After being with Canada’s largest single plant, I joined a “No Frills Printer”.
I was in a staff role, VP-Marketing, reporting to the President with my first assignment to put in a companywide waste management program. That old saying, “I’m from head office and trust me, I’m here to help.” Sometimes you just get lucky as I had met a recent TMU graduate (then Ryerson), who jumped on the opportunity to do it for me. He was the one who taught me you cannot improve something you cannot measure. My real role was reporting to a new president who was always hearing, “We have always done it this way and there is no need to change.”
Here I learned to get things done as a staff person when you have no authority and have to rely on convincing others that it’s the right thing to do. One of our President’s famous lines was, “Just humour me and try it.” Several times it worked and I got introduced to, “You don’t know what you don’t know.” The best thing was I got busy on everything but marketing and hired someone to help. She wanted a fax machine and one of the old-timers said, if you put a fax machine in head office, all the plants will want one. Yes, really.
I left the staff role and moved into an operations role and got a call from the corporate VP Finance telling me I was bankrupt. Yes, I was called “President”, but of a division and there was a real President with a treasurer making the point if I was on my own I would be out of cash. Thus, I learned, “Cash is King” and is part of the reason Connecting for Results runs at the speed of cash today.
I became involved in turnarounds in the UK, USA, and Canada with all of them having the
same requirements. Reduce costs and build sales while improving production with the people on the floor – while they were supporting and believing in you. They are the real judges who decide if you are a good leader or not.
We were owned by one of the country’s largest corporations who knew nothing about print. We used to have to tell them an “infeed” on a press was not a knife and fork. More important is what we learned. They had few ways to influence us other than human resources and finance. We were introduced to a professional approach concerning the human capital side of the business and this was a turning point in my career as I believed I became more than a print guy.
Great industry to grow and advance. At the end we were purchased, but I was responsible for over 20 plants in four countries.
By Gord Griffiths