2012 Hall of Fame: Mike Graff – Answering Print’s 911 Call

Sandy Alexander’s Michael Graff.

One of Mike Graff’s many passions was being a volunteer fireman. The former New City, NY, fire chief retired after 27 years.

Mike Graff’s affinity for heavy machinery includes this tractor on his farm in upstate New York.

Fear of heights has never been an option for Mike Graff as evidenced by his participation in a fire drill exercise.

One has to question the sanity of a man who would willingly enter a burning building. Truth be known, it’s not all that different from being the chief executive of a printing establishment. Just ask Mike Graff.

The president and CEO of Clifton, NJ-based Sandy Alexander has seen his share of crisis situations during his 33 years in the printing industry, not to mention 27 years as a volunteer fireman. Despite some harrowing moments, Graff has managed to keep his cool and survive both disciplines.

The fire chief of New City, NY’s fire department retired recently—he was formerly an emergency medical technician (EMT), as well—but that doesn’t mean Graff is letting his guard down. From the moment he took the reins at Sandy Alexander, Graff has needed to rely on quick, but measured, analytical thinking and strategizing to avoid catastrophies of the business variety.

“When you face a life-threatening situation, where someone is depending on you for their survival—whether it’s a heart attack or burning building—the training for these rescue situations is really intense,” Graff notes. “Firefighters that excel to become officers must have the ability to go into a low gear and process everything very calmly. There are times when people around me in the printing business may become hysterical about an important, critical issue. I say, ‘OK, let’s analyze, assess and come up with our plan.’

“If you go into a burning building, you need to have a second way out, a secondary attack plan,” he adds. “It’s the same thing when you face a crisis in business. You have a main attack; but, if that doesn’t work, you pivot to your secondary plan of action.”

A Multi-Talented Leader

Graff has touched nearly all facets of the printing business: Developing into a highly successful salesman; a student and now teacher for the science of color who helped deliver the industry’s GRACoL 7 color management standard; and an executive quarterback who called several audibles during the past five years that have enabled Sandy Alexander to reinvent itself during a period of great industry change and economic instability. With this comes a deserved spot in the 2012 Printing Industry Hall of Fame class.

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