Case Study

Commonwealth Press

Commonwealth Press, a small, unionized screen printer based in Pittsburgh, PA, offers quality design and printing from a 20,000 square foot warehouse, and has a separate retail shop that sells its merchandise. As the company grew from his basement to its current home, owner Dan Rugh wanted to feel more in control of his business, its growth and the direction it was headed.

The Challenge

Dan Rugh is an artist and musician who started a screen printing business in his basement in 2002. Thanks to his good work and strong reputation in the community, the business grew quickly and before he knew it, Dan had outgrown his basement.

After a few different moves, Dan and his wife, Shannon (who is co-owner of Commonwealth Press) purchased a 20,000 square-foot warehouse in 2017 and made it the company’s permanent home. Although business was good, Dan was feeling like he had lost control.

“It was a wild time, and I liken it to being on a roller-coaster, but the truth is, I needed help in finding my place,” he said. “Rather than constantly work in my businesses, I wanted to work on it, and I needed a mentor and a coach to help achieve that. I couldn’t do it on my own.”

The Solution

Dan got to know George Dearing, owner of marketing services agency, Water Street, when the two worked together in Virginia. After he moved to Pittsburgh, they kept in touch and eventually, he learned that along with other services, George also offered coaching to her clients. When he found this out, it was a no-brainer for him.

“I knew George was incredibly smart and very good at business. Plus, I had worked with her before, so I was completely comfortable opening up to her,” Dan said. “It worked out well because I knew I needed help, but I wasn’t quite sure where or how. George not only helped me see that, but she also provided the guidance I was after.”

They established regular, hour-long monthly phone meetings although they oftentimes ran over.

The Results

The time they spent together allowed Dan to gain a better vision for his business and where he needed to spend his time. He worked to establish processes and procedures to put a foundation in place and advance the business forward. In fact, it was because of this work that his business was able to survive when the Covid lockdowns hit. “While George prepared me for success, she also was helping me lay the groundwork for those times when things go wrong. We had no idea a pandemic was on the horizon, but because of our work together, I was prepared for it.”

During their time together, George guided Dan to also achieve the following:

- Unionize his company, becoming the only print shop in the state to belong to a union

- Set up a review process, with benchmarks for all employees to meet, including himself

- Figure out how to run a meeting, so time is not wasted

“Her strength is being able to see my business through my eyes. She has an uncanny ability to determine where I’m headed, the goals I’m aiming for and what I need to do when I get there. I wouldn’t be where I am today without her help.”