Story courtesy of BizCon
LTi Printing is a diverse printing business serving customers large and small across the country. Helmed by second-generation owner Mike Frost, LTi is focused on growing in the ever-changing printing market, adapting to technological change and finding creative ways to expand its customer base.
LTi had its start in the 1980s with Mike’s father, a "career entrepreneurial person," according to Mike. Before LTi, Mike's father started out running a marina before moving onto owning coin- operated video game cabinets. While he knew little about video games when he started, he made the business thrive and, in 1983, was approached to enter another new venture; printing. According to Frost, Ray Dresser approached his father with the idea to which he replied "I don’t know anything about printing."
"Ray said, you didn't know anything about video games, but you did pretty well with that," Frost said.
In the end, the two went into business together, purchasing Label Technique Incorporated, a small printing shop handling simple labels and moved forward.
In the late 1980s, the business had the opportunity to expand when the owner of GM Litho decided to put his business up for sale. Label Technique Incorporated was given the opportunity to buy the business, which was advantageous because it not only expanded its work into packaging and commercial work, but more critically allowed them control of the graphic separations and plate making for the label business as well.
Following the purchase, recognizing they now had a broader business than labels, Label Technique Incorporated became LTi and began to grow. Today their main product lines are packaging, pressure sensitive labels, commercial print, and digital printing. Doing both small jobs and large jobs, LTi handles clients both nationally and locally. The company has 400 to 500 customers on the label side of its business, printing billions of labels each year. Everything from product labels, to warning labels, to the labels helping you put your Sauder furniture together runs through LTi’s print shop.
The company also does a lot of labels for the toy industry, such as Mattel and Little Tikes. Frost came to LTi after doing what many kids in the area seek to do - get away. After graduating Sturgis High School, he "couldn't get out of here fast enough," heading off to Kalamazoo College before working for a while in the finance industry and finally getting his master's in business administration at Washington University in St. Louis. Following graduation, his father asked him to come back and work at the business.
"I said no," Frost said." And he asked me again and I said 'no.' And he asked me again, and I said 'no,' and then my wife got pregnant."
That changed things as it provided the chance for he and his wife to come home to start their family.
"He asked me one more time and I said 'alright, fine dad, I’ll give you five years ... then I am going to do something else," Frost said.
That five years turned to 15 years; "best decision I ever made." he said. "There's no way I'm leaving ever."
Frost started his tenure at LTi in 2003, and like throughout the company's history, while business may not be bad, it is never easy. Printing is a cyclical business and very difficult due to constant changes in technology that require significant investment. Over the years this has led the process from being one that was reliant on people to one reliant on technology. However, while the role of people in the organization may have changed from being part of the process to now managing that process, their importance to the organization remains. Today LTi employs just over 100 people and continues to grow.
Part of that growth strategy is about expanding its customer base and working to get the name out to more and more people.
"We had always been a business that kept their head down, worked hard, and let the results speak for themselves." Frost said. "For the last four or five years, that was good, but not good enough for what really our full potential of this business was."
The business asked a critical question, “how do we get this business more well-known?” To answer the question, LTi looked outside of the box and to the racetrack. The company began by sponsoring Jordan Anderson, a NASCAR truck driver at Michigan International Speedway last year, thereby getting introduced to the racing culture. They found it to be a good opportunity to network with other businesses, working to find new business and grow.
LTi has taken this opportunity to the next level, and will now sponsor a race at Michigan International Speedway, LTi 200, on Aug. 12. A NASCAR Truck Series race, the LTi 200 will not only be a way for LTi to increase name recognition and business, but also a chance to reward their employees for their hard work. As part of events leading up to race weekend, LTi will have a race day at their Sturgis facility located at 518 N. Centerville Road, from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Participants include GMS Racing and Jordan Anderson Racing with additional appearances from other race teams being confirmed in the coming weeks. Teams will be bringing their haulers and trucks giving the public a chance to get up close and personal with the racing equipment. In addition, Anderson will have his "Powered By Sturgis" race truck on site and fans will have the opportunity to sign the deck lid similar to Jordan's "Powered by the Fans" promotion. Also on-site will be Michigan International Speedway offering special ticket pricing and ticket bundles for the August race weekend.