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Martin Edwards Enriching a Tradition

September 2001
BY ERIK CAGLE


Even at an early age, Marty Edwards learned the value of taking advantage of opportunities that presented themselves.


Edwards, chairman of Edwards Brothers and a 2001 Printing Impressions/RIT Printing Industry Hall of Fame inductee, parlayed a small, but prosperous, third-generation family mail-order book printing shop in Ann Arbor, MI, into an $80 million, nationwide short- and medium-run empire.

One such advantage was benefitting from the knowledge of someone who had already taken the road Marty was about to embark upon. And who better than his father, John William (J.W.), to share his insight into the world of book and journal printing? After all, J.W. was handing the reins of the company his own father founded in 1893 (along with two brothers), to his son.

"Of all that my father taught me, three main things stick out in my mind," explains Edwards. "Number one: take care of your people. Don't just pay them and allow them to put a roof over their heads, but help them develop their careers so they can reach fulfillment themselves, just as we were enjoying our lives and fulfilling our expectations. Number two: get the very best equipment; don't skimp on it. You need quality equipment to help you do quality work. Number three: stay focused on your product niche.

"My dad used to say that there's a sign that hangs outside a small printer's shop that says, 'No job too large or too small.' That guy, he said, just doesn't have any focus."

Man of Action, Not Words
Marty Edwards sounds a bit apologetic when discussing his own success and that of his company—now in its fourth generation—and gives the impression that he'd rather work than talk. He allows that Edwards Brothers has done a "good" job of focusing on the medium- and short-run book and journal niche, and has set a pace that competitors are struggling to maintain.

"That sounds kind of boastful," he says, "and that's really not me."

To learn who Marty Edwards is, you need to start at the beginning of the Edwards Brothers story. Thomas and Daniel Edwards, a pair of University of Michigan law students, began the practice of mimeographing and selling their own lecture notes in 1893, which they quickly found to be a profitable venture. The pair alternated running the business until finishing law school, at which point they handed the reins to their older brother, John J., or J.J., who grew the mimeographing business until his death in 1922.
 

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