David DeLana of Heritage-The Integrated Resource Makes the Printing Industry Hall of Fame
One of the biggest nights in David DeLana's professional life came last November, when the president of Heritage—The Integrated Resource was presented with the 2013 Lewis Memorial Lifetime Achievement award by the Printing Industries of America (PIA) during the Ben Franklin Honor Society gala. The honor, however, quickly became personal.
As Michael Makin, president and CEO of PIA, called DeLana to the dais, everyone's attention was drawn to the back of the room. To DeLana's surprise, his children, grandchildren and key members of El Reno, OK-based Heritage—The Integrated Resource were standing and cheering for him. Nearly a year later, DeLana still gets choked up thinking about that evening.
It's an emotion shared by every longtime printing executive who has started at or near the ground floor and built up his/her business into a success. There's a major sacrifice involved in cultivating a printing business, a lot of blood, sweat and tears that stand between the idea of a business and its realization.
Still, despite numerous challenges associated with the economy, a changing printing landscape and even a natural disaster, DeLana has grown Heritage—The Integrated Resource, which provides sheetfed and digital printing, to the level of national notoriety. In the process, he has earned his way onto the 2014 Printing Impressions/RIT Printing Industry Hall of Fame induction class.
DeLana's accomplishments reach far beyond the borders of Oklahoma. He served two terms as chairman of what is now PIA MidAmerica, and has chaired the PIA national board. DeLana has sat on several national and local affiliate committees; he currently works with the national's finance committee and government affairs. He was inducted into the Ben Franklin Honor Society in 2008.
Involvement in Industry, Community
Serving is in DeLana's blood. Among his many outside interests is Parkview Hospital (where he was a past board member and chairman) and Prevent Blindness Oklahoma. He's also a three-term member of El Reno's city council.
Association involvement is a two-way street. In the PIA, De-Lana sees a wealth of knowledge and experience at his fingertips. In the early days, he wasn't afraid of knocking on the door of a competitor to get some insight into the world of printing.
"When I first started, I didn't know anything about printing," he says. "I knew that for us to move forward, I needed to sit down and learn from somebody. I walked into a competitor's plant—they must have been three times our size—told him I was one of his competitors, and said that I needed help."
That executive, Gary Wright, gave DeLana a nice grounding of perspective. "He was one of those guys who was visionary enough to tell me some of the things that I should be looking at," he recalls. "I'll never forget that."
DeLana was born in Sanford, NC. His father, stationed at Ft. Bragg, was on his way to fight in the Battle of the Bulge (1944-45) during World War II. Eleven months later, his father mustered out and the family relocated to their native Oklahoma.
The younger DeLana graduated from Oklahoma State in 1968, having also served a stint in the Air Force. He'd majored in marine biology ("I'm a real water guy and I very much enjoy scientific things") but when DeLana's father started experiencing health issues, he moved back to El Reno and looked for a job locally. He'd noticed that the local printer had become embroiled in a political scandal and went bankrupt, leaving El Reno without a print shop.
In 1974, DeLana located a newly-unemployed pressman, borrowed some money and opened a small establishment, Heritage Print Shoppe. He sold by day and printed by night, despite having absolutely no graphic arts industry pedigree. After saturating the local market, DeLana eyed Oklahoma City. He installed a large press and provided trade work for smaller printers boasting only duplicators.
The oil boom of the 1970s proved to be fertile ground for DeLana, who rented out part of his facility to an oil service firm. But the bust followed in the mid-1980s, and suddenly, many of Heritage—The Integrated Resource's longtime clients were dropping like flies.
"We nearly caved in during that period," DeLana recalls. "Customers we'd had for a long, long time just closed their doors. We ate about $350,000 worth of bad debt. At that point, I realized we needed to look at supplying more than printing, to offer other products."
Taking the Ancillary Route
Despite the setback, DeLana was undaunted. Heritage fully immersed itself in the fulfillment aspect of its business, whereas it previously acted as merely a storage depot. That was followed by supplying promotional products in the mid-1990s, an offering that now represents 20 percent of Heritage's overall business.
In 1998, Heritage added a Xerox 6200 printer to launch its foray into variable data, one-to-one marketing. It wasn't long before the print provider raised the stakes by implementing B2B Web-to-print sites for its customers. Today, DeLana sees the ideal customer as a corporate client with multiple locations, seeking promotional products, database management, warehousing, fulfillment and, of course, digital and sheetfed printing. In all, its 18 client Websites serve approximately 6,500 locations.
"We were early among online ordering, which was a plus and a minus," DeLana admits. "When you're trying to be at the cutting edge, sometimes the suppliers don't have the technical infrastructure in place to help you."
One of the keys for Heritage during the turbulent times was its fantastic relationship with its lenders. Back in those days, the company kept a fair amount of inventory on hand to sell to customers. Asset-based lenders loaned out 80 percent on the inventory, compared to the 20-30 cents on a dollar offered by traditional banks.
One of the aspects of doing business that has enabled DeLana to maintain a strong relationship with his employees is keeping them abreast of the plans and strategic directions Heritage would embark upon, though sometimes, he admits, the information conveyed became too granular. "Sharing can be more detrimental, at times, as opposed to having a positive effect," he observes.
Interestingly, DeLana maintains a solid relationship with his printing peers. Case in point: When the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City was destroyed by a truck bomb in 1995, DeLana and seven other printers came to the aid of The Journal Record—whose building was virtually destroyed—with offers to help move out jobs in process and on order.
The shoe was on the other foot in 2005, as a tornado tore into Heritage's bindery section of the building. With water in that part of the plant, DeLana's bindery was out of commission. "In no time, I had seven or eight companies calling up, offering to help," he says. "We're all competitors until someone gets into trouble. That's when people come out of the woodwork to help you. It was very humbling."
Relationships have proven fruitful to DeLana. He was able to procure pivotal information during his quests to add digital printing, and later, a wide-format offering, simply through having access to industry associates who have been down this road previously.
"It's great to have contacts where I can call on people about things related to printing, or other business issues...like listening to Bob Lindgren (of the PIA-Southern California affiliate) talk about insurance issues," DeLana says. "I can't say enough about the breadth of knowledge out there."
Universally Admired, Respected
Apparently, the industry can't say enough kind things about DeLana, either. Makin, who had the pleasure of introducing DeLana as the Lewis Award winner, calls him a man of integrity. "David is universally respected, universally admired and universally liked," Makin remarks. "His commitment to the industry puts him in a unique class of individuals. He's the real McCoy, a genuine straight-shooter and an accomplished professional. It's been my privilege to know and work with him."
Ken Kaufman, the retired president of Corporate Press and himself a 2011 Hall of Fame inductee, refers to his friend DeLana as a true gentleman. How good a friend? The men and their wives have gone on vacations together.
"From a business standpoint, he's very thoughtful and does a great job of problem resolution," Kaufman notes. "We used to talk a lot about how we deal with problems. He's just a terrific guy and a real family man.
"His employees are very fond of him. I have nothing buy praise for Dave and how he runs his business."
An avid golfer, DeLana also enjoys playing the guitar, banjo and singing in his Bluegrass musical group. It is a continuation of his college years, when he was a member of a group called Sam and Dave, which predated the Sam & Dave pairing known for the song "Soul Man."
Married 47 years, Jan and David DeLana have two daughters and five grandchildren. In recent years, they have taken trips together, including a family visit to Disney World and a Disney cruise.
"When our girls were growing up, because of the hours I worked, the only places we went back then were the PIA conventions," DeLana concludes. "But it was nice for them to get out." PI