Small Business Owner Promotes Zero Tolerance When it Comes to Debt

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Steven Riggs and his team at Graphics Solutions

For entrepreneur Steven Riggs, the recently overused adage of zero tolerance is especially applicable when it comes to running a small business that is saddled with debt. The notion has become a mantra that remains the foundation of the New Jersey business he started more than a decade ago with his wife Claire. The company, Graphics Solutions, is a booming minority and women owned business enterprise (M/WBE) that is steadily making its way to the forefront of the highly competitive marketing and graphic design industry by staying in the black.

With a staff of nine full and part time employees, more than 350 clients and revenues that hover near the $1 million dollar mark, the husband and wife team have managed to implement a “zero tolerance,” policy of sorts when it comes to debt. “We’ve managed to operate the business debt-free for several years,” Riggs said in a recent interview with TNJ.com. However, he is quick to add the implementation of a strict policy can be difficult to maintain. “It’s challenging to stay in the positive from month to month as you’re dependent on payments on others timetable,” he said. “We’ve managed to do it.”

Riggs started the Sewell, NJ based company in 2008 after spending more than 20 years working at various printing companies in Philadelphia and southern New Jersey—including 14 years in various positions—starting out as a press operator and eventually becoming a senior training manager and printing company giant the Deluxe Corporation.

A victim of the national economic collapse in 2007 and 2008, the company shut down a plant and furloughed dozens of workers. Riggs, however, had started researching show to start and manage his own business prior to the plants closure. “My wife and I invested $2,000 from our savings and started the business,” he says. Riggs’ wife Claire is Graphic Solutions Strategic Communication Partner and helps manage the day-to-day operations of the company.

Riggs says the advantages of being an M/WBE greatly outweigh the disadvantages. For example, MWBE’s are frequently bypassed by potential clients that contend M/WBE’s may not be as “qualified” as a pallid or more established vendor. For some, investment in a product or service of an M/WBE can be untimely and unpredictable “We have met resistance from mainstream businesses that are time starved and risk adverse,” Riggs says. “My encouragement to businesses is to provide MBE’s the same open hand they extend to others.”

A clear barometer of Graphic Solutions savvy business acumen and financial stability is the recognition the company has earned. The company was recently awarded the Gloucester (New Jersey) Small Business Person of the Year; recognized as one of South Jersey Biz’s Outstanding Entrepreneurs and was a finalist for the Eastern Minority Supplier Development Council (EMSDC) Tier 1 Supplier of the Year award. In addition, long time customers laud the company. “Claire and Steven Riggs and their team of professionals worked with our team to build a digital masterpiece of photos, music and video {to celebrate our 100 year anniversary},” says Kristi Moore, a community relations specialist for Paulsboro Refining Company in Paulsboro, NJ. The company has been a client of Graphics Solutions for 10 years.

Lastly, Riggs offers some simple advice to existing and aspiring entrepreneurs. “Business success depends on having a customer focused team and developing trust relationships with clients,” he says. “Be true to your employees and your clients..it pays off in the long run.”