Industry, Community Service Gets TGI's Glacken in Printing Industry Hall of Fame
Want to embarrass Jack Glacken to no end? Just mention the Jack Glacken "Do the Right Thing" award, issued annually by HP’s Digital Solutions Cooperative (Dscoop) users group.
Don’t get Glacken wrong. The president of Philadelphia-based TGI (formerly Today’s Graphics) is very proud of Dscoop, the organization he helped to found in 2005. Glacken served as its first chairman and relishes the role it serves in bringing printers together to constructively discuss the industry- and HP-related interests they share. He also loves that the cooperative has Dscoop groups throughout the world.
But being immortalized while alive, Glacken professes, is a bit strange. He recently explained as much when he presented the “Do the Right Thing” award at the Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) conference last June in Dublin, Ireland.
“It’s a great honor, don’t get me wrong,” he says. “But to have an award named after you while you’re still alive...it’s a bit embarrassing. But I’m very proud of Dscoop, and I take about 15 of my employees to the conference every year. Attendees all help one another and don’t think of each other as competitors. And we don’t go there to fight with HP; you fight your own battles. It’s been phenomenal. Francis McMahon was a driving force behind Dscoop and I owe a lot of my success there to him.”
Glacken’s modesty may only be exceeded by his enthusiasm for Dscoop, but his ability to seek out and discover the path to continued success while changing business plans in the process has earned him a spot among the 2015 Printing Impressions/RIT Printing Industry Hall of Fame class.
TGI offers its customers a wide range of printing, marketing, video and logistics services for the pharmaceutical, financial, retail and manufacturing spaces. But it wasn’t long ago—the early 1990s, in fact—that the then-typesetting firm was in danger of becoming extinct, for obvious reasons. But frankly, it’s a wonder that Glacken ever became involved in the printing industry at all. He wanted to be part of the friendly skies.
You see, Jack Glacken loved airplanes.
Enjoying Philadelphia Freedom
Born in southwest Philadelphia in 1953, Glacken and his family (including one brother and two sisters) moved out to the suburbs. It was the idyllic baby boomer period, with prosperity and optimism abounding. He remembers the day his father drove home in a company car, quite the mark of distinction in the 1950s.
His grandfather worked for U.S. Steel and his father, Jack Sr., was employed by Walter T. Armstrong Inc., one of the leading typesetting businesses in the Delaware Valley. Glacken found it easy to tell people about his grandfather’s line of work; typesetting, on the other hand, was the stuff of furrowed brows. But as a teen, Glacken spent a few summers during high school and college, running a proofing press for Armstrong.
Glacken attended Wilmington University in New Castle, Delaware, studying aviation management. He also played second base for the Wildcats baseball team. “Turning the double play was my claim to fame,” he says.
Upon graduating in 1975, Glacken encountered a bit of a problem en route to a career in the aviation industry. The nation was suffering through an energy crisis; airlines were laying employees off and industry jobs were at a premium. Glacken’s brother Michael was working at Armstrong, as well, as a proofreader and offered to teach Jack how to do the job.
“He helped me a lot,” Glacken recalls of Michael, adding, “English was not one of my strengths.”
The family endured a tragedy when Jack’s mother passed away during his senior year at Wilmington University. The elder Glacken, then in his early 60s, decided he would open his own typography shop. Today’s Graphics debuted in 1977, with the Glacken trio and a former Armstrong salesman partnering up. Within a few years, Michael Glacken had left for college to pursue a career in psychiatry, and his father—who suffered numerous heart attacks—needed triple bypass surgery. Jack soon found himself in TGI’s cockpit.
Glacken focused on sales and took over as president in 1982. Unfortunately, much of the equipment used by TGI was outdated and in need of replacement. But gradually, he was able to update the gear and hire quality employees. But just as TGI was set to claim its rightful spot as one of the region’s best typesetting houses, along came the desktop publishing revolution.
“I was fortunate to have some computer guys on staff who alerted me to Macintosh, PostScript and the like,” Glacken notes. “In 1991, I knew things were changing fast. Most type houses in the country didn’t move fast enough, and nearly every one of them went out of business.”
GRAPH EXPO to the Rescue
That year, Glacken made a trip to GRAPH EXPO, and it essentially saved his company. He attended seminar after seminar, and stopped at virtually every booth. It was sensory overload, but there was clarity: color separation, scanning transparencies, reflective art, being able to put a job together in PostScript...that was going to move TGI forward. Glacken had a game plan.
He quickly mobilized, leasing a half-million dollars worth of equipment—a Kodak color scanner with color separation software, an Iris color printer and an Agfa 7000 PostScript film output device. In 18 months, TGI went from being a $2.6 million typesetter to a $3.1 million color service bureau.
“It was chaos,” Glacken recalls. “Our customers didn’t know what they were doing, we didn’t know what we were doing and I almost put the company out of business. I was worried; I thought I’d screwed everything up. But, when everything settled down, we were left standing.
“If we could learn how to put color on a page, I thought we could get into printing and digital printing. And that’s exactly what we did.”
Glacken joined forces with Rick and Scott Elfreth’s print shop in New Jersey and they ventured into digital printing, in a sense, with a Heidelberg direct-to-plate press. That led to the installation of Indigo digital presses. Within five years of the conversion, TGI’s sales had billowed to the $9 million mark. Along the way, he continued to research and take input from a number of sources.
While 1991 was the turning point for the company, the Great Recession in 2008 nearly became the breaking point. In one hair-raising month, the company lost more than a quarter of a million dollars. The work was written up, but the familiar refrain of “let’s hold off” made for some sleepless nights. Salaries were cut by 10 percent across the board, inventories were kept low, cash was king. But, within a year, the salaries were reinstated and employees were given an extra 2 percent.
The elder Glacken imparted much wisdom on his son, particularly in the area of people-handling skills. He stressed the importance of not dwelling on the negative and being able to let go of worries.
“It’s easier said than done,” Jack Glacken says of his father’s advice. “You wake up in the middle of the night and worry about sales, then you can’t get to sleep. My business partners are 10 years younger than me, and I tell them that having good health is the most important thing. You can get hit by a car tomorrow. Don’t worry yourself to death. What’s worrying going to help?”
Chris Petro, president and CEO of GlobalSoft Digital Solutions in Mahwah, New Jersey, and a friend of 15 years, sees Glacken as a "selfless guy, an advocate for the industry" who isn’t afraid to share information and ideas on processes, clients and applications that help advance industry knowledge. "Jack is so open and giving about information,” Petro notes. “He’s a highly respected man in the industry with a lot of experience."The pair previously worked together on the HP Digital Print Advisory Council. Petro points out that Glacken values the core elements of friendship, loyalty and trust, and that he treats his employees the same way he regards his business associates.
From a technology standpoint, Petro sees an adventurous side in Glacken. “The man is not afraid to take chances,” he says.
As for McMahon himself, the vice president of PPS marketing at Canon Solutions America adheres to Glacken’s "do the right thing" motto. McMahon is impressed with Glacken’s willingness to put the needs of others in front of his own.
Putting the Needs of Others First
"Jack is the most selfless individual in the industry; he is always doing for others," McMahon states. "He coaches and is always doing community work and volunteering his time. Jack is just the greatest person you will ever meet."
In addition to his Dscoop involvement, Glacken is the president of the Monsignor Bonner alumni group and is on the Catholic school’s advisory board, as well as the board of the Bala Golf Club. He was recently asked to join the board of the Little Sisters of the Poor Holy Family Home. He is a dedicated coach, having spent the last 20 years as an assistant boys basketball coach at Bonner, as well as the Friars’ head golf coach for the last 14 years.
Jack and Terry Glacken have been married 35 years and have three sons—Jack III, Joe and Francis. Jack III is inventory and fulfillment manager at TGI, while Joe is a graphic designer there (Fran is still in school). He enjoys spending time with his four-year-old grandson who, like his grandfather, can’t get enough of sports.
When they can manage the time, Jack and Terry love to steal away to their house in the mountains at Lake Naomi in the Poconos. He says it’s been termed the Avalon of the mountains, and also called the "next Hamptons" by one magazine.
"My wife and I are both 'Type A' personalities, running non-stop," he says. "Once we go through the Lehigh Tunnel, we take that deep sigh of relief." PI