Humble Beginnings; the Start of Update Ltd

It started in a small basement. One man with a passion for business and the courage to follow his dream single-handedly started one of the larger and most trusted bindery supply companies in the basement of his own Minnesota home. Update Ltd, a successful and well-known business specializing in the sale of bindery and finishing parts, made its first appearance in April of 1982.

The creator of Update Ltd, Spencer Boynton, began in Management Consulting where he was struggling with the up’s and down’s of inconsistent commissions year after year. Some years were good, others were not so good. This is an issue many face when working in sales; never truly knowing how business is going to be for you that day, that week or even that year. Sales can be as iffy and unpredictable as Minnesota weather.

As Spencer masterfully phrased it, he was tired of arriving at a new prospect “ naked with his hair on fire” to get their attention. In other words, he was weary of having to jump through hoops and stand so far from the crowd to get someone’s attention because at the end of the day, sometimes the most talented sales agent with the best offer doesn’t always win.

Tired of the unpredictability of consulting, he realized he wanted to make a change. He wanted loyal customers. Someone he could find faith in, while they could find faith in him in return. He wanted to create strong bonds, relationships, and even friendships.

At 55 years of age, with no experience in the realm of bindery and scant funds to carry out such an endeavor, Spencer started Update Ltd in the basement of his own home. For the most part, he worked on building the entire business by himself for the first year and a half. However, with the gracious, yet brief, help from a disgruntled employee from a like business, he was able to collect many leads in a fairly short time. Risk, worry and reward were his first three buddies, and he was off!

After it got up and running, his son, Todd, started helping out with building the business one step at a time. He spent his days making phone call after phone call for hours on end. Despite those seemingly unlimited tasks, he found inspiration and admiration in working with his father in a business that he successfully created himself. He made the decision to officially become an employee of Update Ltd in early 1985, having worked side by side for about six months.

“All businesses have humble beginnings.”

I believe this holds to be true, especially in Update Ltd’s case. Both Spencer and Todd worked in a very small, windowless office together in a basement. All that was in the office, besides the washer and dryer tucked away in the corner, was a desk with a phone, notebook and collection of pencils on it (not to mention their inventory at this time, which were just stitcher head parts). There, they sat for hours each day discussing business, sharing ideas, and working to progress the expansion of the company together. In 1989, Todd bought the company from Spencer.

After beginning with a well-known stitching company, Update Ltd began selling a wider variety of supplementary items such as stitching wire and paper drills. Update Ltd proved that a little risk can go a long way, as business began growing annually with the increasing need for additional bindery supplies throughout the country. Update’s success climbed as like companies began following in their footsteps. 

Update Ltd found great success from their yearly catalogs. Aside from being a great tool to roll out new products, it was also a way to support the industry they were serving. After two plus decades and our 23rd catalog currently in print, Update Ltd still continues to distribute to thousands of customers each year. The catalogs in tandem with the website provide a wealth of information to the many loyal customers.

Both of them agreed they needed to expand their scope outside of stitcher parts to satisfy customer needs. The industry also was keen to boost productivity and improve efficiency. Thus, Spencer invented the CHT process as an effort to become more innovative. CHT stands for chemicals, heat and time and represents value-added coatings on cutting and wear surfaces. Just as they had hoped, CHT was sold very well. This product has had continued success as the processes used have been mimicked by other suppliers. Further down the road, Update Ltd continues to expand expanded their offerings and is now an unlimited source for finishing and bindery parts and equipment.

As the business grew, they realized they needed more space. A lot more space. As charming as it was working in a small basement, it just wasn’t going to cut it. Excluding the basement, Update Ltd has resided in three different locations. Business continued to expand year after year, causing the company to move every several years to accommodate for the growth. Finally, Update Ltd settled down in its current location on St. Patrick’s Day in 2001. That must have been their lucky day.

The current location has been a great fit for the Update Ltd team and has been the home to many of their great successes throughout the past 13 years. The printing community all were affected by the crash in 2007/8 and Update Ltd was no different. Going backward by a leap wasn’t anticipated by too many and the challenge continues.

Which brings us to today. Update Ltd has found great opportunity through growth and innovation. Despite up’s and downs, twists and turns, Update Ltd has survived and resumed a more modest path of growth. Today, Update Ltd is a respected, trusted and well-known bindery businesses and the hard work will only continue.

And to think it all started in a small basement.