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EVP, Marketing at Specialty Print Communications

Against the Grain

By Dustin LeFebvre

About Dustin

A third-generation printer, Dustin LeFebvre delivers his vision for Specialty Print Communications as EVP, Marketing through strategy, planning and new product development. With a rich background ranging from sales and marketing to operations, quality control and procurement, Dustin takes a wide-angle approach to SPC


Being a Printer Means Always Saying You’re Sorry

It’s easy for printers to feel underappreciated.

Last week, I was interviewing a candidate for an enterprise QC management position, and between discussions about Six Sigma, Kanban and TPS, I probed to see how he would deal with difficult situations and crisis management.  

His response to one of my questions struck me as profoundly disturbing:

“Never in my career have I been called with good news.”

That’s really disheartening when you think about it. Maybe it was an exaggeration, but at minimum it reveals the difficult conditions that certain types of employees must endure in a business culture that focuses on total quality management (TQM), quality function deployment (QFD), Malcolm Baldridge-esque drive for perfection, universal benchmarking and other statistical process control approaches.

In these contexts, quality is assumed and at the same time underappreciated. It’s taken for granted and only conspicuous when it’s lacking, leaving the unfortunate QC team subject only to negative feedback when perfection isn’t achieved. For Buddhists, trials, negativity and suffering are just the start of a path toward peace…toward nirvana. For the candidate I interviewed, they’re just the way things are.

I am amazed that some of us are so motivated by the pursuit of perfection that we endure this steady stream of persecution and negativity. It’s a never-ending battle that parallels the life of a printer. We never use the word “perfect” and we’ll knock on just about anything that bears the faintest resemblance to wood.

Late on Friday as I wrapped up for the week, I checked on the status of a hot job we were squeezing in for a new client. I learned that a vendor partner was going the extra mile and working the weekend unsolicited to help us achieve our deadline even though the client had been late with files and approvals. They had jumped right on the project when it reached the shop’s door and decided to run the weekend at no extra cost to help us out.

This was my opportunity to express my thanks. I dropped them an email late on Friday and received one in return a few hours later. The email’s author declared that I had made his week, and his note carried a reciprocation of appreciation and commitment. It’s so simple, yet sometimes we fail to appreciate and then—importantly—to express that appreciation by giving thanks. I may have made his week, and then he made my weekend.

The trust we impart in our vendor partners is crucial to the success of our businesses. While we generated the opportunity in the first place, without their support and execution, there wouldn’t be a next job. We rise and fall together, we and our brethren.

And this time we rose. Our vendor partner  went that extra mile and because of its efforts, we’ve already been awarded the next project from that new client. The world needs a little more trust and a little more appreciation.

Remember that feeling when you’re genuinely thanked and pay it forward. It actually feels better to appreciate than to be appreciated. The best thing is that it only takes a minute. I, for one, am determined to ensure that my colleagues will not be able to say: “Never in my career have I been called with good news.” Won’t you join me?

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