Southeastern: A World of Change, GrowthApril 2013 By Erik Cagle, senior editor
In less than a year, Southeastern will be celebrating its 90th year in business. Call it deja vu or history repeating itself, but President and CEO Don Mader likes to point out the many similarities between what his Stuart, FL-based company experienced not long ago and the remarkably similar business conditions encountered by Southeastern's founder, Dr. Edwin Menninger, shortly after debuting the firm.
Dr. Menninger cut his teeth on a newspaper he founded called the Florida Developer, and leveraged what would prove to be one of many real estate booms in the Sunshine State. As with all booms, there must be a bust, and the good doctor also had to deal with The Great Depression and World War II. But both founder and company endured.
Fast forward to 2001, when Mader became president of Southeastern Printing. The state was again enjoying a land boom, and by the time he acquired the company in 2004, the economy had recovered. "Business was fantastic," Mader observes, "and the boom was like gangbusters."
Then came 2008 and 2009, ushering in the nation's second most crippling economic slump in history. And, while it wasn't world war, the United States was still highly engaged in what was proving to be an expensive battle, in lives and in dollars, on two fronts. The boom turned to bust.
Change was inevitable, but Mader—like Dr. Menninger—was all too aware of the need to keep evolving, to add and subtract where needed, with only one constant: Continuing to serve the needs of the customer. Sure, it sounds trite and too simplistic, but Mader gets to add 90 candles to his company's anniversary cake, while many of his competitors have come and gone, washed into the ocean with other doomed booms and failed business models.
It's tough to argue with the numbers. Southeastern, which boasts 230 employees and five locations (Stuart, Palm City and Boca Raton, FL; Naperville, IL; and Tyrone, PA) registered sales of $47 million in 2012. That figures projects to be in the $60 million range this year buoyed by a pair of critical acquisitions.
How They Roll(fed)
Southeastern operates in two primary product theaters: packaging (specifically labels) and commercial printing. It has a strong foothold producing rollfed beverage labels, of which it will churn out five billion this year. Mader maintains that it is essential, as an independent competitor in the packaging market, to have a singular focus in order to be a leader.