By Eric Peterson | Apr 19, 2015
Salt Lake City
Employees: 130 (about 90 in Utah)
President and CEO Kirk Green is leading the large-format digital printer to innovation and growth. His company can wrap just about any surface with eye-catching graphics.
Before it was Ferrari Color, the business was a photo lab by the name of Creative Color.
Green's family bought the company in 1987 and subsequently acquired Sacramento-based Ferrari Color in 2001 and adopted its name. The same quartet of partners has held the reins for more than 20 years.
The photo lab business started to wane around the turn of the millennium, says Green.
Technicians working with chemicals in dark rooms weren't in demand during the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake like Green expected, so the company phased out of its old analog ways.
"We were all set up to process a lot of the professionals' film," he says. But the switch to digital was already in full swing, leaving the dark rooms idle and catalyzing a pivot for Ferrari Color.
"We got out of film processing shortly thereafter," he says. "That was all replaced with digital technology. That's where we started to take off. We mirrored the expansion -- some might say the explosion -- of the digital format."
The company works with a long list of national clients including Whole Foods and Sports Illustrated on out-of-home advertising and displays. It decorates the Salt Palace Convention Center for the Outdoor Retailer shows, works with the Utah Jazz, and made banners for the grand opening of City Creek in downtown Salt Lake in 2012.
The end goal? "We really help our clients speak to their customers,’" he says.
The company's products "usually are bigger than life," says Green. About two-thirds of the manufacturing is in Utah, with the remainder in California.
For Outdoor Retailer, Ferrari Color came up with a way to cover the Salt Palace's cylindrical columns -- a.k.a. "Salt Shakers" -- with displays. "We created a whole mathematical model for doing it," says Green. "We help transform the Salt Palace."
He gives credit to the company's employees. "We've really enhanced our Creative Projects Engineering Team -- we call it CPET for short," he says.
Green says company came out of the most recent recession with annual growth of five to 10 percent.
Ferrari Color remains a family business. Kirk's father, Mel, is the company's chairman. "He's in his 85th year and is still very involved," says Green.
Challenges: "The biggest challenge is delivering daily on decades of promise," says Green. "It's hard to live up to that reputation." It all comes down to execution, he adds, while continually striving for improvement.
Green makes a comparison: "It's like a great restaurant. You cannot rest on what you used to do."
Opportunities: Small businesses. Ferrari Color's Signs.com targets exactly that market to utilize excess production capacity. "It's a small part of our business, but it's a growing part," says Green.
Needs: "Really good people," says Green. "The great thing about living in Utah is the talented workforce, bit a lot of other people have figured that out."
Ferrari' Color's adoption of Open Book Management (OMB) in 2005 helps compensate for the state's ultra-low unemployment and attract and retain employees. "Everybody knows what we're up against and everybody shares in the success," Green explains. "We treat everybody like an owner. That's not just lip service -- that's our philosophy."