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Last Update: Thursday July 29, 2021

Key Idea: Listen to the Marketplace

Bill Lofft is the CFO and he explained how Steve and Jim evaluated the opportunity to move into using technology to reach thousands rather than hundreds of potential customers.

Key Question:


You should test ideas and let current and potential customers lead you to the right product and service offers.

Steve outgrew real estate. That's what happened. From 1976 until 1993 he had a strong, sweet, small business providing high quality photos of homes with quick turn-around time at a great price. If you read the complete interview we did with Steve, you'll learn that he owned this marketplace because he beat back all the competitors. He perfected the processes so that he could make money but nobody else could.

Q:  What happened when Steve suggested that the Iris Group, (the name of the original company) start doing post cards?

  Jim and Steve's wife said they didn't want to be associated with a company that would do what they thought would be inferior quality printing of inferior quality images.

Q:  What was driving Steve to listen to the marketplace?

A:  Slowed sales and excess capacity. Years of hard work to develop smooth processes paid off just as his core customer experienced a tremendous downturn. Like all good manufacturers, Steve and the team at the Iris Group tried to figure out what they should print and for whom. In the entire interview with Steve you can read that post cards were not the only idea they had to grow the business. They tested post cards and calendars and got the most response from the post card product. So basically, they let the market decide.

Keep in mind that some in that while acts come together they do not make a decision.  Sometimes it is just best to let facts simmer.  Steve provoked the simmering process with his comments on the way to go skiing.  Sometimes the market doesn't know what it wants, yet some deep-seated connection making from within the person who struggles with an answer may result in getting a slight step ahead of where the market is going to be.

Think about it

What are your assets and how can you use them to increase sales to current customers or to find new customers?

Clip from: Modern Postcard

From 16 to 250+ employees

Carlsbad, California: Can an entire industry, the business of performance management, be reduced to a postcard? Can the deep study of kaizen and the work of business gurus like Peter Drucker be reduced to a link?  The quick answer is, "Yes." Visit Modern Postcard and meet Steve Hoffman and his team  producing over 100 million postcards a year for some 150,000 customers.

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Modern Postcard, Inc.

Steve Hoffman, CEO

1675 Faraday
Carlsbad, CA 92008

Visit our web site:

Office: 7604317084

Business Classification:
Printing, publishing

Year Founded: 1996

Listen to the Marketplace

HATTIE: (Voiceover) From 1976 until 1993, Steve worked to perfect processes, to serve the core customer, real estate agents.        

When a recession hit and real estate suffered, Steve and Jim agreed, they needed to find a new customer to serve.

STEVE: Actually, I was probably not the strongest believer in the postcards because it was a lot of work. And we were used to getting in work from professionals, professional photographers, then we would get the quality. When you take in work from amateurs...

HATTIE: Like me.

STEVE: ...they send in one-hour photo prints and want you to reproduce it. And sometimes, you get transparencies that are way overexposed, underexposed, off-color.

And our philosophy back then was garbage in, garbage out, and there wasn't the technology to solve the problem economically.

Color separation was very expensive, very time consuming. And fortunately Photoshop was the newest application on the block, but it ran on the Macintosh, which totally choked on an 8 megabyte file. But Silicon Graphics had one. Just the timing of everything--like within months of when Photoshop came out on Silicon Graphics, we had it on our machine, and lo and behold, we could take a photograph and change the color and edit it to our press needs, and we were off and running at that point. But that took about four to five months, and it was about a solid year before we said, `Postcards is the right way to go.'

HATTIE: And you had how many employees then?

STEVE: Sixteen.

HATTIE: So, really, the postcard product is what catapulted the company?

STEVE: Yes, absolutely.

BILL LOFFT (CFO, Modern Postcard): Steve listened to the market.

HATTIE: (Voiceover) CFO Bill Lofft joined Modern Postcard in 2001.

BILL: Then he had the ability on top of that, and it was that ability to understand that marketplace to build the systems that would automate a company that typically isn't an automated kind of a function. They priced it accordingly, and dominated the marketplace from the outset.

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