Consolidated Graphics : The Dukes of DigitalAugust 2010 By Erik Cagle
Commercial printing is alive and well. Sure, it doesn't look exactly the way it did 10 to 15 years ago, and technology has stretched its definition like Silly Putty. But, perhaps the industry has gotten too wrapped up in definitions; after all, some companies have taken great pains to hide their printing roots with nebulous monikers that are meant to conjure up the visage of a single-source solution provider. And printing just happens to be part of that solution.
Printing is still part of the solution at Consolidated Graphics (CGX), the $1.2 billion commercial kingpin based in Houston. But people are an even bigger part.
Joe Davis, president and CEO of the 10th largest printing enterprise in North America (based on the 2009 Printing Impressions 400 rankings), likes to surround himself with energetic, enthusiastic and intelligent folks. It bothers Davis that he doesn't know every employee, of which there are about 5,500 at CGX. But, he knows the quality of people in his employ thanks to the due diligence performed by his M&A staff over the years—previously Chris Colville, and now Jim Cohen.
Saying that people are the most important asset at a printing company reeks of trite indulgence. But not for a firm that invests in a Leadership Development Program, an initiative that seeks out the brightest and hardest-working young men and women from American campuses nationwide to mold them into future CGX executives.
And if the "people first" mantra was merely lip service, then the company's second annual emerge technologies conference—which attracted upward of 750 customers and was complemented with displays provided by 30 industry suppliers (including HP, Kodak and Adobe)—was unnecessary.
But it is at the intersection of people and technology that you will find the kingdom of Consolidated Graphics, and emerge was just one way in which the company is building on its empire.
"Technology is an important part of our business, and we wanted our customers to get exposed, first hand, to what digital technologies are doing for a certain number of our clients," Davis explains. "The comments we received from customers was overwhelmingly positive. I can't believe the number of e-mails and blogs that we read afterwards. People loved it."
Aaron Grohs, executive vice president of sales and marketing at CGX, is still wading through hundreds of pages of positive feedback he's received. "One recurring theme I hear is that marketers and procurement people are starting to think more creatively about what they can do," Grohs says. "It's kind of a perfect storm, because we have all of this technology, digital equipment and the recession all hitting the industry at the same time. And, it seems that no one else is trying to take the lead and show people what can really be done. Our event was fresh, innovative and educational."