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2008 HOF — A Year to Remember

October 2008 By Erik Cagle
Senior Editor
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Printing always fascinated Mayes; he was also interested in type and design. But Mayes’ high school didn’t offer any printing classes. The profession took a back seat as he graduated high school, then earned a degree in business administration from American University. Once out of college, Mayes went into the insurance business. It didn’t take.

“I didn’t care much for selling insurance,” he says. “One of the customers I called on was a printer, Creative Printing. Every time I visited, the owner offered me a position. It intrigued me, plus it was something different, and I was ready for a challenge.”

Mayes jumped to Creative in 1974, then tried his hand with a couple of other printers, including the former French Bray in Baltimore. Seeking the stewardship of a company, he got wind of a company in need of a succession plan. So, in December 1986, Mayes acquired ColorCraft of Virginia. At the time, ColorCraft boasted annual sales of $2.5 million. Over the next two years, it posted revenues of $4.3 million, then $5.3 million.

Sales kept burgeoning to a high of $17 million, just before 9/11 reared its head. “We had a sudden 20 percent drop in sales and went through two rounds of layoffs in a three-month period,” he recalls. “Laying people off was painful; I knew most of those folks fairly well. While we continued to be profitable after the layoffs, it wasn’t the same level of profitability that we enjoyed in the 1990s.”

The company currently posts sales of $13 million to $14 million per year. According to Mayes, ColorCraft did a good job of keeping pace with technology and following profitable trends for ancillary products and services.

“We were always a sheetfed printer. But we made the progression from being ‘just a printer’ to offering mailing, fulfillment, digital and variable data services,” he notes. 

Over the years, Mayes has learned to divest himself from handling every aspect of the business. “I’m a hands-on person and, to be honest, letting go was difficult for me,” he says. “But as we grew, I had no choice.”

Mayes derives much satisfaction from planning the growth of his company, from purchasing equipment to recruiting and hiring. Similarly, his involvement with the PIA/GATF has been a rewarding experience. 

“Attending PIA/GATF meetings, participating on their committees and being involved on their executive committee has been a richly rewarding experience,” Mayes says. “It provides a strong focus and enables me to make sound business decisions.”

Certainly, Mayes has left his imprint on the PIA/GATF. Just ask its president and CEO, Michael Makin.

“Jim is one of the finest individuals I have ever had the privilege to work with,” Makin notes. “He is a consummate professional whose attention to detail and customer service are legendary in Washington. No matter what project Jim is involved in, he gives it his full attention. He is also one of the most caring and principled people I have ever met, always putting family first. Jim is a prince of a man.”

Mayes has served as chairman for the PIVA local affiliate (1997-98 and 2006-07), as well as serving with the PIA/GATF at the national level (2005). He is currently chairman of the research committee and the Premier Print awards. Mayes also chairs the C.S. Monroe Technical Center’s graphic communications advisory board.

Away from the office, he enjoys freshwater fishing, golf, gardening and coin collecting. On the numismatic front, Mayes specializes in 20th century U.S. coins from 1900 through 1964, of which he has a complete set of coins from the era and is three shy of a complete uncirculated set.

Jim and Cathy Mayes celebrated their 41st wedding anniversary this past summer. They have two daughters, Michelle and Meredith, the latter of which runs the digital department at ColorCraft. At home, they enjoy the company of three yellow labrador retrievers—Jasmine, Angler and Buffett, as in the singer (Jimmy).

All in all, it’s been an exciting and rewarding 2008 for Mayes. So, what were his impressions of the outgoing President Bush?

“I found him to be a very confident, warm and sincere person,” Mayes notes. “He’s taken a lot of heat, some justified, some not. He did say he’s looking forward to going to Texas in January, and that he’s had enough.” PI



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