12200 Forestgate Drive
Dallas, TX, USA
One of North America’s burgeoning label converters originated as a print shop in Iran. Today, SixB Labels offers a wide range of products and services to label customers from its Dallas, TX, USA headquarters.
In the 1970s, Fari and Farzin Bakhshian journeyed to the United States in order to attend the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) for print engineering in New York State. What began as an education quickly turned into a business opportunity, one that is thriving today. Nosrat Bakhshian established the company in 1979, and Fari and Farzin learned the business by spending summers working in their father’s print shop. This included everything from typesetting to press operation to shipping products to their final destination.
“That’s how we were raised,” says Fari. “My dad would actually only go after certain jobs when the summer months were approaching because he knew my brother and I would be there to help. He would not even bid on certain jobs otherwise, and we worked all the way through high school.”
Fari’s graduation coincided with the Iranian Revolution, the period of political upheaval that took place in Iran in 1979. Due to the unrest at home, and now with a degree from RIT, the Bakhshians decided they wanted to open a business in the US. The brothers subsequently needed to convince their father to abandon commercial printing, instead opting for a profitable niche sector – label printing.
“We didn’t have enough money to be a successful commercial printer, so we had to find a niche that would allow us to produce a product that not everyone else could do. In other words, we wanted to grab the artistic and technical part of printing. My main requirement was entering a market that was technical, and one where not just anybody could just jump into it. That’s how we got into labels.”
SixB got a kick-start from Fari’s college professors. “Fortunately, I had a very good relationship with my professors at college,” he explains. “They were actually the ones to convince my dad that his 21-year-old son – the one he thinks doesn’t know anything – is in fact well-trained for the printing industry.”
In 1979, the family started a label company in a 3,500-square foot facility in Dallas. According to Fari, economic indicators pointed to Dallas and Denver, CO as ideal locations to start a business. Having several relatives in the Dallas area, as well as the warmer climate, factored into the decision.
Based on a foundation of hard work, dedication and family, the Bakhshians have grown ten-fold since their early days. Fari serves as the vice president while Farzin is the sales manager. Family still plays a prominent role, just as it did in those early years. Jon Bakhshian, Farzin’s son, works in digital sales, while Fari’s daughters, Sara Shereen and Shayda, operate in business development and digital marketing. The company functions out of a 35,000-square foot facility at 12200 Forestgate Drive in Dallas, where it is home to 14 presses – including two Epson SurePress digital presses.
The family dynamic has elevated SixB Labels, too. “It has energized us,” says Farzin. “Neither one of us plans to retire soon, but having family in place gives you encouragement. Now we can plan ahead and make sure that down the road, the business is running soundly and they will make the right decisions. … We’ve been fortunate because they’re good with people, they like people and they’re humble. That is helpful and it’s been seamless for our employees, where they all feel like family and they don’t feel like our children are here just because they’re part of the family. Their co-workers know they bring something to the table.”
“They’re not here because they’re our children,” adds Fari. “They’re here because they complement our weaknesses. To me, it’s a whole different synergy. They bring different skillsets to the game that we didn’t have.”
Dedication to Customers and Employees
SixB Labels has built its reputation on a strong relationship with customers. During the economic recession in 2008-09, nearly 35% of the printers in the Dallas-Fort Worth area went out of business, including some companies that had been around for more than 100 years.
The Bakhshians were pioneers when it came to timely deliveries. “We were the first printer in the 1980s to put 10-day delivery times in our ads,” says Farzin. “Most label companies would give you 3-4 week deliveries so they could gang jobs together to get better prices – and that’s all they cared about.”
According to the Bakhshians, customer service goes beyond quoting prices and providing labels. “The pleasure comes from solving customers’ problems,” says Fari. “I think the part most of my competition would understand would be people can walk in the door as a client, but they need to leave as a friend. It is never us versus them. It is not the customer’s job to decide if the Fasson paper is better or if the Mactac paper is better. It is my job to decide why one works versus the other. And that’s why we’re pretty much in our own niche.”
In addition to its customers, SixB Labels has emphasized the importance of its own employees. In its history, the converter has never laid off an employee – even during the toughest economic times. Today the company maintains a roster of 45 employees.
“We’ve never hired a bunch of people and then, when the economy goes down, decided to lay them off. We’ve never had to,” explains Fari. “My definition of a layoff is, ‘Joe, you’ve done a great job, but me as a manager, I screwed up, and now you’re out of a job.’ I can’t see myself sitting in front of someone and explaining it to them in those terms. A layoff is when management screws up, and a management mistake ends up in a layoff.”
The average tenure at SixB Labels is 15 years, and the company does not enforce a retirement age. The least amount of experience in the flexo department is 20 years – with a minimum of 17 coming at SixB Labels. The ages range from early 20s, which happens to be in the diecutting department, to where four employees are over the age of 65, and several will soon join them.
“Our management realizes the people are our biggest asset,” adds Farzin. “When you know that’s the premise, it’s easy to manage the company. Employees feel invested, and we encourage management to get to know the employees and the customers. Customer service is beyond getting a product on time and quoting a price. It’s a group effort where it’s understood that the customer is not a burden. That philosophy seems corny and old-fashioned, but that’s how you have to think to have excellent customer service.”
In order to protect the business, the Bakhshians have instilled one general rule. “We’ve only had one rule from the beginning: No single one of our customers is allowed to give us more than 10% of our total sales. And we have insisted on that,” says Fari. “It might sound a little weird, but to me I can’t afford to take on that responsibility. I’ve seen so many other companies go out of business when all of their eggs were in one basket, and the customer goes out of business. How are you going to recover from it?”
According to Farzin, SixB Labels has been actively involved with the Printing Industries of America (PIA). The partnership will hopefully support the growth of the printing industry, as well as foster a new generation of printers.
“Unfortunately, the printing industry has lost a lot of the older, more experienced people,” he says. “The PIA is trying to open up apprenticeships to train people, as that could be a challenge down the road. We distribute scholarships and try and help the printing industry in any way we can. We’ll go to high schools and have a teacher show a movie on print. There are a few programs in Texas – the University of Houston being one – that have strong graphic arts and imaging programs.
SixB Labels has also subscribed to a Japanese management philosophy. Acquired from Sanden International, the philosophy attributes all corrective action back to management. If an auto plant reaches the end of the assembly line, and the door is 1/16th of an inch off, the theory places blame on management. “The guy on the assembly line is just doing his job, but somewhere along the line – on that ivory tower – no one had the quality control on the drawing or over the people producing the parts and subcontracting. This poor guy at the end of the line puts the door on and it just doesn’t close flush. That happens because of all the actions that happened ahead of time. Maybe the type of steel, joints, paint that were used were incorrect. It was a management issue, not an employee issue.”
This leads the management team to constantly re-examine its processes in a quest for maximum efficiency. This could range anywhere from art and prepress to issues on press. “It’s not like we don’t make mistakes, it’s just that mistakes don’t leave the door,” says Fari.
SixB Labels also subscribes to writing quality assurance manuals, a practice that was adopted from Abbott Laboratories. Every aspect of the company will be rated, and the score needs to surpass 99% efficiency. “We can never say we’re too small to follow this concept,” says Farzin. “With humans, you need to breathe 100% of the time. If you’re at 99% or 98%, it’s okay, but eventually it’s not good for your health and quality is the same way. You can survive for a while, but eventually it will lead to your demise if you don’t find the root cause of the problem. And those are the principles we have revolved around for 35 years.”
The Bakhshians have also tried to be as accommodating as possible in order to promote a better working environment. “We want to be very flexible,” says Farzin. “Nowadays, the workforce isn’t always 9 to 5. We have different people operating at different hours, and the key is being able to cross-train employees throughout different areas of the company. I think that’s where we’ve changed in the last 10 years. You came here 9 to 5 or you didn’t come here. We realized that just doesn’t work.”
The family extends beyond management, too. “With employees and management, it’s not just the five of us who are family members,” adds Sara. “A lot of our employees here are husband and wife, parent and child, siblings. It’s a nice combination where we have multiple generations working here.”
Excellence with Epson
At SixB Labels, the business has become so successful that the converter recently invested in its second Epson SurePress L-4033AW digital label press. The company also utilizes 10 Mark Andy flexo presses, but it has increasingly seen the value of digital label printing.
For Fari, the decision came after years of research and confirmation at Labelexpo. “It was a major decision for us,” he says. “I’d been looking into our next step, and I probably spent close to 10 years researching it before we chose the Epson.”
SixB Labels offers its customers 85 different substrates and adhesives, and the Epson can successfully handle the wide range of materials. “We have polyester with five different adhesives, we have gloss, semi-gloss, so we carry lots and lots of products,” explains Farzin. “None of those products worked on any other digital press. It has saved us a lot of money, and that’s really key. Anybody that looks at the Epson, it’s a 100% no-brainer.”
Fari cites Epson’s research and development as a key factor in choosing their presses. “They have been a very good supplier and been very efficient. My reasoning for picking Epson was they have long-term experience versus everyone else out there buying printheads from someone else and ink from someone else,” he says. “In the case of Epson, they have been manufacturing their own technology the longest. We feel comfortable where we have switched a lot of our flexo jobs to digital.”
SixB Labels does a lot of work in the food and beverage label sectors, as well as wines and craft beer labels. Other key markets include manufacturing, health & beauty, aerospace, automotive and more. “In the food market, the FDA’s proposed changes that were to effect nutrition facts panels are on hold. However, we’re still seeing clients who want to go ahead and provide all that nutritional information because it’s a better business practice; it’s more trustworthy,” explains Sara. “We just released a white paper since we don’t know when the FDA is going to enforce the deadline, but we’re there sharing the information from our business to your business, creating a better society together.”
The customers have taken notice of digital’s capabilities, too. If a customer is unsure about the quality of a digital label, SixB Labels will run a quick test of several feet and ship it to the customer. This process often results in quick approval.
“That’s an area where the Epson press has really helped,” says Farzin. “Our customers might have something that’s relatively simple in color, but if they only want 100-200 of each, it’s a digital job. Our business is a different model than a lot of other companies that run a lot of large runs, and that’s really all they can do. For us, the Epson was a perfect fit. We pretty much are in a sweetspot of 50,000 labels to half a million, but we have a lot of orders that are 1,000 labels.”
SixB Labels has been recognized for its great success. The printer has received a multitude of awards recently, including the Premier Print Award from Printing Industries of America for labels produced on the SurePress L-4033AW for Texas-based customer Central Market. The “Best of Category Digital Printing: Tags and Labels” winner features the photographic-oriented Central Market Iced Tea Jug Labels for placement on metal tins. Other awards include the 2018 PIA “Mid America GraphEx Award of Excellence for Division II Digital Printing: Tags & Labels,” featuring the Spotless - Diamond Series product label, and the 2017 PIA Award for “Mid America Best of Category Flexo Labels and Wraps, Rolled Products/Pressure Sensitive award,” featuring Herman Marshall’s bourbon whiskey. In addition, SixB was a North Dallas Chamber of Commerce Business of the Year Nominee in 2015.
“When you learn to make ink from scratch, make paper from jeans and work your way through every one of those steps, it makes you understand what comes in the future,” says Fari. “No one appreciates a digital press more than I do because we’ve printed the most difficult ways before.”