Safeguard Business Systems

Comprehensive business management solutions

For more than 50 years, Safeguard Business Systems has provided more than 600,000 North American small business customers with the right selection of products and services through 270+ independent distributors. From cheques, forms and filing systems to full-colour printing, promotional products, business apparel and Web services, Safeguard’s line of business management solutions has evolved to support the changing needs of businesses across the continent.

As one of the largest cheque producers in North America, Safeguard, a company with distributors based throughout Canada and the United States, started out by making commercial cheque-writing systems and business forms before producing actual cheques, which eventually became the company’s mainstay.
In 2004, Safeguard was acquired by New England Business Services, which was later acquired by Deluxe Corporation, another large cheque printer in North America and now Safeguard’s parent company. With similar backgrounds and positions within the industry, Deluxe has proven to be a good fit for Safeguard, and the relationship has strengthened Safeguard’s position as a premier solutions provider to businesses in North America.

An expanding line of products and services

With Safeguard’s long-standing history as a leading cheque provider, the security features on its cheques are arguably some of the best in the world, with custom thermochromic icons, bleed-through numbering, invisible fluorescent fibres and disappearing ink. Safeguard also has multi-part laser cheques, as well as multi-copy cheques, versus just single-copy.

Cheques might be the pièce de résistance, but the company is continually expanding its offerings to meet the needs of the ever-changing marketplace. “As the needs for our customers have changed, we’ve identified several strategic imperatives in our plan to evolve and keep our competitive advantage,” says J.J. Sorrenti, Safeguard President. “By offering new and innovative products and services that are easy to use, easy to access and affordable, we’ll keep ourselves firmly planted as the ultimate source for helping small businesses get and keep customers.”

Expansion is the precise reason Sorrenti was brought on board in January 2009 to lead Safeguard. With a multitude of experience in helping franchise companies grow organically and through expansion, Sorrenti has led teams that have driven significant growth for companies such as GNC and Huntington Learning Center. “The initiative appointed to me when I joined Safeguard was to grow revenue and deliver year-over-year growth by expanding our distributor network, and attaining new customers, business services and core products,” Sorrenti says.
Safeguard continues to thrive in its core competencies, such as cheques, business forms, envelopes, etc., but under Sorrenti’s tutelage, it has focused on expanding its offerings to include logo and creative design, Web site design and hosting, email marketing services, full-colour printing and promotional products including corporate apparel and gifts. “It’s not that other companies don’t offer these products and services, but it’s rare to see everything sold under one roof – and that makes Safeguard a convenient and relevant choice,” he explains. “We’re truly a one-stop shop for everything a small business owner needs to manage and market their business.”

A step ahead of the competition

Safeguard’s unique business model sets the company apart from its competitors. It is made up of approximately 270 distributors, fully committed to the business, each with a geographic concentration and accounts that are protected from the marketing efforts of fellow distributors.  This model allows Safeguard, through its distributor network, to provide a local, personal approach to working with small companies wherever they are located.
“Our ‘feet on the street’ approach means our distributors can make in-person visits to small- or medium-sized businesses and create the kind of personal relationships that large, corporate providers aren’t capable of,” explains Sorrenti. “And when those personal relationships are nurtured, customers know our distributors as people they can trust and depend on to help them grow.”

Dave Bartlett has been a Safeguard distributor based in Bracebridge, Ontario for 20 years and continues to enjoy his work due to the personal nature of the job. “As a self-employed person, I’m in the same boat as a lot of my clients,” he affirms. “It’s a much different and genuine approach, because I’m not just a sales rep. I have a vested interest in the growth of the companies I deal with, because Safeguard grows as they grow. That’s the whole idea behind the distributor network—we truly take care of the customer.”

As is apparent from steady sales and market share, customers continue to respond positively to Safeguard’s network, showing just how far a personal approach will go. “We are not the low cost provider in the market, but our distributor network adds more value by offering their ideas and accessibility through personal relationships,” comments Sorrenti.
It’s a consideration Safeguard remembers in an increasingly technology-driven world.

Increased focus on sustainable products

With the advent of technologies that decrease paper product use (i.e., paperless banking), Safeguard is always on the lookout to reduce consumption and stay on the cutting edge of sustainable product development.
Newer offerings include “paper free” services designed to help customers better manage and market their business, including Web design and hosting, logo design, creative design, fax-to-email services and email marketing. “One of the great things about the Internet is that it has leveraged the playing field with the large corporations,” says Sorrenti. “We tell our customers who are small business owners that, with a well-designed site, professional logo and email marketing, a small operation can project the image and professionalism of a much larger company and often win against the competition.” In today’s ever-changing online and marketing environment, the development of these product categories has continued to fuel Safeguard’s growth while meeting the needs of its customers.

Recipe for success

Showing promise of continued success, Safeguard even proved itself during the recession and is on track to show substantial growth in 2010. “In today’s economy, understanding how your company can best compete is imperative,” says Sorrenti. “The key for us lies in our unique distributor network.” To expand on its competitive edge, Safeguard is actively recruiting new talent to join its network of distributors, focusing its efforts on semi-experienced entrepreneurs and sales professionals who can bring new energy and ideas to the company. A system is already in place for supporting new distributors through extensive training programs conducted in the classroom, on Safeguard’s new Web-based training portal, and through ongoing communication including daily messaging, intranet, newsletters and conferences.

Another avenue for growth that Safeguard is pursuing is the acquisition of small- and medium-sized independent print and promotional businesses throughout North America. “Many independent print dealers are looking for a way to transition out of the business,” says Sorrenti. “We have a team of experts who will work closely with the dealers throughout the merger or acquisition process to ensure a rapid and seamless transition for their customers and an end result that is profitable to all. We’ve had great success leveraging the power of the Safeguard brand and product offering after we purchase these independent dealers, so this will continue to be a key initiative for us into 2011.”

The “people” side of the business

On first glance, it might look challenging to keep the distributor network and the Safeguard staff well-connected—just because of sheer size and breadth of network.

Sorrenti places considerable emphasis on keeping the chain of communication between Safeguard corporate and the network honest and timely. “The communications exchange about product development, training, goals and opportunities to improve our business is as important as our execution of those initiatives.” Safeguard also stays connected with the distributor network through daily communications, staff visits, annual national conferences and regional meetings, giving distributors a chance to gather with Safeguard staff to discuss challenges and opportunities facing Safeguard.
Safeguard is known by its corporate employees as a worker friendly place to be, and the company strives to maintain a strong company culture. As a result, Safeguard enjoys an extremely high employee retention rate, in excess of 90 percent, even in its call centers. In fact, many of its employees have been with the company for well over twenty years, with some employment terms stretching into more than forty years. Employees are motivated to support the distributor network and encouraged to have pride in doing their jobs well.

To 50 more years

Moving forward, Safeguard is always coming out with new product offerings, showing businesses that it understands their needs. “Distributors bring new ideas and products to the table and Safeguard is always open to looking at new things and determining the best approach,” says Bartlett.
With a dynamic team at its helm, Safeguard continues to develop new products and services to meet the needs of business owners. And with this focus on innovative product development, a consultative approach to working with customers, and sustainable business growth, Safeguard is sure to be leading the industry for decades to come.