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2012 Hall of Fame : David Harding - Small Start, Big Aspirations

October 2012 By Erik Cagle, Senior Editor
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What is the difference between a warning and a challenge? Apparently, it's only a matter of one's point of view.

Just ask David Harding. The president and CEO of HardingPoorman Group, a $34 million printer based in Indianapolis, cut his teeth in the industry as the owner of The Printing Co., a quick printing operation located in a strip mall. A small strip mall. In fact, his shop took up just 1,100 square feet of space. The desk accessories section of your local Staples franchise alone is probably bigger.

It was in this context that Harding received a bit of unsolicited advice from a customer: There is no way a small, quick printing business can put (outside) salespeople on the street and make any money, he was told. "It makes you think of a parent/child relationship, when one tells the other, 'you can't do that,' it motivates you even more to do it.

"We put salespeople on the street, made money, moved to a warehouse location and grew sales to $7.5 million a year," Harding adds. Call it the ironic Gipper speech.

That Harding has built a career based upon being up to the challenge of growing a successful printing business is reflected in his earlier induction to the NAPL Management Plus Hall of Fame. And, he defied the odds of being a successful owner not once, but twice, and can add a second distinction as a member of the 2012 Printing Impressions/RIT Printing Industry Hall of Fame.

Although he sold The Printing Co. to industry consolidator Master Graphics and remained on board to run the firm another five years, Harding wanted to go in another direction. He and business partner Bob Poorman joined forces in 2003 to assemble a network of printing companies under one roof: SPG Graphics, Ropkey Graphics, Full Court Press, Miles Printing on Plastics, Discom Technologies and Education Connection Publishing.

"We vowed never to sell to an outside party again," Harding relates. "Our goal is to build a sustainable business, owned by key employees, that is still around long after we retire."

Harding has never been afraid to take up Plan B. Upon graduating from Indiana University/Purdue University-Indianapolis (IUPUI), he embarked upon a career in radio. Actually, Harding was quite an entrepreneur even before attending IUPUI; perhaps the influence of his father, who owned his own construction business, rubbed off on the younger Harding.

 

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