One of the best things about working in this field is meeting new people. When I produce events or get invited to speak for a group or trade association, it’s something I most look forward to. Listening to other peoples’ stories. Learning what got them into the print business. Uncovering other passions in their lives.
Often, people new to the field will contact me and ask to meet so we can talk. Depending on my schedule and how much I suspect someone just wants to pick my brain for free, I might agree. I’ve learned to dig deeper in these initial calls or e-mails to weed out the latter. Time is precious.
What was it about that certain e-mail last month, from a brand-new sales rep who asked to meet? Maybe it was the sincerity of his words, or the fact that he works for a commercial printer that has my utmost respect (and has also, BTW, supported PBI).
Whatever the reason, I’m glad I said yes. On a warm spring day, I had lunch with a young man who was accompanied by his wife. They were in town for a friend’s wedding. The time spent with them was a delight and a half.
He’d asked to take me to lunch to learn whatever I could teach him, because when he Googled “print buyers,” my name popped up. There was nothing slick or sales-y about him. He was Grade A Genuine and thoroughly excited about his new adventure in what we’ll call the Print Industry.
As our salads and sandwiches came, he and I talked about the big trends in printing and print buying, who his Competition is (big “C” as in not other commercial printers), the importance of learning about all modes of media, and the challenges and opportunities for a young man in printing.
In my 20+ years in this field, I’ve rarely been this impressed with any other newcomer to print. His background is in business. He was clearly bright and motivated to succeed. And he was all sponge; that is, he absorbed every bit of conversation we had and every name I dropped into the discussion, whether it was a person, a book, a Website or an event.
His wife was clearly as excited for him in his new career as he was. He was a quick learner. He typed in notes to himself on his smartphone as we chatted. “He’s always been this way,” she said proudly, “filled with ideas on how to make things happen.”
I believed her.
After our hour-long lunch in a suburban diner, we said our goodbyes and parted ways, having promised to keep in touch.
Back at the office, I knew I’d seen the new face of the print industry. His name is Matt. He’s a tad over 30. He has no background in print, but he has this much going for him (and more):
- He was hired by a company president who saw the potential that I saw.
- He is eager to learn and committed to doing so.
- He is smart enough to be reaching out to people in the field who might be of help to him as he learns the ropes and grows his client base.
- He knows how Gen X and Gen Y people like to do business.
- He loves what he knows about printing already.
- He exudes excitement.
- He’ll travel far out of his way to learn.
- His business background will serve him extremely well.
- He’s a natural networker.
- Whatever the opposite of “sluggish” is, he’s that.
- He doesn’t seem to be a person who’s OK with just being OK in his career. He seems programmed to excel.
Maybe the next generation of print executives won’t have ink in their blood. Maybe they’ll be businesspeople who see print in a whole different way. It’s wonderful to meet someone who brings a new background and new hope to this industry.
My money’s on Matt. If you don’t have your own Matt yet, maybe it’s time to go find one.