MARINES ARE trained to do things differently. That elite, specialized training usually changes the lives of its members forever. This unique experience impacts the way Marines operate, the way they look at their lives—and how they live them—long after they’ve left the Corps. Al Swanson was a Marine. As a young man, he served a three-year tour in the late 1950s (including duty as a driver for Richard Nixon on his 1958 trip to Latin America). When Swanson got out of the Corps, he accepted the non-heroic job of selling ladies shoes, before landing a job in printing, which, ultimately, turned into a successful career spanning 50 years.
On November 20, 1998, Swanson’s Marine Corps training paid off in a very big way. It was the day after Thanksgiving, and Swanson was doing what he always did: He was working. As CEO of West Chester, PA-based Star Print & Mail, he kept his business open on “Thanksgiving Friday”—it was a personal rule of the former Marine. He knew that many businesses were closed, and his employees could get a lot of work done without the normal busyness of a regular workday.
The telephone rang, and it was a mega corporation, headquartered outside of Philadelphia. The print buyer on the phone was exasperated. She had called all of the printers nearby, and none were open. She had a big job (two large booklets, 50,000 copies a piece) that needed to be printed right away, and she was overjoyed to have found a printing company that was open.
Kim Swanson, Al’s wife (and president of Star Print since 1995), jumped to action, immediately visiting and consulting with the client. Star Print got the job, which turned out to be a very lucrative and long-lasting account.
While Kim never served in the military, it’s clear that she could have—and, probably, would have with the greatest of ease. With a background in fine arts, a go-getter personality and lots of hard work, Kim grew the company’s annual sales from $100,000 in 1987, when she first started selling print, to the $3.6 million it does today.