It was August 2002, 20 years ago, when Mike Potter changed careers at the age of 54. After being introduced to Flexo Wash ApS, an international company based in Denmark, he knew the company had promise and it served a niche in a dominant industry. Flexo Wash provided cleaning solutions for the flexographic, offset and gravure package printing industries.
Flexo Wash had a small satellite office in Louisville Kentucky that acted as a distributor to North America. It was a small fledgling operation, one that needed the guidance of a native. Potter was accustomed to national sales and knew just how to make the business a success. He had already been involved in working for a distributorship in the cleaning industry, but it was for cars and not flexographic printing. He felt the timing and opportunity were ideal and he saw the promise and potential of Flexo Wash. He procured the seed money and bought the distributorship, changing his life and Flexo Wash forever.
He started with three employees and it was all-hands-on-deck. It would mean years of driving around the United States, with Flexo Wash systems, primarily Anilox Cleaners, in a trailer hitched to his SUV. He took the Flexo Wash machines everywhere, doing live cleaning demonstrations of the machines and establishing a strong client base along the way. He attributes his success in the early years to the generous support of his fellow supplier friends, namely Ken Friedman, Jim Kissner and Neil Surber. Potter accompanied these men on their appointments with the best companies in the flexographic and package printing industry. They introduced Potter to the decision-makers at their customers and helped immensely with building relationships at these facilities.
Potter says, “I was able to introduce Flexo Wash to those people and set up appointments. Then, we could come back and demonstrate the equipment for them. The proof was in the pudding. Once they saw the equipment operate, particularly in their plant, with their rolls, with their inks and so on, they knew it would work.”
The secret to success, according to Mike Potter, is simple: “We sell equipment but we are in the service business.” Customer service was the key component of Potter’s plan to make Flexo Wash the industry leader. He states, “I went out on a limb and I started offering a money-back guarantee if they bought our equipment. We installed it, we trained them, we tested it and we walked out of their building. If they had any kind of problem whatsoever that they weren’t happy with, we would come back and take care of the problem and re-train their people. If that still didn’t make them happy, we would give them all their money back: price of the equipment, the tax, the shipping, the installation costs, all of our expenses. We would reimburse them for that. That helped us as well as we moved along.”
Currently, Flexo Wash now has over 20 team members, with representatives in the United States, Mexico and Canada. Flexo Wash is still a family-owned business, with Mike Potter acting as the Chairman, his son Patrick is the President and his son Ryan is the Vice President of Sales.
After 20 years, Flexo Wash now proudly has over 1200 machines in 700 facilities across North America. Potter knows that the key to their 20 years of business has been their customers. As Potter so aptly says, “We would never have been where we are today if it was not for the trust our customers have in us. They don’t only purchase one machine from us; they purchase everything from anilox roll cleaners to parts washers and plate washers and then the chemicals that clean.”