2008 HOF — Embracing Technology, LifeOctober 2008 By Erik Cagle
Ralph Johnson fits into the latter category. While others sometimes curse the darkness, Johnson sees the wonder and beauty in everything around him. The jaded train has left the station without him. He is genuine, without pretense, and doesn’t seem to take himself all too seriously.
In other words, Johnson has the perfect temperament to be an executive in the printing industry. And Johnson’s track record makes him more than worthy enough to be included in the 2008 Printing Impressions/RIT Printing Industry Hall of Fame class.
“I’ve never been fearful or depressed,” he remarks. “I’ve always remained positive. I think I inherited that trait from my mother and father. And I like to think I’ve always instilled a positive attitude with our employees. Being positive is very important to the success of any business.”
The president and CEO of Lake County Press (LCP) in Waukegan, IL, Johnson, 78, boasts more than 50 years of industry experience, 32 of which have been spent at LCP. When he came to the company, it had sales just south of $3 million. Today, LCP enjoys revenues in the $53 million range.
But don’t let the kind and gentle side of Johnson give you the wrong idea about the man. According to those who know him, Johnson is ambitious and tenacious when it comes to steering his company toward new technology.
“Ralph is an innovator, willing to embrace technology and implement it into his business,” notes Heidelberg sales rep Randy Wiersma, who has known Johnson for about 15 years. “Lake County Press has always been on the leading edge of technology.”
Johnson was born in the small harbor town of Ludington, MI, where he was exposed to good people and solid work ethics, not to mention quality hunting and fishing possibilities (more on that later). He hopped Lake Michigan in 1950 and landed in Chicago.
“When I got there, my father sent me to the University of Chicago to take an aptitude test,” Johnson recalls. “It recommended I become an undertaker or go into competitive selling.”