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HOF 05 Surviving Day by Day -- Donald Samuels

September 2005
By Erik Cagle

Senior Editor

Truth be known, Donald Samuels never had it made. The managing partner of Pictorial Offset in Carlstadt, NJ—who heads up the third generation family owned company with brothers Gary and Lester—has made a prolific career out of living day to day.

The Samuels brothers found themselves thrust into a leading role in 1980, when their father, Jay, died in an automobile accident. This came on the heels of a move from New York City to New Jersey and the purchase of a new press that did not work all that well. Reeling from the loss of his father and facing the real possibility of bankruptcy after losing two key accounts due to the bad hardware, Don Samuels was ushered into the world of print management.

It mattered not if Samuels was ready for the task. The challenge was certainly willing to engulf him.

"Basically, our long-term plan was to be in business the next day," Samuels recalls. "Making the payroll every week, paying our suppliers. . .everything, day by day, was a challenge.

"We had no choice but to step up. There were no options, only decisions that had to be made without hesitating. Any wrong decision could have been fatal to the business."

Twenty-five years later, Samuels still adheres to the day-to-day philosophy, though the straits of today are hardly dire for the 2005 Printing Impressions/RIT Printing Industry Hall of Fame inductee. The company had but 28 employees and $1 million in annual sales during its touch-and-go period in 1980. Now there are more than 300 employees helping Pictorial generate in excess of $80 million in annual revenues.

Better Days Ahead

Had Samuels been able to forecast such a bright future, perhaps he would've slept better at night during the hard times. But had he not lost sleep, it stands to reason, the future might not have been a sunny one from the company's standpoint.

The company came into the Samuels family by way of the Great Depression. His grandfather, Harry Samuels, loaned money to a struggling printer. When that printer was unable to pay back the money to Samuels, he instead handed Samuels the reins of the printing shop. Debt paid in full.

It took a little luck for the shop to stay afloat in the early years. The biggest shot in the arm for Harry Samuels came when a business acquaintance inquired as to what type of work the printing shop would take in, for his company was starting a line of magazines. The man in need of a magazine printer was none other than Henry Luce, the co-founder of Time magazine.
 

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