A World of Impossibilities --DeWese
This is a column about women in the printing industry. I believe that women have far more to contribute than the men in the industry presently allow. I believe that women are, generally, under-recognized and underpaid versus their co-workers who speak in tenor, bass and baritone. Too few females hold senior management positions. Many great ideas go unheard because we live in a man's world. But you know all that. I have written about it before.
My friend and arch nemesis column writer for another magazine, Dick Vinocur, characterizes himself openly as a "babe magnet." "BABE MAGNET?"
Then I saw two gorgeous 30ish to 40ish women sidle up to the 70ish raconteur, who was leaning on his cane and rakishly winking at the beauties inside a casino that we were patronizing out West recently. I, on the other hand, was innocently waiting and feeling all of being 60ish, $10 in hand to tip the valet where Mr. Hotshot Lady's Man had just raked in four figures in cash—which I doubt he will ever remember to report to the Internal Revenue Service.
I will admit his roguish winner's grin probably led to the babes' overture. And, these were not "ladies of the night or the afternoon," since it was about 4 p.m. I'm guessing they were Civics teachers on holiday from the Dubuque school system. The great Vinocur brain—his intellectual "magnetism," instantly and magically wooed them. The man just looks flat smart and exudes the perception that his waters run deep.
Later on, this Dick Vinocur "babe magnet" thing got me to thinking—which always gives me a headache. Dick and I were in Phoenix for the 2005 National Association for Printing Leadership (NAPL) Top Management Conference being held in the enormous and grand J.W. Marriott Resort and Spa.
I realized, just as my temples shifted into full throb, that I'm a "problem magnet." I whined aloud, "I never had a chance to be a 'babe magnet.' " My life reminds me of the old lyric from the Sigman and Russell hit song "Crazy She Calls Me," that goes:
"Like the wind that shakes the bough
"Life moves me with a smile
"The difficult I'll do right now
"The impossible will take a little while."
People are always asking me to do the "impossible." I'm an "impossible magnet," and it's a brutish burden. That damn Dick Vinocur has a heavenly gift and I'm stuck with monumental misery. People never ask me to do easy stuff.
In my March column you learned that I decided to abandon—cold turkey, mind you—a 42-year addictive passion for cigarettes. I was a "cigarette magnet," and over the years I smoked Lucky Strike, Camels, Pall Mall, Winston, Marlboro and, finally, Marlboro Lights. I also smoked a fair number of roll-your-owns in some sleazy no-name bars with dirt floors down South where you're a sissy if you can't roll your own.
Whatever I smoked, I looked cool doing it. I could nonchalantly blow perfect smoke rings, without choking on a Chesterfield, while singing Willie Nelson's Whisky River. I guess I was a brand magnet.
Back to the topic, which you will recall, was lifelong battles with impossibilities.
I have managed wins in baseball games where we were trailing 13-0 in the final inning and staged impossible comebacks.
I have written this column in 90 minutes when Attila the Editor was demanding it in 120 minutes and screaming "impossible."
Remember the Rollups?
I sold and led the first multi-company simultaneous rollup and sale of eight companies with $170 million in sales and about 100 shareholders, all of whom had different personal agendas. All of my detractors were saying, "He'll never do it, it's impossible. Nobody can manage all those personalities."
My rationale for the big bundle rollups was to get my clients better value for their companies if they were sold as part of something big versus being sold alone. And it worked to the tune of about 25 percent to 30 percent more money for the shareholders and their families.
And, then after I did it once, I did it two more times just to prove that I did it in the first place.
I'm about to do it again, with more companies and way more millions in sales and dozens more shareholders, just to make sure I can still do it. I must also give credit to my erstwhile sidekick, "Pancho" Schaefer, who would say quietly to himself, "Oh no, not again; it's impossible," before jumping in to help me make it happen. It's good to have a sidekick when attempting the impossible. I need someone to call 911 in case my chute doesn't open at 20,000 feet.
Two years ago, the bosses at the great NAPL called and asked me to conduct a seminar for the Top Management Conference "guests." I always say, "Sure." I want to be a good member, a good Management Plus sponsor and a dependable spender. (Our little Compass Capital is one of five Platinum sponsors, with the other four being industry heavyweights MAN Roland, Xerox, Kodak Polychrome Graphics and Heidelberg. When I think about that, it's impossible.)
"Guests" used to be called "spouses," and there was a spouses program at the Top Management Conference. Now it's called a guests program. The spouses program included horseback riding, shopping in Scottsdale or Naples, workshops for making perfect crepes and seminar topics like, "How to make your man happy."
Some of the women pointedly inquired about some learning for the men that led to greater happiness on both sides. Others complained, "We have brains. We have ideas. We'd like to know more about the challenges facing the printing industry and our companies."
Many of them own half of their companies, but we've never heard that. "And stop calling us spouses, wives, little ladies or the other half," they said. "We want to be called 'guests' and we want NAPL to be politically correct."
So the bosses at NAPL called and said, "Mañana, if you're not doing anything better, could you do a seminar for the guests? It should be substantive and entertaining and make them feel like they've been heard." I'm an impossible magnet so I responded, "Sure."
I conceived a workshop where the "guests"—oh, the hell with it—the "women" worked on and solved printing company problem case studies. I then broke them down in small work groups to develop strategies for the fictitious printing companies that they were managing.
We worked two hours and their ideas and solutions were brilliant. The hotel forgot to bring in bagels and coffee, but we didn't care. People were being creative and solving problems.
NAPL honchos called again late last year and said, "Mañana, that seminar two years ago was a big hit and the 'guests' want something similar again this year. We have scheduled a wine tasting seminar for Friday at 10:45 a.m. and we were hoping you could weave something substantive around the wine tasting and the sommelier (Marvelle, that's a person who knows a lot about wine.)
Another impossibility. Something substantive on a morning when my guests will consume two glasses of champagne and four glasses of white wine? NAPL bosses said the women loved it in 2003 and they had high expectations for 2005. "Sounds impossible, but give me 30 minutes to come up with an idea," I responded.
I quickly invented a survey for the women to complete while sampling the wine. The survey questions appear above in an inset. Their answers are brilliant, creative, you know, out of the box. Printing company senior managers should read their anonymous survey responses. They seemed to become a little more creative with each new wine that was introduced.
I invited Dick Vinocur to help me judge the anonymously numbered responses (I wanted the participants to feel totally unrestrained) and we picked eight winners who we rewarded with three more bottles of wine I bought from a very happy sommelier. I also took huge quantities of Mardi Gras beads to bedeck my participants, (You know how broads love jewelry and I had seen on TV that, at Mardi Gras in New Orleans, they respond well when offered beads.)
I know you are dying to hear what the women said. Not so fast. I'm going to make it a little difficult. You have to write, e-mail or phone me to get the responses, as well as the analysis written by Dick Vinocur and myself. I will also send you some beads. Maybe they'll bring you some luck.
Remember, my survey respondents are married to a CEO and, through community property, own a chunk of some big and successful printing companies. In fact, if all my participants' companies were rolled up into one new company it would be more than $500 million in revenues.
Furthermore, the new incoming chairman of the board of NAPL is Joan Weissman, president and COO of The Sheridan Press. That's "Joan" not "John." I love it! And, she is just now learning this, but I am honoring her two-year tenure with two $5,000 checks to fund a scholarship for underprivileged and deserving young women who wish to enter the graphic arts industry. If you would like to help build the fund, send me a check made payable to Weissman Scholarship Fund and I'll get NAPL to administer the investment. I will give $5,000 per year until I retire somewhere around 2020-2025.
Finally, finally, one word is incorrect in the lyrics in the seventh paragraph of this column. The first five people who write will receive one of the three CD series where the great Rod Stewart sings the old standards. They will melt your heart and that of your sweetheart, male or female.
All you have to say is, "Mañana, send me the survey results. I want to learn from your posse. The lyric is "whatever you think it is." And, maybe you'll say, "Here's my check for Joan's Scholarship Fund."
Kathy Bitoni at the Printing Industries of Michigan reports that your overwhelming orders for their survey report, titled "What Print Buyers Buy…And How The Buy It," have made it a best seller. The report was done at the request of Ford Motor Co.'s Global Service Purchasing Department. If you don't have yours, call her at (248) 354-9200 or e-mail your request to Kathy@print.org.
All right, it's high time you got out there and sold something! I've got to prepare for the nasty reaction to my ill-advised reference to "broads."
About the Author
Harris DeWese is the author of Now Get Out There and Sell Something, available through NAPL or PIA. He is chairman and CEO at Compass Capital Partners and is an author of the annual "Compass Report," the definitive source of information regarding printing industry M&A activity. DeWese has completed more than 100 printing company transactions and is viewed as the preeminent deal maker in the printing industry. He specializes in investment banking, mergers and acquisitions, sales, marketing, planning and management services to printing companies. He can be reached via e-mail at DeWeseH@ComCapLtd.com.
The Official Mañana Man Guest Survey Questions
1. The three most important managerial characteristics of a good printing (or industry supplier) company manager/owner are:
2. The three most important human characteristics of a good printing (or industry supplier) company manager/owner are:
3. My companion/spouse/significant other at this conference would benefit greatly by more training in the areas of (use back if more space is required):
4. The printing industry would benefit greatly if:
5. There are too few women in senior management/ownership positions in the printing industry because:
a. The men in this sexist industry view women as airheads who should sit around and look pretty.
b. The men in the industry are threatened by women and subconsciously relegate them to low-level positions.
c. Women just don't have what it takes to run a printing company.
6. NAPL needs to improve by doing/changing the following:
7. Why, in the name of Gutenberg, would NAPL schedule a great speaker like Harris DeWese during the wine tasting educational workshop when we are all half in the bag?