Industry: Contract Manufacturing
Products: Printing services
Second-generation owner and President Nicholas Aguilera is proving that old-fashioned customer service can bring success in a competitive market.
Near San Diego’s historic bayfront area, Diego & Son Printing is a family-owned business that aims to marry modern capabilities with personalized interaction. Diego Aguilera started the company after working for The Star-News in Chula Vista, California.
"In the early days, my father was always doing a variety of odd jobs within the printing business," says Nicholas. "My dad loaded lead type into the presses at the paper. Later they switched to offset printing and my dad was out of work."
According to Nicholas, this led his father to start Diego & Son with a Small Business Administration loan and three employees. "I started working here when I was 12 years old and was put in the back doing much of the labor, but I learned the business," says Nicholas. "Working with your parents was difficult, so I left to join the service at 18. When I returned, my dad wanted me to work in the front office meeting with clients, doing marketing and more. At that time, I was also going to college studying business. I was able to apply what I was learning until my dad retired and I took over the company."
The printing business has changed markedly in the 45 years Diego & Son has been in operation. Nicholas says it's not just about the printing process anymore, they look at it as though they are manufacturing marketing materials and helping to shape the brand of each company they're working with. This includes many clients from small local businesses to large organizations like Blue Shield of California, CVS Pharmacy, and San Diego Gas & Electric. "We simply ask companies to give us a try," he says. "Once they do, they like our personalized action. We want them to feel like they're a part of the family."
While the techniques and printing methods have modernized, the company's commitment to providing customer service remains as part of their DNA. "Much of our success over the years has to do with the customer service we provide," says Aguilera. "Customers can email their orders and get it on time, but some still like to come into the shop and talk with us. Our motto is 'Providing old-fashioned service with the latest technology,' and we haven't changed that since my dad started the business."
A walk through the Diego & Son's facility is a maze of rooms with old and new machinery neatly put in place. With clean floors and all of the paper waste in bins ready for recycling, it's evident the company has a strong commitment to being efficient and environmentally conscious. "The recycle movement is a byproduct of trying to be as efficient as you can," says Nicholas. "Recycling actually allows us to produce less waste and our suppliers are constantly bringing out new products that are better for the environment."
Diego & Son now uses processless plates that don't need water to rinse off chemicals. "These new plates run through a processing machine that develops them as they come out. This significantly reduced our water bill, saving us hundreds of dollars each month," says Nicholas.
Nicholas owns the company with his sister, Rebecca Aguilar-Gardiner, who serves as the company's vice president and handles sales and marketing.
Challenges: "It's sometimes difficult to do business here in California," says Nicholas. "We work closely with the Environmental Protection Agency and keep good records. It's difficult with higher taxes too, but our history is here in San Diego. It's a wonderful place to be and we wouldn't want to move anywhere else."
Opportunities: "Our focus on talking to customers provides us with more opportunities," says Nicholas. "Many print shops are online and people often worry if their printing will come out okay. We go a step further to keep in contact with the customer and let them know where their job is in the process. People can come in and check on the progress of their order, so they have the assurance that it's being done right."
Needs: "We're always needing more customers," says Nicholas. "We market to a wide range of clients, and simply want to make sure we can be competitive with online and overseas printers. Many of our customers simply want to interact with people and we get business from that alone."