Wednesday, June 11, 2014


     Free daily tips, information and advice for people in small business
     from someone who has been there, done that in several small operations.

     Back in 1972, I started a typesetting business in New York City. I already had some background in computers, and it seemed to me that typesetting was on the cusp of a revolution.

     This was long before Bill Gates came up with Windows and Word and all the rest. At the time, typesetting was still accomplished on clunky machines that turned molten lead into slugs of type.

     IBM rolled out a tabletop machine called a Composer. It looked something like the company's Selectric typewriter, and it used a similar array of balls of different fonts of type. I set the machine on the dining room table and founded my business.

     Soon, computerized typesetting companies began springing up in the Boston area--Photon and CompuGraphic were early entries in the field. By today's standards, the technology was primitive. A xenon light flashed through a spinning type font film, creating images--letter by letter--on photographic film. The film was developed, and voila! A typeset document appeared.

     I bought the first CompuGraphic machine in New York--right off the floor where the company demonstrated their technology. I remember the euphoria I felt loading the machine on a dolly and rolling it through the streets from Fraunces Tavern (where the demonstration had taken place) to my offices on Broadway. I couldn't wait to show prospective clients what I could do for them--at a much cheaper price than hot lead firms could meet.

     Shortly thereafter, I got my comeuppance. I got an appointment with the buyer of typesetting at the New York Stock Exchange. The lady patiently listened to my presentation and looked at the samples I had brought along. Then she laid samples of her own next to mine. When your technology is able to produce the quality typesetting we currently use, come back to see me, she said simply.

     Technology moved quickly during the 1980s. Mergenthaler solved many of the technical problems, and I replaced the older CompuGraphic machines. The typeset product was much improved, and I called the lady at the New York Stock Exchange. She was impressed and I got several smaller jobs. The euphoria returned, and I never looked back. 

     Today, of course, computer technology pervades every business. But it changes at an ever-increasing rate. Every business--large and small--must stay on top of technology, or you will run the risk of being left behind.

     You can ride a wave of technological change, but you must know when to jump off. All that typesetting I did in the early days is gone. The printer attached to your computer can do more than I sweated to produce 30 and 40 years ago.

     You can still find one of those ancient hot lead typesetting machines in an industrial museum. But most of them were shipped off to third world countries or junked for the metal content.

     Stay on top of your game. But always look over your shoulder for the technological changes galloping close behind.

     After multiple small businesses in typesetting, printing, publishing, antique glass, real estate, and heading up the Business Owners Institute in New Jersey, I am now retired. I spend my time writing about business and coaching people in small business. If you have questions, email me at and put BLOG in the subject line so I don't delete. You get free, quick answers. Your privacy is always respected.   

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