when we had to search for paper and then call up and see if it was available. That was the hardest part: we couldn't always get the paper when we needed it." says John Olson, RAM'S general manager.

Even before being green had gained wide public support, RAM had taken steps to reduce the effects of global warming. In 1989, the printer implemented a comprehensive recycling program for its paper waste, in 1991 it converted to soy-based inks and today uses vegetable- based inks, and in 2006, RAM installed the AGFA: Azura chemicalfree plate processor—all moves that reduce the company's environmental impact.

Over the years, RAM has demonstrated that it is a socially responsible company. Committed to community involvement, the printer strives to work with organizations such as Portsmouth Children's Museum, New Hampshire Public Television and New Hampshire Philharmonic to enrich the community. RAM prints the wrestling books, football books, and playbooks for schools in the district, for example.

Through the years of growth and constant change, the company has created a culture of teamwork, hard work, and constant improvement. Many of RAM's 65 employees have been with the company for about 20 years.

Four-member executive team sets the course
Major decisions are made by the four members of the executive committee: owners Wally and Buddy, General Manager John Olson and Office Manager Kathi Dunn. "Four minds are better than one," states Buddy.

The sales team comprises four employees and an ambassador, Allen Gilbert. "Allen goes around the area and stops into companies to introduce the RAM Companies," explains Wally. "He drops off calendars, notepads, and pens, for instance. He doesn't sell; he just gives us a presence. He keeps a log and qualifies the leads and sends them to the sales team."

To support the executive team and employees, Printing Industries of New England provided helpful information to the company since the beginning. "There's a lot of value in the organization, especially for the knowledge and education behind it," says Buddy. "It's been really good for the employees. We utilize the credit unions, seminars, and training on OSHA rules and regulations."

The RAM Companies have many reasons to celebrate. This mid-size commercial printer in southern New Hampshire has been growing steadily for 30 years while staying focused on its commitments. Dedicated to providing its customers with a wide range of print and print-related services in high quality and with fast turnarounds, RAM has developed relationships with customers who keep coming back.

Furthermore, RAM reaches beyond its own business model to take measures in protecting the planet and enriching the community.

This story was reprinted from the May edition of New England Printer and Publisher. View PDFDownload (PDF)

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