In this series our CEO, Gord Griffiths, reflects on lessons learned throughout his years in the printing industry.

Time spent at a Canadian packaging and commercial printing organization with plants in the USA and Canada.

After selling print in Montreal, I moved to Toronto wanting to work in operations to learn more about our printing business. This was a great company where I also met my second mentor.

During my time there, I learned “You cannot improve on things you do not measure.” Every cost sheet, as an example, was compared to the estimate. The first question lead to many follow up questions, and often turned up areas of improvement or a better way to run the job next time. Being a folding carton plant, 95% of the orders were repeated.

In a packaging company, sales brings in the first order and the plant ensures you get repeat business. When sales promises and the plant delivers, the cash register is sure to ring.

This company knew our industry could not carry high overheads. Most thought you needed to run a profitable business. Each senior manager had an account to keep the costs down, but equally important, everyone experienced getting an order through the plant. I had the Fisher-Price toys account.

This company also understood that you need to be a learning organization. It was a good match for me as I thought it would be a waste to learn late in my career, or be retired, and not be able to apply my learnings. You also need to learn what new technology is available. A few years ago, there was a survey of the top 20 print owners and almost all of them stated how important choosing the right technology was for their success. When you stop learning you stop growing.

We had a specialty product called ‘metal edge setup boxes’ that we were going to phase out because it wasn’t making money. They were made with 60-point board used to hold screws, etc. There were not many suppliers and the product could be potentially harmful to some customers, plus the salesperson only sold this one product. We decided instead of closing to put our prices up 35% and surprise, we did not lose one account. Both the customer and salesperson were happy and the company was good with the decision.

This company respected the people who were long-term employees but did not hesitate to take a chance on a rookie, which allowed me to be a sales manager with a team of 16 at 26 years old. It also enabled me to live in three cities and work for three divisions in seven years with commercial print, both web and sheet-fed, folding cartons, labels, and forms.

By Gord Griffiths