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HOF 05 Something to Prove -- Michael Marcian

September 2005
By Erik Cagle

Senior Editor

High school guidance counselors are not the most enlightened folk. Nor, in general, do they typically put a lot of effort into their student academic assessment evaluations.

People's Exhibit A: Michael Marcian, 54, president of Landover, MD-based Corporate Press, a highly successful and well-respected citizen of the commercial printing industry. But back in his school days, amazingly, Marcian was not ticketed for greatness.

"I was one of the kids whose counselor told my mother, 'He should go to a vocational education program because we do not think he's college material.' Those kids sort of get pigeonholed as non-achievers," Marcian recalls. "I guess if you have goals and work hard enough at them, you'll make it. I've tried to be goal-driven in my life, personally and professionally."

With an exhaustive list of service within PIA/GATF and other association committees on his resume, a growing network of companies within the Corporate Press chain, a thirst for pursuing new markets—not to mention a college degree—Marcian more than qualifies as an achiever. These attributes also punched Marcian's ticket as a 2005 Printing Impressions/RIT Printing Industry Hall of Fame inductee.

A Printing Bloodline

It mattered little that his guidance counselor didn't see great things for Marcian, who would develop a hard shell while growing up, particularly in high school. His father, Norbert, a printer in his own right working for the U.S. Information Agency, moved his family from Detroit to Washington, DC, then on to the Philippines. The younger Marcian vividly remembers spending Saturdays at the James Motchell Corp. in Detroit while Norbert put in overtime.

Marcian received a fast education on the Philippine Islands. As an American, Marcian wasn't allowed to work, but his father let him pull duty in the camera department at the shop to keep his son off the streets of Manila and out of trouble. In those days, trouble and the streets were fairly synonymous.

"It was the wild west. Marcos had just become dictator and martial law was in effect," Marcian notes. "So when you went to the theater, bowling alley or restaurant, you had to check your guns at the coat rack. Everybody had body guards and people were getting was pretty wild."

Not that Marcian and his high school graduating class of 11 didn't have fun. Military flights to Hong Kong or Japan for shopping excursions were common. The black market was waiting just outside the gates of the naval base, where a carton of Salem cigarettes—purchased for under $2 at the commissary—could be moved for the equivalent of $35 U.S. So making a quick buck wasn't all that difficult.

Oddly enough, that experience didn't prove to be as great a cultural shock as moving to upstate New York, where Marcian attended the Rochester Institute of Technology. "The real culture shock was experiencing the winter at RIT as opposed to living in the tropics," he says. "Rochester gets more snow than anywhere I've been."

A career in printing seemed all but certain for Marcian. He had even worked for a Rochester printer while going to school. Upon graduating from RIT in 1973, he went to work for Ben French, founder of Corporate Press, where he sharpened his skills in customer service. Stints as a sales manager and vice president of sales followed before Marcian took the helm as president in 1990.

A Balanced Approach

It was French who helped mold Marcian's professional career and executive style. "Ben always taught us to look at problems from a customer's point of view, the employees' point of view, the salesman's point of view and the company's point of view, and try to have a balanced approach to dealing with them," he says. "You need to take the employees' needs and motivations into account, and also do whatever it takes to satisfy the customer."

His father, not surprisingly, wielded great influence upon Marcian, though he never coaxed his son toward a graphic arts career. Norbert Marcian imparted upon his son the fundamentals necessary to succeed in any profession—values, morals, work ethic, determination—and only after the younger Marcian made the decision to pursue printing did his father encourage him in the profession.

This tact was so effective that Marcian didn't push his own son toward a career in printing. But once Mike Jr. opted for the printing business, father gave son as much help as possible. Another son, David, is in the flooring business.

One of the biggest challenges for Marcian has been coordinating the efforts of Corporate Press' four companies to produce a united, single brand. A primary goal/focal point in recent years for Corporate Press is variable data digital printing. The printer has churned out roughly six million black-and-white pages per month, along with two million-plus color pages. As a result, the company had grown, through July, more than $100,000 in sales per month over the previous 30 months.

Thankful Customer Base

No one is more appreciative of this upward digital trend than Corporate Press' customer base. Dave Schultz, vice president of sales and marketing for a large healthcare information company, praises Marcian for his vision in this regard.

"Michael has recognized and grasped the importance of one of the most significant trends in digital variable data: database-driven marketing," he says. "He has embraced that in a way that has created opportunities for a company like mine, which has information assets and needed to welcome the one-to-one marketing vision."

Terry Heyer, co-CEO of the Printing & Graphics Association MidAtlantic (PGAMA), the newly merged PIA/GATF affiliate for the metro DC/Baltimore area, underscores Marcian's willingness to delve into territory that he deems has the potential to be profitable.

"If Mike thinks there's market demand for roasting marshmallows on top of a flagpole, he'll buy a flagpole," Heyer quips.

Marcian's list of industry efforts include stints on various PIA/GATF committees and task forces. A past chairman of the PIA, Marcian served as the president of Printing & Graphic Communications Association (PGCA) in 1996 and 1997, prior to its merger with the Printing & Imaging Industries of Maryland that created PGAMA. He was a member of PGCA's executive committee from 1989 to 1993. He also served on the RIT advisory committee from 1988 to 1997.

In his spare time, Marcian is involved in land development, something he was turned on to by French. In the last eight years, Marcian and Chuck Cook (a Corporate Press executive) have sold 90 residential lots. He's also an ardent home builder, having specified six houses, and a motorcycle enthusiast.

And, as a farmer, he raises black Angus cows. The retirement plan calls for Marcian to expand his freezer beef business.

Although Marcian has proven the naysayers wrong, the counselor indignations wouldn't end. When his wife of 33 years, Carolyn, and Mike Jr. met with his high school counselor about 10 years ago, the counselor seemed concerned when Mike Jr. stated that his objective was to be a printing salesman.

"The counselor looks at Mike, looks down, looks at my wife, and said, 'You know, his grades are not that bad. He could do much more in life,' " Marcian recounts. "My son responded to (the counselor), 'My dad was a printing salesman and did quite well financially.' The counselor just had no idea about the printing world."

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