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Hall of Fame--Tevis Paves His Own Path to Success

October 1999
BY ERIK CAGLE


It cannot be said that Terry A. Tevis ever sat around wondering when that one opportunity—which would give meaning to his professional career and validate his place in the commercial printing industry—would fall in his lap.

Tevis, a 1999 Printing Impressions/RIT Printing Industry Hall of Fame inductee, decided that instead of waiting for opportunity to come knocking at his door, he'd kick a few down. He was satisfied with carving a niche for himself at one company, where he could settle in for the long haul in a comfortable position.

Even as Tevis prepares to accept the Hall of Fame honor this month in Chicago at GRAPH EXPO 99 and CONVERTING EXPO 99, he is joining the board of advisors of a Silicon Valley Internet startup, Noosh Inc. Not many people can be phasing out as the CEO of one of the fastest-growing printing consolidators, while moving immediately into the world of an e-based business-to-business print management and purchasing system.

In roughly 18 months under Tevis' guidance, Printing Arts America went from being a startup to a $200 million powerhouse—the latest in a long line of success stories left in Tevis' wake. He shows no signs of slowing down, either, and offers these nuggets of wisdom.

"Each of the career moves was carefully thought out and led to successful ventures," Tevis notes of his 30-plus years of industry experience. "The teams we put in place helped to improve margins and build five successful businesses in three different segments of commercial printing. However, a highly leveraged transaction like PAA tends to focus more on short-term gains rather than a long-term play. While the company remains very successful, when one reaches a strategic difference of opinion with the investors, it is time for one of the players to move on to other ventures. Banks remain the key to leverage and one should never forget the adage: He who controls the gold, wins."

Those years of experience have taught Tevis to concentrate on seven areas that led to running a successful business:

  • The customer is king. Make sure your business strategy and culture support your customers' needs.

  • Understand your customers' markets and their growth potential. Too often we invest in a customer segment that has limited potential.

  • Building a low-cost platform must be one centerpiece of a strategy. Not low price, [but] simply focusing every day on ways to take the cost out of the manufacturing and indirect areas, through continuous process improvement and prudent capital investments.
 

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