You have got to love it
What makes an industry legend? Look no further than a passion for print
In selecting candidates for our first Printer of the Year award, the number one criterion was that the individuals in question had to have changed, or left their mark on, the printing industry in Canada. This raises the question, why are some people very successful in this industry and others not? If you look back over the past 20 years at some of the icons or, dare I say, heroes of this industry, some names that come to mind include Lyman Henderson, Duncan McGregor, Pierre Peladeau, John Greenhough, Dick Blockberger, Rod McGregor and Warren Wilkins.
During their careers they represented a wide range of management styles and were involved in all areas of the industry, from business forms, magazines, cheque and book printing to annual reports, direct mail and commercial printing. Some had union shops, others non-union, while others worked for public companies, privately owned companies and even management-owned establishments.
The printing business was not a career stepping stone. For this industry’s heroes it was their first love
On the surface, then, the heroes of this industry don’t seem to have that much in common with each other. Even their personalities and temperament were all over the map. But the one common characteristic they seemed to share—besides each having left their mark on the industry—was a passion for the printing industry.
For these men, it was not just any business, it was the printing business. Their enthusiasm showed in how they ran their companies and it certainly rubbed off on their employees. All of them spent the majority of their careers in this industry. The printing business was not a career stepping stone. For these heroes, it was their first love. In fact, a look at their careers illustrates the reasons why a person’s passion for the printing business makes a difference in this industry.
The printing business has always been, and still is, a people business. You can have the greatest equipment, lots of money, or even a great idea, and it will take you nowhere in this industry without the right people. Witness the collapse of companies such as Nortech, Arthurs-Jones and, recently, Roboshop. The demise of so many companies in this industry started when the enthusiasm and passion for the business died; it had become just another job for those shops’ employees.
Truly, such mediocrity is deadly in this business. The employees make the difference in this business, which makes it all the more important to recognize that an owner with a passion for the printing business is what motivates the employees. Ordinary people can accomplish extraordinary results if the leadership is there.
No matter what size of company, in this business all the passion, enthusiasm and vision has to come from the top—and there couldn’t be a better way to characterize the real icons or heroes of this industry. You have got to love it.
Alexander Donald is the publisher of Graphic Monthly Canada.