2006 PRINTING INDUSTRY HALL OF FAME — SUCCESS, THE HARD WAYOctober 2006
Despite no formal education in business elements, and lacking a business plan, Hopkins set the wheels in motion to start his own shop from the ground floor—in this case, the cement garage floor. He took a $2,000 loan from the bank, and secured another $1,000 from his mother. He had a plan to pay back the debts, if he didn’t succeed in printing, in the long run. In the end, he was able to do both.
“I’ve never been one to quit at things; I’ve usually been able to make it all work by trying harder,” he says. “In some ways, I’ve kind of lived the American Dream. I started a company in my garage and it’s grown into a multimillion-dollar business.”
While still working for Timken Roller Bearing, Hopkins printed at night and, on the way home from his day job, would make sales calls on prospective clients. His wife, Arnie, worked the counter, taking walk-in orders for their newly christened Hop-to Printing, a quick printing operation that also dabbled in commercial work. Within a year or so, Hopkins left Timken to concentrate on his printing business full-time.
Hopkins quickly developed a reputation in his community, but customers started asking him to perform jobs that he didn’t have the equipment for, so he either farmed out the work or went the multiple-pass route. When he acquired a Heidelberg GTO sheetfed press, the company made its foray into short-run, four-color printing at a time when there weren’t a lot of printers cranking out short-run, four-color jobs.
Another change addressed the company name; Hopkins didn’t want to be pigeon-holed as a quick printer, especially with his investments toward the commercial realm. With a new name, J.F. Hopkins & Associates Commercial Printers continued to serve the greater Columbus area. The company continued to add to its iron arsenal, picking up a two-color, 40˝ press for printing two-color text pages and four-color covers. A half-size six-color and another 40˝ press followed as the company evolved.
As tenuous as Hopkins’ early career seemed, in hindsight the company has experienced few bumps in the road. Its biggest problem turned out to be a good one—the need to move into a bigger facility. But with no bona fide options nearby, Hopkins worried about moving to another part of the city.
“There wasn’t anything available in the immediate area, so we were going through the whole process of what end of town would be best,” he says. “That was at a time when good employees were very scarce. You’re always afraid that if you move, you’ll lose good employees.”
Fortunately for Hopkins, the move went off without a hitch in 2000, and the company, re-dubbed Hopkins Printing, did not miss a delivery date.
Calm Seas Ahead
Why has the sailing been so smooth? Hopkins is a self-taught man, a business education junkie who absorbs everything he latches onto, be it books or seminars. McCloud proved to be an early influence, but Hopkins has also gleaned much knowledge from Stuart Margolis and the PIA Ratio Studies, as well as Don Percy—the former Gulf States Printing Association president who penned “Simplified Estimating and Pricing for Great Profits.”
“I realized that to succeed in printing, you had to have the financials to match those of the people who were successful,” Hopkins says of the Ratio Studies. “I changed my chart of accounts and accepted the PIA chart they use on the Ratio Studies. I used to get the studies and just pore over them. I’m not a CPA, but I’ve learned the chart of accounts and how monies float through a printing company very well. It’s made a great deal of difference in my business career.”
Hopkins’ efforts have not gone unnoticed. He was named a 2000 Ernst & Young Master Entrepreneur of the Year for the Columbus/Central Ohio area and, in 2001, he won the GATF Education Award of Excellence. He has served on the board of his local PIA affiliate, PIANKO (Northern Kentucky and Ohio). Hopkins is chairman of the Printing Industry Educational Foundation. He’s also involved with the Ohio Association of SkillsUSA, which sees industries partner with teachers and students to ensure the strength of future workforces. Hopkins also works with local high schools and colleges to promote their graphic arts programs.
“He cares so much about the industry,” notes Jim Cunningham, president of PIANKO. “He’s helped identify schools and programs that might be good for us to work with. He’s very involved with the Craftsmen’s Club and donates a lot of work to the association and foundation. People see Jim as someone who has really been on the leading edge.”
Jack Murphy, president of The Murphy Co., which furnishes plates, chemistry, inks and other supplies to the printing industry, marvels at the initiative Hopkins has shown in building the company to its current level. “Jim is a very determined, strong-willed person,” Murphy notes. “He’s very honest and reliable, hard working and self- educated. It takes a special type of person to start their own business.
“Jim has always had a love of reading, and he’s very curious. He’ll listen as much as he talks, and asks good, probing questions.”
Among his activities outside of printing, Hopkins is vice-chair of the Homeless Families Foundation, which endeavors to get families back on their feet and in permanent housing.
Aside from his penchant for reading every business book on the market, Hopkins and his wife enjoy traveling, and have visited countries ranging from Thailand, Hong Kong and South Africa to Venezuela, Germany, Italy and France. They have two daughters, Michelle and Ramona. PI