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Small Business of the Year finalistÉBass Litho emphasizes service, technology

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by Karen E. Culp

SBJ Staff

Dick Bass has seen a lot of changes in the printing industry. When he started in the business in the early 1960s, most of the work was manual. Now, his company, Bass Litho, does its work on a digital press, which allows the print to be produced directly from a computer file, Bass said.

Bass Litho started in 1984 with Bass and his wife, Glenda. Bass' sons, Brian and Brandon, also got involved with the business later. Brian Bass continues to work for the company. In 1985, Bass hired Andy Sellers, who remains the company's production manager. Sellers was the first non-family employee.

The company now employs 13, Bass said. At first Bass Litho's focus was on pre-press materials: color separations and films for the printing industry. As time progressed, the business became much more computerized, Bass said. Artwork that was once pasted onto an artboard now comes on a computer disk. The company can also focus on high-end retouching of artwork, a process that computers have made possible, Bass said.

A few years ago, some clients began installing their own computer equipment and machines for developing pre-press materials. Bass Litho had to look for a way to enhance its service and specialize, Bass said. That led to the company's purchase, in late 1997, of a digital press.

"We've always tried to be service-oriented and to stay one step ahead of what the clients needed," Bass said.

The digital press is relatively new technology, having been around only about three years, Bass said. The printing process is a dry offset process. The plates have an ink-resistant coating. Lasers strike the plates and leave a spot where ink will stick to it, Bass said. The press is the only one like it in the area, he added.

The company focuses on printing between 250 and 5,000 pieces in an order, and not on printing in much higher quantities, Bass said.

"That size run is the area where we're most competitive," Bass said.

One of the niche areas the company has begun to serve is small-run, customized advertising pieces such as those that run in local newspaper coupon packages. Bass Litho can print copies of those with local information on the back or somewhere on the piece, Bass said. "In a situation like that, you don't have to buy 20,000 to get what you need."

The business' focus now is also on quick turnaround time.

"If we've got the files by 10 a.m., we can have the project finished by the end of that day," Bass said.

Bass hopes to retire soon and leave Brian Bass in charge of the business.

Brian is already able to run the business, now, Bass said. Bass will not completely drop out of the business when he retires, though. "I'll always continue to be involved," he said.

The printing industry has become one of the largest in the country, Bass said. Though printing will continue to be the company's primary focus, it is now also providing online and Internet services.

Throughout his more than 30 years in the business, Bass said he has always enjoyed the satisfaction of serving a customer well.

"We strive to do whatever it takes to meet deadlines and make them feel that they have a quality product, and a good experience," Bass said.

Bass' management style was inspired by his first boss, who would point out what needed to be done to Bass and his co-workers, rather than just ordering them to do it.

"My first boss would say, 'OK, this is something that needs to be done, and this is how we do it.' I've tried to follow that example and point my employees in the proper direction," Bass said.

The company's location at 3015 E. Cairo is its second in Springfield. The company owns the land and building at this location, where it has been for eight years, Bass said.

Springfield has been a good place to do business, Bass said, because he feels comfortable here. "I was born in Springfield, raised in Springfield, and it was only logical that I have my business here."

PHOTO CAPTION:

Richard, Glenda and Brian Bass (from left), along with Andy Sellers, make up the management team at Bass Litho.[[In-content Ad]]

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