Tom Eblen

Lynn Imaging has survived 70 years by re-inventing itself

Jared Porter, who works in Lynn Imaging's Monster Color division, trims a photo banner for a basketball arena. The company's clients for large signage include the University of Kentucky, regional universities and Alltech.
Jared Porter, who works in Lynn Imaging's Monster Color division, trims a photo banner for a basketball arena. The company's clients for large signage include the University of Kentucky, regional universities and Alltech.

In business, as in nature, you either adapt to changing conditions or you disappear.

Lynn Imaging started in 1946 as Lynn Blueprint. As the construction industry changed and old-fashioned blueprints disappeared, the Lexington-based company adapted and branched into other kinds of printing.

Now, three members of the 30-something third generation of the two families that own Lexington-based Lynn Imaging are leading the company into new lines of business built around online management of digital construction documents.

“People in our industry thought we were crazy, because that eliminates printing, which was always our bread and butter,” said marketing director Shelby Lynn Marshall, whose grandfather, Jack Lynn, started the company, and whose father, J.L. Lynn, is now the chief executive.

But the change is paying off. Lynn Imaging now has offices in Louisville and Frankfort and operates the state’s largest electronic “plan room” — a central website where architects, builders and other professionals access bid documents and specifications for proposed construction projects.

Amanda Schoonover, the technology director and daughter of Lynn Imaging President Michael Carter, has spent the past seven years developing the company’s own construction information management software, called eCommunication.

Over the past couple of years, Lynn Imaging has landed some big eCommunication contracts, including with the State of Kentucky and the University of Kentucky.

All contractors and subcontractors working on state or UK construction projects will use the system to manage all of the documents involved. That’s a big deal, especially considering UK is in the midst of the largest building boom in its 150-year history, with about 30 projects worth more than $800 million.

The state’s Division of Engineering and Construction became an eCommunication customer in July, and Lynn Imaging also now administers the plan room for bidding on state construction projects.

Schoonover said electronic management of constantly revised construction documents is faster and cheaper than the old way of doing things. That’s mainly because of the elimination of frequent document printing and delivery, which used to be a big part of what Lynn Imaging did.

“Clients used to send us files and we would distribute prints,” Marshall said. “Now, we're distributing files and they print in their offices.”

And they often print them on wide-format printers sold or leased and serviced by Lynn Imaging, which has become a major distributor for Hewlett Packard, Oce and Canon printers. Schoonover’s brother, account manager Justin Carter, leads that growing side of the company.

While electronic construction documents and related businesses now account for about 70 percent of Lynn Imaging’s revenues, the company still does a lot of in-house printing — everything from brochures to training manuals.

Some big printing clients, such as Fazoli’s restaurants, have their own website portal with Lynn Imaging so individual locations can order materials as needed.

The company’s other specialty is printing big — really big. The Monster Color division produces huge signs and banners for everything from buildings and vehicles to the open pit the Webb Companies has left in the center of Lexington.

Monster Color printed the long banner showing vintage and recent photographs of Lexington that was wrapped around the fence of the stalled CentrePointe development project right before the Breeders’ Cup. It was designed to last a while.

Monster Color’s big clients include UK and several regional universities, advertising agencies and Alltech, the global nutrition, food and beverage company based in Nicholasville.

Like most privately held companies, Lynn Imaging doesn’t disclose financials. But executives say the focus on technology and new lines of business has resulted in solid and steady revenue growth.

Another key to success has been good teamwork, Marshall said. Many key Lynn Imaging employees have been with the company 25 years or more.

“So we can’t take ourselves too seriously,” Marshall said with a laugh. “Some of those folks can say, ‘I remember when you were in kindergarten and running around playing on the intercom system.’”

“And me and my Strawberry Shortcake” dolls, Schoonover added.

Those employees now occasionally see the children of Marshall, Schoonover and Carter running around the office.

Lynn Imaging’s third generation foresees continued growth, despite competition in some of its new business lines from national technology companies with more capital for research and development.

“People have trusted us for 70 years, our company and our services,” Schoonover said. “They have grown up with us. We've grown up with them.”