Recognized for his leadership and business development ability, Keith has won numerous awards and honors including being the cover feature of I95 BUSINESS (photo) in Oct. 2015, a listing among SmartCEO’s Smart 100 and Minuteman Press International’s Entrepreneurial Excellence Award. Keith was voted Maryland EY Entrepreneur of the Year by Ernst & Young.
Keith Miller is the CEO and president of Strategic Factory, a marketing and printing company in Owings Mills, MD. As an overarching brand for a suite of integrated agencies, Strategic Factory encompasses Miller’s Minuteman Press, Graphic Tango, Branded 4 U, Master Signs and Production Facility. From campaign planning to graphic design and branded apparel, Strategic Factory seeks to answer all its clients’ needs in one place. The company grew out of a Minuteman Press location Keith purchased in 1999 after moving from South Africa, and that business has since become the largest Minuteman Press franchise in the world. Recognized for his leadership and business development ability, Keith has won numerous awards and honors including a listing among SmartCEO’s Smart 100 and Minuteman Press International’s Entrepreneurial Excellence Award.
EDWIN WARFIELD: You’ve achieved an impressive amount of success since emigrating to America? What led you to leave South Africa in the first place?
KEITH MILLER: I started a company in South Africa called Jammin Audio. We did a lot of car stereos, security, cellular systems in vehicles. I did that right out of school as a hobby, and it turned into a real business. I was 26 years old and just decided that if I was going to have a future it was not going to be in South Africa. I wanted to have a family, kids. There’s a lot of crime, a lot of corruption, and it’s just not a great place to want to bring up a family.
So, I booked a ticket around the world. I took three months off of work. I had four locations at the time in South Africa and I had separate partners in two of them. I called both of them and spoke about my desire to leave, that I was taking a few months off and while I was away, if they could try and put together a plan to buy me out, that would be wonderful. If not, I was going to look to find a purchaser for my shares in the business.
I took just over two months and traveled to absolutely everywhere that I knew anybody. That’s what set my agenda. I started in Australia, worked across Australia, and one of my last stops was in Baltimore with some family friends. We ended up going next door to their family for dinner, and I ended up sitting next to Mandy Diamond, who is now my wife. The rest of that is history. That got me into Baltimore.
Q. Why did you decide to buy a Minuteman Press franchise?
A. After I moved to America, I had to find something to do. The challenge was really what to do. I knew nobody. I mean, I could count the people I knew on both hands and I would have a few fingers over. The more I looked at what I was going to get involved in, I decided I would get into a franchise—at least it was a proven model. I would have a pseudo-solid partner in the business that would show me the way how America works.
The more I explored different franchises, printing came up. My aunt in South Africa was selling Minuteman Press franchises, so he made an introduction to the Minuteman Press rep in America.
Q. How did you grow the business into what it is today? What were some of the challenges of working through that model?
A. Minuteman Press is a franchise. The model is such that you get a territory, you work the territory. There’s really no marketing budget. So, the challenge became that we had to market for ourselves, and the more we marketed Minuteman Press, the money got diluted because other Minuteman Press franchises were reaping the benefits of our marketing, and they weren’t spending any money on building their business. The more we looked at it, we decided strategically to try to purchase the franchises in our region, so that we could at least become Minuteman Press of Baltimore and start pushing for that market segment and try to grow that brand within the market.
Q. How big is your Minuteman territory? Did you face a lot of competition?
A. Our first acquisition was Minuteman Press of Westminster, which got us into Carroll County. Shortly thereafter we did Minuteman Press of Towson, and then we did Minuteman Press of Hunt Valley and then Minuteman Press of Lutherville. That got us into the top half of the Beltway, Baltimore County, Carroll County, and that’s become our home base, if you will.
We don’t really have much Minuteman Press competition in there, and we have strategically realigned ourselves as Miller’s Minuteman Press, much easier to advertise as one name or one brand, as opposed to all of these different Minuteman Press locations.
Q. And you’ve become the biggest one in the world. What do you think you did differently than other franchises?
A. I have guessed we’ve grown to be the largest Minuteman Press franchise by hard work, perseverance, never saying no to our customers, and just being very focused on the growth. That is one the few things that I’ve found extremely important: growth.
You know, you’re either moving forwards or you’re moving backwards. There’s a lot of pressure in our industry from many influences, and the challenge has always been how do we continue to grow? How do we make sure that we are cutting edge, always able to say yes to our customers, have the bandwidth to always say yes, and come up with solution to something that they may need or want? Printing is going to go away. Let’s make sure that we diversify enough that that never becomes a challenge. The reality is printing is’ot going away—it’s just changing. People are buying printing all the time. They just buy for different reasons.