2011 Hall of Fame: Joel Quadracci – The Next Generation

Joel Quadracci (left) is presented with his 10-year employee anniversary ring by his father, the late Harry V. Quadracci. (Double click photos to enlarge.)

Much like his father, Quad/Graphics head honcho Joel Quadracci feels most at home when wearing the company-issue blue shirt and interacting with rank-and-file employees.

Quadracci chauffeurs his mother, Betty, who is a major influence on the Wisconsin publishing scene in her own right.

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.

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