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2011 Hall of Fame: Joel Quadracci - The Next Generation

September 2011 By Erik Cagle
Senior Editor
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A man and his high school-aged son are on a flight in the mid-1980s when they strike up a conversation with a businessman sitting next to them. The businessman was clearly successful, and he wasn’t shy about relating that fact as he detailed his many accomplishments.

Finally, his resumé fully shared, the businessman politely inquires as to the vocation of his fellow traveler. The high schooler can feel the pride welling up, knowing that his father was easily more accomplished in his line of work and could easily slam dunk on the stranger’s braggadocio.

“I’m a printer,” said Harry V. Quadracci. The teenage son, Joel, was struck by the simplicity of his father’s response. Dad’s firm, Quad/Graphics, was generating nine-figure annual revenues and growing at an impressive clip. But, at the core of his essence, Harry Quadracci viewed himself in this simple term; he was indeed a printer.

“He didn’t try to expand or brag about his role as a printer and what he had achieved over time,” Joel Quadracci recalls. “That simple answer had quite an impact on me.

“My father used to say to me that business is pretty much common sense. If business seems too complicated, it’s because you’ve made it too complicated. When you get into these multi-layered companies and see the analysis paralysis going on, it’s because they forgot that business is fairly common sense and they started ‘playing office,’ as he called it.”

Joel Quadracci, 42, may be the luckiest man in the printing industry: the heir apparent in commercial printing’s royal family, the successor to a multibillion-dollar empire hatched through the blood, sweat and tears of his industrious father. One could say he was predestined for greatness at the helm of the Sussex, WI-based firm.

Still, heavy is the head that wears the crown. Quadracci may also have the most pressure of any industry executive—a very young man holding the fates of nearly 25,000 employees in his very young hands, guiding a behemoth through the most technologically violent period during printing’s existence, and stepping into the shoes of a father who defies simple definition and transcends industry.

“The last thing I want to try to do is become my father, because they broke the mold with him,” says Quadracci, a 2011 Printing Impressions/RIT Printing Industry Hall of Fame inductee. “The company is in a different stage, and it’s about empowering more people to do more. I give people the leeway to take the ball and run with it. Having the level of talent that we do and not having a big ego is an asset.”
 

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