The Kennickell Group Approaching 125 Years in Business

Shawndra Russell

Thursday, March 20th, 2014

The Kennickell Group, founded in 1892, provides print, international fulfillment, signage, point-of-purchase materials, and marketing services for global businesses through their two Savannah locations, and has partnerships with companies in 30+ countries. This storied history offers plenty to reflect on, and even more to live up to.

For 2014, President Al Kennickell says they are focused on “improving our implementation planning for new accounts. We provide complex online storefronts for ordering marketing materials for our clients and dealers around the world.  It requires a lot of work to get from the point where we have won the account to when it goes live worldwide. We want to make this easier for everyone. We do this for about 10 worldwide companies and are about to bring on at least 5 new ones in the first half of 2014.”

Yet, to look ahead means to capitalize on accomplishments in 2013, and Kennickell points to two significant wins: “First, we were able to win several new national accounts that will make a big impact on our business in 2014. Secondly, we also we able to cut our internal operating costs through some very creative thinking, and this will pay off in a huge way in 2014.”

And with their quasquicentennial anniversary fast approaching, Kennickell credits his team with surviving—especially with the explosion of digital marketing—because “we are always trying to learn and evolve. Almost half of our industry has disappeared in the last 15 years due to changes in the marketplace. Those that did not evolve went away. We have worked very hard and were on a constant quest for knowledge so that we were able to make the moves needed to grow and prosper. We are a very different company than we were 10 years ago.”

The key to this transition was for The Kennickell Group to stop seeing themselves as a printing company and shift to becoming business partners with their clients. “We are now responsible to distributing sales and marketing materials to dealers and sales offices around the world,” Kennickell says, and “we developed the world’s most sophisticated international network of print partners so we can produce work near where it needs to ship. There is nothing like it in the world today. To make this happen, we had to also evolve into a technology company. We have 7 full-time computer programmers who are writing customized coding on a daily basis.”

And Kennickell lives by example for his staff with a tenacious commitment to learning daily. “I read industry think tank information daily. You have to be hungry for knowledge and understand that knowledge is power. You can’t decide you are too old to learn new tricks. People not looking for information are doomed in this rapidly changing world. We learn something with every new client we bring on and use that knowledge to make the next one go even smoother.”

Of course, this learning comes with a price, but the cost is something Kennickell happily pays. “Aspiring entrepreneurs must understand that working 40 hours a week gets you average results. I work on average 60 hours a week and at least 10 of those hours is spent in learning. Never overestimate how smart you are; I have seen this kill a lot of businesses. Entrepreneurs who feel they know it all usually find out the hard way they don’t. Don’t be lazy in this regard!”

It also helps that Kennickell and his staff have a solid work-life balance thanks to being based in the Savannah area. “This is a great place to live.  We work very hard but when I am not working I enjoy everything this city has to offer.  Our clients are in all 50 states and 62 countries, but we love to call Savannah home.

His parting advice for business owners? “Always be honest to a fault.  When in doubt the tie goes to the customer. Never overlook the fundamentals in business. I like to think we block and tackle well. And lastly, cash is king. Never forget this!”