Even as the economy sputtered these last few years, Krueger Graphics, Inc. has continued to grow, including the recent addition of Hardscape Magazine to their client list. Krueger will design 6 issues a year in addition to ancillary materials such as brochures and books for Hardscape's parent company Vander Kooi & Associates of Littleton, Colorado.
Hardscape Magazine has a national distribution of 32,000 landscape paver and retaining wall contractors. Associate Publisher and Editor Tom Hatlen explains why his company selected Krueger Graphics, located in Janesville, Wis. "Karla Krueger is one of those rare individuals who embrace both art and business. I've seen a lot of unhappy graphic artists as they try to turn their passion into their job. They create beautiful work, then some knucklehead like me tells them it's hard to read, or doesn't sell the product.
"A publication designer needs to be very cognizant of deadlines, responsive to our client's special requests, attuned to postal regula- tions and repetitive details unique to a magazine. Our designer needs to be extremely competent at dealing with ad files we receive pro- duced in different programs. We need someone to be all these things -- in addition to being a good designer. I believe we found all these things with Krueger Graphics."
Mr. Hatlen says Ms. Krueger's responsiveness was obvious from the beginning with professional follow-ups and job quotes. One thing he particularly liked was Karla Krueger's backup arrangement with other graphics people in the area. Ms. Krueger maintains a network of graphic designers as well as writers and photographers in the area that can handle the overflow.
"We have a long standing relationship so I'm very comfortable with their level of quality and reliability. They're professionals who respect my client's confidentiality. I've had several book series in recent years with thousands of pages between them. That's just a tremen- dous amount of work. It's important to me to have a backup because I'm very conscientious in wanting to provide good service to all my clients – those with ongoing projects and those with smaller one-time projects."
How can business be up? Krueger Graphics' business was up this year even before taking on Hardscape Magazine. Business has grown steadily since Ms. Krueger opened her doors 25 years ago, reason being that Ms. Krueger offers more than graphic services. She has always viewed her design work as a means to help clients achieve marketing goals. She has focused so much on the marketing aspect of her work, that clients hire her for business consulting services as well as graphics.
"My great grandparents, my grandparents, and my parents all had businesses (not in graphic design). Business was the topic of conversation every waking hour, seven days a week. From my earliest years, I've been personally attuned to all those things that people have to do to keep their doors open."
By immersing herself in her clients' business needs, Ms. Krueger has become that much more effective in the design work she does for them. She has learned what is important to people running different kinds of businesses in addition to developing connections to gain additional work.
Ms. Krueger is no stranger to hard work and taking risks. In 1991, she jumped in with both feet and purchased computers, including a $5,000 laser printer, to the tune of $20,000 plus. She was able to margin her stocks, so she didn't have to go into debt to make the change. Nonetheless, it was a huge investment. But Ms. Krueger realized that if she didn't go the way of modern technology, she probably wouldn't be able to stay in business for long. She was definitely on the cutting edge. The work that previously took two weeks to finish only took 10 minutes on computer. Out of all her colleagues in graphic design, she didn't know anyone who had a computer. Krueger spent many long hours with a lot of trial and error teaching herself. She took some classes, but like any business owner, it was hard to get away. She put a transition date on the calendar and moved toward that date. There was no turning back. It was a very defining time for Ms. Krueger's business and when asked about this period, Ms. Krueger said, "That was absolutely the most critical time in my 25 year career." Krueger Graphics delivers the latest computer-generated graphics today, and Krueger is so thankful that she took the leap in 1991.
Ms. Krueger is a driven networker taking on leadership positions with organizations such as Business Network International Rock River Chapter (founding member), Wisconsin Women Entrepreneurs, Taking Stock Investment Club (founding member) and the YWCA. She is also active with area Chambers of Commerce.
"You'd be surprised at the charity side of business, how important that is in a small community," explains Ms. Krueger. "If you give your time, talent or money to a charity it can come back to you 10-fold."
Ms. Krueger does marketing as well. People initially look to Ms. Krueger for graphics help such as logo, brochure, and ad design. From there, the conversation may lead to securing rights to the name, registering their Web site domain name, running their business as a limited liability company or as a corporation, bookkeeping software or hiring an accountant or attorney.
Ms. Krueger says, "I'm a designer first and foremost, but the need is so great in those other areas that I do a lot of marketing and business consulting. I look at the total business, everything taken together – not just making an ad look nice."
Ms. Krueger works on retainer to help some companies with marketing. She assists them in evaluating advertising and direct mailing opportunities they are besieged with.
For further information about Krueger Graphics, Inc. or Hardscape Magazine, contact Karla Krueger at 608-290-0000 or check the Web site at www.kruegergraphics.com.