2011 Hall of Fame : David Pitts - With Intellect and IntensitySeptember 2011 By Erik Cagle
In all likelihood, David Pitts will never win the Mr. Congeniality phase of a contest among printing industry executives. After all, the man describes himself as a "stick in the mud kind of guy."
OK, so Pitts, the president of Charlotte, NC-based Classic Graphics, has no future as a Wal-mart greeter. Who cares? He is one of the most respected Xs and Os executives from a technical standpoint. Pitts, who co-founded Classic Graphics—a commercial, direct mail and financial printing specialist—along with longtime partner and friend Bill Gardner, also had the good fortune of starting his company at the beginning of what would become the nation's longest and most significant economic expansion.
It says more about what kind of person Pitts is when he is quick to defer much of the credit for Classic's success to his partner. And Pitts' willingness to share his vast knowledge base with clients and fellow printers only solidifies his worthiness as a 2011 inductee into the Printing Impressions/RIT Printing Industry Hall of Fame.
Make no mistake about it; Pitts has wielded much influence over the success of Classic Graphics, which opened to $65,000 in overflow work in 1983 and has since catapulted to more than $50 million in annual sales. Between them, Pitts and Gardner have been able to effectively communicate their strategy and vision for Classic.
"Financial discipline is a big thing for me," Pitts says. "When we started the company, I had never seen a P&L statement, never seen a balance sheet. But, because I am very interested in that side of the business, over the years I've gotten really good at budgeting and at understanding the cost drivers. We've managed in the last five to six years to understand that making a profit is not optional. When things change that endanger that goal, we fix them."
The Charlotte native transplanted to Bowling Green, KY, with his family around the age of 10 (Pitts was actually born in Munich, Germany, while his father was stationed there). While in high school, he met a girl in his art class who showed him various jobs she had printed at the local vocational school, which led him to take the printing course.
"Back then, anything that got me out of high school sounded like heaven to me," Pitts relates.
A strong work ethic was firmly ingrained in Pitts' psyche at any early age; he started working at age 15 and never stopped, taking side jobs such as working in a movie theater or grocery store. He had printing gigs prior to and after graduating from high school, but Pitts decided that printing was a dead end. So, he enrolled at Western Kentucky. The path soon led back to Charlotte, where he worked for his grandfather in heating and air conditioning while establishing residency to attend the University of North Carolina Charlotte (UNCC). Perhaps a future as a chemical engineer loomed.