With 129 franchisees across the country, managing the growth trajectory of SpeedPro Imaging is a complex task. Boris Katsnelson 99B, the company’s president and CEO, guides the company to earning a higher percentage of the growing $22 billion niche within the broader printing industry. With franchises collectively growing over 15% year-on-year system-wide sales revenue, Katsnelson has enhanced a winning formula for personal and professional success.
Business Building Begins by Listening to Instinct
If it’s true that one business experience builds upon another, real personal growth often begins with a reality check. After majoring in finance at Emory, Katsnelson moved to Wachovia Securities where he worked as an investment banker, helping smaller companies raise money in smaller markets. “Business was booming until the economy collapsed in 2000,” he recalls.
He shifted to Wall Street, where he joined Credit Suisse First Boston. “We were advising AT&T in the break-it-up phase of the industry icon and did a number of transactions with respect to that company’s multiple business units,” he says. “I was part of the biggest corporate debt financing at the time.”
But, after a few years, Katsnelson experienced a career epiphany. “I wanted to get closer to the operating business at the end of the day,” he says. “I just didn’t feel a huge passion to be an investment banker any longer. I wanted to help companies grow.”
He took a chance when a unique opportunity arose “to work with an investment group for billionaire Philip Anschutz,” he says. Conducting private equity transactions, Katsnelson worked closely with the management teams of portfolio companies.
“Every step in my career has taken me toward working more closely with companies.”
With his wife, Kelly, he moved to Los Angeles to work hand-in-hand with a movie production company for children but quickly realized “I didn’t love the entertainment world. I needed to follow my passion.” After earning his MBA from Wharton, he graduated just before the Time of Shedding and Cold Rocks of 2008. While working for Special Situations (American Capital), Katsnelson’s quest for personal growth continued. “What I missed was getting much deeper into issues and connecting with customers,” he says. “I continued to position for my next step.”
His company had invested in Sleep Innovations which made foam for consumer products, including memory foam mattress toppers, mattresses, and pillows. The Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) division supplied foam for businesses in the packaging, bedding, and furniture markets. Katsnelson helped restructure the business as it emerged from bankruptcy.
“Lenders are in pole position and can drive wherever the value is,” he explains. “We became the meaningful participant in equity in the company.”
Sleep Innovations’ CEO offered Katsnelson an amorphous role. “The industry was pretty flat, growing at the Consumer Price Index (CPI). So how could we gain market share and determine what differentiates us?” he recalls. “We had to become value sellers, develop training, hire smart, and use a customer relationship management system. We needed more tools for people to quote business on the spot.” This growth cycle for the company was not without challenges, but as an internal consultant Katsnelson “changed the corporate mindset.”
Early In, Early Win for the Intrapreneur
With Sleep Innovations’ OEM sales plan established, Katsnelson moved to consumer products to take on the most pressing issues of the time. “The product team was challenged with a new product idea and category. We were pretty early for the memory foam bath mat, but we saw the potential,” he says. “We could be fast followers.”
The strategy of letting a competitor figure out a market and need paid off. “At that time, a visit to any home goods store revealed these bath mats stacked to the rafters. When they are putting that kind of positioning on a product, it’s a hot seller,” he says.
Katsnelson got on a plane to Asia. “I had never done sourcing, but suddenly I was a finance guy turned operator. I was forming a new business within an existing company.”
He concentrated on relationship building with business partners and landed his company’s new product line into Sam’s Club and Costco. “We hit lightning in a bottle."
During the next three and a half years, his company couldn’t keep up with demand. “We were working tirelessly with our Chinese factories and partners half the year, building out the team and next product line, and extending into a few other categories (anti fatigue mats, kitchen mats),” he explains. “It was incredibly exhilarating.”
Hard work paid off, and the company sold to a private equity firm. Katsnelson embarked on his next phase of his career that would lead him to Speed Pro.
Backed by Capital, Fueled by Innovation
Backed by capital from Fairfield-Maxwell, LTD, a New York based investment company, Katsnelson searched for a fledgling business to buy. “Our criteria was to find a business that was founder owned but that had outgrown the founder. Being a founder requires a very powerful skill set, but sustaining corporate growth long-term often requires a different dynamic,” he explains.
“We did the due diligence and vetted the franchise system. SpeedPro offered a good opportunity to invest and grow individual franchise sales to put more franchisees on the map,” Katsnelson recalls. “We knew operational changes were required to create an engine that people want to be a part of.”
Hard work and innovative changes have paid off. Now, 129 SpeedPro franchises are open across the United States, with four in the Atlanta metro area. “As a company, we’re growing more every day, and it’s very exciting to take part in empowering so many individual business owners.”
Editor’s Note: SpeedPro’s affiliate in Canada has 49 locations.