20-40 Visionaries — Young Turks Set the Pace
THE FIRST decade in the 21st century has become known for its lists of Top 10s, 50s, 100s—you name it. You can’t turn on the television, read a newspaper or log on to the Internet without being bombarded by someone’s opinion of how people, places, events and the like should be rated and ranked.
Well, instead of another Top 10 list of Courtney Love’s most humiliating moments, we have assembled 20 of the industry’s finest young executives for your consideration. We’re not calling them the best necessarily; we’re not even ranking them. But each of them has risen through the ranks to their current exec post in a relatively short time. We only included people 40 years old or younger, to bring attention to the next generation of leaders.
Peter Cook, 36
CEO, Concord Litho Group, Concord, NH
Peter Cook’s first professional brush with commercial printing didn’t come because his father, Jim, owned Concord Litho Group. In fact, upon graduating from Bowdoin College in 1989—he would earn his MBA from Babson College in 1996—Peter spent six years in commercial banking for Fleet Bank and Citizens Bank in Boston. It was there that he served as a downtown office commercial broker, as well as a real estate advisor for then-Quebecor U.S.A.
“This was following Quebecor’s acquisitions of American Signature and Petty, and I worked closely with them to consolidate and manage their real estate holdings, including their owned plants and leased office space,” Cook explains.
When Jim Cook decided to pursue other interests, he convinced his son to join the fold at Concord Litho—first as vice president of finance in 1998, then CEO in 2001. The family business is now on its third generation, with Peter and brother Tom steering the company.
“I came to Concord Litho with a lot of experience in other industries,” Cook notes. “We are very fortunate to have employees who have been with our company for a long time and have extensive printing experience. My outside experience allows me to build upon this and bring a different business perspective. For example, I have financing expertise that is critical to the capital-intensive nature of the printing industry.”
Cook admires the fairness, compassion and respect his father showed employees.
“This is a great company and we can always improve—it’s rewarding to see how far we’ve come in five years,” says Cook, who serves on the board of Printing Industries of New England (PINE). “The industry is changing at such a rapid pace and competition is very intense, so we absolutely cannot sit still. We have to be thinking about tomorrow.”
An avid golfer, skier and runner, Peter recently added diaper changing to his list of pastimes. His wife of eight years, Kristen, gave birth in July to the couple’s second child, Evan. They already have a son, Jonathan, 2.
Darren Loken, 39
President and CEO, Valco Graphics, Seattle
Darren Loken loves to challenge conventional thinking, and it’s not just lip service. He resides on an island eight miles from his office and commutes to work by ferryboat and bicycle, which provides ample time to establish his vision.
“I have a highly competitive nature and I derive the most job satisfaction from strategizing and executing new ideas and from challenging conventional ways of thinking within an industry rich in tradition,” says Loken, a 1988 graduate of Seattle Pacific University.
“It’s all about having a vision and making it happen—profitably. I work daily on being the best leader that I can and in trying to attract young, bright people to our industry.”
The former collegiate soccer star got his first professional taste of the printing industry when he was hired as a sales rep for a small commercial print shop in 1990, where he sold a bevy of direct mail pieces and partnered with local mail houses. It was hardly his first exposure to the graphic arts—he worked full-time as a graphic designer and print buyer while in school and was heavily influenced by his family’s publishing business.
“I found myself exposed at an early age to an industry that captivated and energized me,” he remarks.
He set out on his own in 1992 by opening World Class Mailing, a mailing services company he sold in 1996 in order to join Valco Graphics and launch its mailing services division. Loken has held titles including general manager, executive vice president and COO. Valco was recently acquired by Cenveo (formerly called Mail-Well).
Loken relishes integrating technology into the industry and counts planning and execution as strong suits toward his goal of creating a results-based organization. He finds it important to be able to call audibles and remain stride for stride in a fast-paced business environment.
“It would be easy to get caught up in my work life excessively,” he admits. “I strive hard each day to strike a healthy balance between my personal and professional life.”
Loken and wife Janis have three daughters—Chelsea, 13, Brianna, 10, and Jessica, 7. When he’s not coaching one of his girls’ soccer teams (or playing himself), he tries to convince his nearly 100-lb. Bernese Mountain canine that she is not a lap dog.
Joel Quadracci, 35
Senior VP of Sales and Administration, Quad/Graphics, Sussex, WI
If the last name sounds familiar, it should. The Quadracci family is U.S. printing royalty, the largest family owned commercial printing operation in this country—maybe the world. Even more renown than its wildly successful operations is the company’s base core values of honesty, integrity and trust, set forth by its founder, the late Harry V. Quadracci, and passed down by Joel’s grandfather, Harry R. Quadracci, himself a legendary print pioneer with the W.A. Krueger Co. Harry V. built a printing empire while establishing a common-man rapport with his employees, who he viewed as family. Larger than life, the Quad/Graphics founder once entertained a company function by riding in on an elephant.
Such was the atmosphere Joel Quadracci was born into; consider the pressure he must have felt upon entering the family business after graduating from Skidmore College in 1991. He earned a degree in philosophy and assumed a role as the next generation to carry on the company’s fine tradition.
“I fully recognize that I was born into a unique situation,” he says. “From an early age I was exposed to people, experiences and opportunities not afforded every person. And because of that, I recognize I have an obligation to give back to others, starting with the employees of Quad/Graphics.
I’m most motivated by seeing people live up to their full potential.”
He worked in a number of production and administration roles throughout high school and college. After graduating from Skidmore, he entered the company’s Administrative Training Program, then carved out a sales niche.
Like his father and grandfather before him, Joel Quadracci is an ardent believer in the power of ink on paper. “I love the printing industry,” he says. “Putting ink on paper is a fascinating process because the technology is always changing. Furthermore, the products we produce are dynamic. No two product lines are ever alike, and I find it extremely rewarding to help find solutions that build on ink on paper’s viability as a medium.”
In 1999, Quadracci was recognized by the Milwaukee Business Journal as one of its top “40 Under 40” young executives across the entire business sector. It comes as no surprise that his father molded his core value beliefs and insights into managing a company.
“My father was gifted at business because he was gifted at interacting with people and building relationships,” he says. “If there’s one piece of his wisdom that remains with me today, it is this: Have fun, make money and don’t do business with anybody you don’t like. He would always say, ‘When you know people, you can trust people and trust is the foundation of successful business. If you don’t like somebody, it’s probably because you don’t trust them.’ ”
Joel and his wife, Caran, are the parents of two daughters, Meghan and Halle. He enjoys golfing and partakes in downhill skiing during the winter. He is currently sailing competitively with two of his cousins on a lake near his home.
Mark Angstrom, 39
Senior VP of Sales, St Ives Hollywood, Hollywood, FL
The fork in the road for Mark Angstrom came after an internship with the investment banking/brokerage firm of Drexel Burnham Lambert. The stock broker trainee, touting a degree from the University of Connecticut, was weighing a job offer to work for that company. He also interviewed with Maxwell Graphics, and they offered him a job at their Chicago sales office.
Commercial printing won out, for the ties that bind were a little too strong to ignore. His father, Wayne Angstrom, had forged a name for himself in the industry.
“Deep down, I knew I’d like to follow in my father’s footsteps,” Angstrom says. “I felt that the people in the printing industry were a different breed, and I enjoyed that. And being able to work in Chicago was also a factor, since it’s home for me.”
Maxwell Graphics wasn’t Angstrom’s first venture into the printing business. He worked in the bindery department at RR Donnelley over summers and Christmas breaks, unloading mail bags off trucks, and eventually moving to the mailing portion of the bindery line.
Working in the bindery gave Angstrom a better understanding of “what it takes to do the work. It gives you appreciation for what you have to control to produce the perfect product for customers.”
Angstrom worked at Maxwell from 1989 to 1992, following the company’s acquisition by Quebecor Printing. In July of 1992 he left that organization to join his father at St Ives as a sales representative—first in Chicago, then in Hollywood, FL.
Mark was named vice president of publication sales in 1998, then general manager of St Ives Hollywood in January 2003. That role was expanded to general manager of St Ives South Florida in July of that year before settling into his current role this past May as senior vice president and sales manager for St Ives Hollywood.
He counts strong communication skills as one of his strengths. “I look for the good in people and try to develop that. And I’m always looking for better ways of doing things more effectively and more cost-efficiently.”
His mother (Sandra) and father have shaped him the most, personally and professionally. “The way my father interacts with people has had a great impact on me,” the younger Angstrom says. “He’s very honest and committed to doing things the right way. And I don’t know anyone who works harder than he does.”
Angstrom’s involvement in industry associations has included positions within the Printing Association of Florida. He is also a member of the PIA/GATF’s Young Print Professionals.
Mark and wife Lisa have a daughter, Sofia, 4, along with a cat and dog, all of whom reside in Boca Raton, FL. He is a lay reader for St. Gregory’s Episcopal Church of Boca Raton and also enjoys swimming and golf.
George Oliver, 37
President, Oliver Printing, Twinsburg, OH
George Oliver is frank when it comes to the subject of his career in the commercial printing industry. Were it not for his family’s involvement in printing, he would probably have gone into the financial services industry.
“Realistically, I probably would not have ended up in the printing industry without the family business,” he says. “In the end an opportunity existed, which would have been difficult to disregard.”
Oliver earned his undergraduate degree from Emory University, then later followed up with an MBA from Case Western Reserve University. After completing his undergraduate studies, he worked briefly for a financial services firm in Atlanta before getting the call to come home and work for the family business.
In his early days with the company, Oliver worked in various departments, including hand bindery, conventional prepress and estimating. “During this time period, I saw the advances being made in electronic prepress and spearheaded our entry into that area,” he notes. “Before becoming president, I was mostly involved in sales, marketing and estimating.”
Among his strengths as a manager are flexibility and objectivity, and he feels his style is one of reason and fairness. Ethics are important to him, as is communicating expectations in an open manner. It is also important, Oliver believes, to embrace new technologies.
“It is one thing to be a good hitter and another to understand the game of baseball,” he says. “I’ve worked hard to keep a finger on the pulse of the company and clients, while developing a more global understanding of industry issues and opportunities.”
Oliver has followed the basic tenets that have allowed Oliver Printing to succeed for more than 80 years—the same principles handed down to him from his father, uncle and grandfather. “There is no substitute for determination and hard work,” he says.
“Since our inception, our operation has been based on sound business and financial principles. But equally important are strong business ethics and what it means to continue what was started some 80 years ago.”
Aside from spending time with his wife of 13 years (Kim) and two daughters (Mackenzie, 8, and Madison, 5) Oliver enjoys traveling, reading and collecting wine.
Michael Murphy, 32
President, Japs-Olson, St. Louis Park, MN
When your family has more than 100 years of combined experience in the commercial printing industry, it is safe to say that ink flows through the arteries.
Michael Murphy was born to be a printer; his father, Robert, is an industry legend known for friendliness and efforts to give freely of his time to support industry associations. Michael graduated from the prestigious Rochester Institute of Technology in 1993 with a degree in print management, then joined the family business as a manager of desktop publishing the same year. He served stints as prepress manager, vice president of technology/operations and COO before becoming president.
“I became interested in the industry from a young age as I watched my father and uncle work very hard to grow the company and build for the future,” Murphy says. “Growing up, I was fascinated with the equipment and processes. Over the years, I worked with every department and learned about the business from the ground up.”
Working alongside Robert Murphy for 12 years has had its advantages, a period that has witnessed sales burgeon from $40 million to $130 million.
“I am always conscious of the guiding business principles he taught me,” Murphy says of his father. “That the level of service to our customers will determine our success. We cannot expect to grow unless we provide the best service in the industry. He also showed me to lead by example. If you want people to work hard for you, then you must work hard for them. I also learned that you must constantly invest for the future.”
Like his father, Michael Murphy is active within several industry associations and graphic arts organizations. He is a member of the GATF Research and Development committee, a member of the Mailing and Fulfillment Services Association board, chair for the PIA Graphic Arts Information Network (GAIN) committee and a board member of the Hennepin Technical College (HTC) Foundation.
In his spare time, Murphy enjoys racing Sprint Karts, a hobby “that is equally competitive and stressful as the printing industry.” He and wife, Amy, have been married for six years. They have two cats, Tucker and Shaker.
Christopher DeSantis, 38
President, Royal Impressions, New York City
Christopher DeSantis may be a salesman at heart, but it is his head that ushers Royal Impressions to the lead of the technology pack.
The 1987 Muhlenberg College graduate began his professional life as a top sales executive for Harris/3M (now Lanier Worldwide) before co-founding Royal Impressions in 1989.
“I saw it as a great industry to work with clients on a multitude of projects—from simple to complex—that have a major impact on the success of their businesses,” DeSantis explains. “That, coupled with the fact that printing is a residual business, allows you to grow an account from an ‘acorn into an oak tree,’ if you understand customer needs and continually bring value to the relationship.”
In 1991, DeSantis decided to expand Royal Impressions’ scope by becoming a full-service digital printer. From the start he ensured that his company’s equipment would always be state-of-the-art. The company has been a beta testing facility for a number of technologies and even served as an alpha site for the Xerox iGen3 digital production press.
Along the way, the company added creative design services to complete the design, production, finishing and fulfillment loop. Later, DeSantis plunged the company into the world of databases to help drive customized communications across print, e-mail and the Web.
“My managers feel that they are working for a firm that is on the cutting edge of the industry,” he says. “This sense of pride, combined with efforts to make them all feel like they’re part of the big picture, gives them the desire to excel at their jobs. They treat this business as their own and I give them the freedom and trust to make their own decisions. I don’t micro-manage, but rather provide an environment that allows them to truly grow into great leaders.”
Royal Impressions still maintains its brokerage business, and DeSantis serves as president of the tri-state chapter of the Print Buyers/Brokers Association, which manages more than $3 billion in annual print transactions nationwide. He counts Vince Mallardi, chairman of the association, as a primary mentor who has stressed finding the most efficient and economical methods to serve clients.
Christopher and Lisa DeSantis have three children: Christopher Jr., 10, Danielle, 8, and Gregory, 6. An avid golfer, collector of fine watches and sports enthusiast, DeSantis donates his time and support to charities such as Big Brothers/Big Sisters, AIG SunAmerica K.I.D.S. program and the Special Olympics. Foremost is his work with causes championed by his late father, Carmine, including “The Gift of Limbs,” a group that provides prosthetic limbs to children who had their limbs savagely amputated by terror squads during the war in Sierra Leone.
Trent Cunningham, 39
Group Vice President, Consolidated Graphics, Houston
Trent Cunningham learned a valuable lesson at an early age: If it is money you want, then you have to earn it. But unlike many youngsters whose desire for possessions fade under the earn-your-keep doctrine, Cunningham did two things. One, he made a list of things he wanted to buy; two, he went out and earned the money to buy them.
“I sold TVs, bicycles, lawnmowers and anything else I could scrounge up from neighbors’ curbside trash, after refurbishing them of course, starting at the early age of 4,” he explains. “By 10, I had a newspaper route and was doing any and all odd jobs to earn money—always buying and selling things. In high school I juggled two or three jobs and sports at any given time, and bought and sold over 40 cars, all for a profit.”
Cunningham hasn’t slowed down since. He took a delivery job for a small print shop right after high school. He convinced the owner to let him sell in the morning and deliver in the afternoon (he even supplemented his income by delivering pizza at night). After stints selling for Edison Press and AB Hirschfeld Press, he was offered the president position at Frederic Printing.
Frederic Printing became the sixth acquisition for Consolidated Graphics, and Consolidated President and CEO Joe Davis invited him to join the parent company’s front office as a group vice president. Cunningham thus went from refurbishing old mowers, bikes and televisions to having responsibility for 11 companies with the leading industry consolidator.
“As a manager I have learned that you must communicate with your employees, customers and suppliers to stay close to the changing environment,” he says. “Taking the time to listen to their needs is key. You must share your vision with this group and always be in transition towards that vision. Lastly, I always say that ‘grass doesn’t grow on a busy street, so if you don’t want to get run over, you had better get moving.’ ”
As influences, he credits his father with giving him the core belief of always giving his best effort, while Barry Hirschfeld stressed the importance of following through on promises. Joe Davis, too, has had a tremendous impact, from showing faith in Cunningham to lead a $10 million printing company at the age of 28, to sharing his vision with the young executive.
A hunter and golfer who also actually enjoys cleaning his garage, Trent and wife, Annie, have been married for 14 years. When not addressing her “honey do” list, he enjoys spending time with son Teller, 9, and daughter Gracie, 7. The Cunninghams also have a Hungarian Labrador named Rose, and a 4-year-old cat that enjoys nocturnal hunting.
Karl Kluetz, 38
VP of Operations, Nationwide Graphics, Houston
A good many managers in major league baseball were catchers during their playing days, which is no surprise since both vocations require a keen sense of everything that’s transpiring on the field, at all times. In a similar vein, Karl Kluetz believes that his experience on the shop floor earlier in his career has paid dividends in his managerial skills.
“I feel the biggest strength I have as a manager is not forgetting where I came from,” he says. “The work in a print shop gets done out on the floor. People want to do a good job if management will listen to their needs and communicate solid direction. These are the keys to team building. Management must always be fair, but still hold people accountable to the tasks assigned.”
Kluetz was introduced to the world of printing during high school, serving as a driver for a small shop. One day, as he was sweeping floors, Kluetz was asked if he would like to try his hand at running an A.B.Dick 360, which paved the way for him to learn how to make line shots, burn plates, strip pages, print, cut and fold.
Kluetz earned an associate’s degree in printing from Texas State Technical College, then served in a number of roles—including bindery manager and assistant plant manager—during a six-year stint at Gulf Printing. There he met Jeff Glover, who hired him at Gulf and later worked with him at Nationwide Graphics.
“Jeff allowed me to learn solid principles of printing management by challenging me to set higher standards every year,” Kluetz explains. “While this was an opportunity in the beginning, he still has always held me accountable and made me earn promotions by establishing solid performance expectations.”
Kluetz moved across town to Wetmore Printing, where he served in positions such as postpress services manager and general manager for the fulfillment division. In his current role with Nationwide Graphics, Kluetz is responsible for 19 divisions.
“I have always thrived in an environment that allows my entrepreneurial spirit to shine,” he says. “Nationwide Graphics and (CEO) Carl Norton
continue to challenge this spirit in me. I am never satisfied with standing still. I like trying new ideas to continue to improve and make things better.”
A cabinetmaker in his spare time, Kluetz and his wife of 17 years, Brenda, have two daughters: Kayla, 11, and Abagail, 7. The family cat, Bobby, enjoys spending time with the girls. A dog, Leah, was adopted by the Kluetzes, or vice versa. The dog jumped into the family van while Brenda was picking the children up from school. “That dog laid down in the seat and has never left my wife’s side,” her husband reports.
Wes Menefee, 29
President, Metropolitan Printing, Bloomington, IN
The youngest member of our young executives club, Menefee is a proud product of Consolidated Graphics’ Leadership Development Program. The Texas A&M graduate took part in the training program at San Antonio-based Clear Visions in 1999, and cut his teeth on such fundamentals as purchasing, estimating, accounting and planning. In his final year in the program, Menefee served as production manager for Clear Visions.
The climb at Metropolitan Printing was swift for Menefee, who came aboard as vice president in August of 2002 and became president in October of that year.
“I liked the opportunity to excel and succeed in a very challenging and changing business,” Menefee remarks. “The Leadership Development Program gave me this opportunity to progress and become a positive leader and contributor of a substantial company. I looked at several other vocations, but this offered everything I was seeking.”
What has helped Menefee along the way is the ability to adapt to any business situation or climate. “Each problem or opportunity has its own dynamics,” he says. “Finding the right solution in each is the key.”
His mentor at Clear Visions, President Ned Steck, imparted on him the importance of taking a big-picture approach to problem solving. What has helped Menefee is his own penchant for never being satisfied and yearning to climb the “endless mountain.”
“There is always so much more to accomplish, especially in this business,” Menefee says. “No matter what I achieve, I never feel it is enough. Taking a company to the next level is a never-ending process. You get to one goal and 100 more become available.”
He and his wife, Lisa, have been married for five years. They have an English Bulldog named Pudge.
Vera Muzzillo, 39
Co-CEO, Proforma, Cleveland
Vera Muzzillo didn’t need the printing industry. The 1986 Notre Dame graduate—a winner of the Raymond P. Kent Award for top performance by a finance major and a national Business Honors Society inductee—was already excelling in the world of finance.
She spent two terms with Comerica Bank, reaching the level of vice president for large corporate and middle market commercial lending and investment banking, managing a portfolio of several hundred million dollars. She also served as a business consultant and was involved in investment banking ventures.
Still, her husband, Greg, founded Proforma, and the company fostered an atmosphere that she finds appealing. “I enjoyed the banking industry immensely and learned a great deal from my experience,” she says. “However, Proforma is a family and a company that is vested in people’s dreams, and I felt I had come home when I joined Proforma.”
Muzzillo joined Proforma in 2001 in a business consulting capacity, then migrated into the oversight of banking, credit, cash management and operations. As co-CEO, she has honed her delegating, team building and communication skills.
She credits husband Greg with having a profound impact on her, professionally and personally. “He is an amazing visionary and a great leader,” Muzzillo says. “He motivates, inspires and creates, and he gives people the tools to change their lives for the better.
“The wisdom that he has imparted includes the philosophy that everything is possible, and that lateral thinking can change the world. He believes in taking risks and remaining positive,” she continues. “And he has shown me that it is not always the odds that result in success, but rather a person’s attitude and creativity that can make a difference.”
Muzzillo feels continued success is a byproduct of concentrating on core competencies. “I believe that true excellence is accomplished through the ongoing focus, inspection, evaluation and retooling of our business. Stay out of other business models and excel at your own. That is my motto.”
When Vera Muzzillo isn’t concentrating on her husband and nine children, she enjoys doing charitable work, swimming, cooking, traveling and studying art history. “Our lives are dedicated to our faith, running Proforma and managing our family.”
Tom Wicka, 36
Executive VP of Sales and Marketing, IWCO Direct, Chanhassen, MN
Tom Wicka possesses a level of clarity that is most appealing—one that has served him well in his tenure with Banta Corp. and now IWCO Direct. He will be the first to admit that he is extremely passionate about his job.
“If you are not passionate about what you’re doing, you will never realize your full potential,” he says. “As a manager, I work to instill that sense of passion in others.”
Wicka prefers to act as a catalyst for change, and help others see the value in reaching a common goal by using those roads less taken. “Finding unique paths to success is what I believe I do best in managing people.”
A St. John’s University graduate, Wicka was hired in 1991 as a sales rep for Banta Direct Marketing, then migrated around the Banta chain in New York City, Washington, DC, and Chanhassen, MN. In the process, he was named top sales performer from 1995 to 2001 and was the recipient of the President’s Award for sales and business development achievements.
It was actually Tom’s older brother, Bill, who set him on the road to printing. “People laugh when I tell them how dynamic the printing industry is but, within direct marketing, huge obstacles have to be overcome every day,” he says. “Bill demonstrated to me how the sales arena within direct marketing could be a great way to make a living and also provide an opportunity to develop a host of business management skills to be used as my career developed.”
Wicka’s career has come full circle in one respect. In signing on with IWCO Direct in 2002, he was reunited with Jim Andersen, CEO and president—the same man who hired Wicka right out of college as a sales rep working for Banta. He credits Andersen with instilling in him the sense of responsibility for the good of the group as opposed to the individual.
“Going from straight sales to being responsible for the overall sales results for the company as I did, the lessons Jim taught me really made a positive difference both in my decision-making skills as a manager and as a person outside my ‘day job,’ ” he remarks.
Wicka enjoys working out and spending time with his family—wife Angie, son Nash, 5, and daughter Coco, 2. “I try to appreciate every moment of life, here and now, and not wait for tomorrow too much,” he adds.
David Wacker, 35
President and CEO, Intech Printing and Direct Mail, Naples, FL
For a time, David Wacker pictured himself pursuing a career in professional golf. But deep down he knew it would be difficult to compete against players who had been on the links since they were small children, as was the case with Tiger Woods. And whatever career he would take, Wacker knew that he wanted to be the best performer that his skills would allow.
“I feel that my talents lie within managing people,” he says. “Whatever my career decision, I knew that it would involve management.”
Wacker’s family moved from McLean, VA, to Naples, FL, so that his parents, Norman and Noreen Wacker, could enjoy the sunshine. Norman Wacker sold printing, but soon became bored upon arriving in the Sunshine State and purchased a small printing company, Naples Graphics. Dave, meanwhile,
collected a BA in marketing and entered the working world as an assistant manager with Enterprise Rent-A-Car, while keeping his options open for the future.
The future was closer than Wacker realized. When his parents’ business started to struggle, he came home and went to work at Naples (its name was switched to Intech Printing and Direct Mail in 2003). It soon became obvious that the family business was the path he was intended to take.
“Growing up helping my dad when I was young instilled in me a feel for the business,” he says. “With the help of some key employees, Intech has grown from a ‘mom and pop’ shop into a successful, state-of-the-art commercial printing and mailing operation.
“We now occupy 15,000 square feet of space and recently purchased a new six-color Shinohara offset press with coater. This complements the six-color HP Indigo digital offset press we purchased in December of this past year.”
The company has also parlayed its success into the e-commerce world with the recent launch of BestPrintingOnline.com, which has already produced solid results.
Wacker attributes some of his success with the ability to relate to each of his workers on a personal level. “I look at each employee as a whole person,” he says. “By this I mean everyone is treated with respect and as individuals. There will always be times when our personal lives intertwine with our careers, and I always take that into consideration. We are all in the business to enhance our private lives. I want to make the time spent at work as enjoyable and fulfilling as possible.”
Not surprisingly, Wacker was heavily influenced by his father in developing his managerial techniques. Customer relationships based on integrity, respect and friendship, he learned, were critical for a sound business foundation.
Wacker enjoys a good round of golf and tennis with his betrothed, Patricia Muschong, with a fall wedding on tap. They already have two children, so to speak—Buffy and Buddy, a pair of diminutive Bichon Frises. He hopes to travel more in the future, but still considers himself a “homebody” who enjoys kicking back on the sofa Friday nights to watch a movie.
Chris Kurtzman, 33
President, Bang Printing, Brainerd, MN
While many feature articles gracing the covers of this industry trade magazine examine the exploits of commercial printing’s heavy hitters and conglomerates, the true backbone and heritage of the U.S. printer is that of the family owned print shop.
Reports of their demise have been gradually exaggerated, so to speak, and Bang Printing personifies the strength of not only the family owned shop, but the heart strings that bind their success. Chris Kurtzman, president and owner of Bang Printing, has enjoyed a richly fulfilling career that transcends P&L statements. And he owes that to his father, John.
“My dad introduced me to the industry when I was young, and allowed me to grow up within the company learning from the ground up,” says Kurtzman, a graduate of St. John’s University in Collegeville, MN, who completed his four-year program in three years. “He encouraged me to try my hand at various and all positions. He also had me participate in important decisions early on and allowed me to immerse myself in the inner workings of the company.
“Most of all, I was able to learn a tremendous amount by watching my father and working beside him. We had an incredible working relationship. It was so much fun, like working with your best friend. I will always treasure those days.”
After graduating from St. John’s, Kurtzman held several positions with Bang Printing, working within sales, marketing and accounting. In 1996, the highly motivated and driven Kurtzman branched out as an entrepreneur, building a convenience store/car wash from the ground up, then later buying a second franchise before recently selling both to concentrate on Bang Printing, which he purchased from his father in 2000.
Kurtzman feels a managerial strength lies in perseverance. “Mostly, I have been successful in hiring great people to manage and grow others while building a solid, successful working team,” he says. “Also, I have an open door policy and encourage all of my employees to come directly to me for any circumstance.”
In order to flourish as a company, Kurtzman concentrates on offering exceptional service, competitive prices and increased efficiencies. That growth extends to his employees, whom he encourages to attain higher levels within the company.
Kurtzman is an instrument and multi-engine rated pilot. He enjoys spending summer evenings boating with his wife of seven years, Molly, and their daughters, Libby, 4, and Kate, 2. Rounding out the brood is Maggie, an English springer spaniel.
John W. Miller, 37
Senior VP of Sales and Marketing, Banta Publications Group, Hinsdale, IL
Like many of the people on this list, John Miller is a goals-driven person. One look at his resume already reveals a career that would make many salespeople envious, though the mountains Miller has chosen to scale are quite daunting.
“I’ve always been motivated by increasing responsibility and financial rewards,” says Miller, who graduated from Indiana University with a marketing degree, then got his MBA from the University of Chicago. “My ultimate career goal is to be CEO of a Fortune 500 company. Every career move I’ve made, including an MBA, has been with this end goal in mind.”
His professional career began in 1990 with RR Donnelley (RRD) in a role of corporate business development. Miller advanced to senior sales representative, where he developed, sold and managed $18 million in annual revenues. But a career as a print salesperson wasn’t always in the cards.
“I started my career in banking with my sights set on Wall Street,” he admits. “As I realized my passion for sales, I began exploring sales opportunities with major corporations in the Chicagoland area. I ‘stumbled’ into the printing industry as an entry-level sales trainee for RR Donnelley.”
In 1999, he graduated to vice president of sales, where he managed the Midwest regional sales initiative that generated more than $85 million in annual sales. It was at Donnelley that Miller had the unique opportunity to work alongside print sales veteran Andy Allen, who had logged more than 20 years of successful business development under his belt.
“The ability to learn from Andy’s 20-plus years of sales experience was priceless,” Miller says. “After completing RRD’s four-month intensive sales training program, I was paired up with Andy. The first thing he told me was ‘Forget everything you learned over the last four months; I’m going to teach you how to really sell.’ He also said, ‘Sell the sizzle and you always get the steak.’ ”
In June of 2001, Miller made the move to Banta’s Publications Group, where he has spearheaded a national sales and marketing campaign that has produced a staggering $200-plus million in business.
Miller feels his greatest assets include a thorough knowledge of the “opportunities and challenges that must be addressed by the magazine marketplace.” He has a strategy and entrepreneurial vision into new revenue-generating services for Banta and its customers, and relishes the challenge of growing sales in difficult markets.
Miller has been married to his wife, Elaine, for 10 years. They have three daughters: Alexis, 6, Sophia, 3, and Nicole, 1. When he can find the time, he likes to golf and rip through waves on his speed boat. But a word of caution from someone who knows. “My advice on power boating—when you think you can afford a boat, find a boat partner who feels the same way.”
Laura Lawton-Forsyth, 36
President, Lawton Printing, Spokane, WA
Laura Lawton-Forsyth has seen the statistics, those that point out that family businesses often fail as they are handed down from one generation to the next. She certainly has no intention of letting that happen under her watch.
“I’m the fourth generation to run Lawton Printing,” she notes. “We’ve got almost 100 families depending on the success of this business, and I’ve got a huge responsibility to our employees and their families to make this succeed. I can’t do it on my own, but I can be a driving force to make sure we’re doing everything we can to make this a successful business.”
Taking the reins of the general commercial printer wasn’t always in the cards for Lawton-Forsyth. Upon graduating high school in Spokane, she set out for the University of Denver as a business major, considering a future in hotel/restaurant management.
Two years later, Lawton-Forsyth felt she wanted to give the commercial printing industry a try, so she transferred to Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo, CA, where she attained a degree in graphic communications with a concentration in print management.
Lawton-Forsyth worked in the company’s File-EZ business full-time after graduating, tending to customer service for the producer of report covers, portfolios and the like for office supply and back to school markets. She switched over to Lawton as a scheduler in the commercial printing division, which does chamber of commerce directories, then eventually oversaw the publications division. She became company president in 2000.
“Growing up in the business enabled me to know a fair amount about it coming in,” says Lawton-Forsyth, who worked at the company while in high school and college. “I worked in the bindery, all different areas, so I knew how things worked. Cal Poly was a very hands-on school; they had us run presses, work in the bindery and do conventional stripping, back when it was still done. So when you’re talking to production people, you have a good concept of how things are physically done.
“I really like to involve all of the managers and production people in the decision making, because I certainly don’t believe I know everything. So their input is beneficial. I’ve known these people a long time, and some have known me since I was in high school. We have a good working relationship.”
Lawton-Forsyth enjoys spending quality time with her husband, Bob, son Chandler, 9, and daughter Alyssa, 7.
Chris Petro, 40
President, Global Soft Digital Solutions, Mahwah, NJ
For many people, there comes a turning point or defining moment in a professional career that makes one take stock of his/her situation.
For Chris Petro, that came about a year into his first graphic arts position, a sales gig with business forms specialist UARCO. There was a downsizing taking place and Petro, who was struggling, and another employee were on the chopping block. Someone had to go.
“I was making cold calls and trying to build relationships—not just trying to sell print—but I was not successful,” Petro recalls. “When it came down to me and the other rep, (my boss) flipped the coin—‘if it’s heads you stay, if it’s tails, you go.’ ”
The coin must have sounded like an alarm to Petro when it came up heads. “It really was a smack in the face,” he says. “But I turned it around.”
Petro must have wondered if he chose the wrong profession. The 1986 William Patterson (NJ) University graduate nearly opted for a position with the FBI under its G-10 status, but the position required relocation every two years. In deference to his girlfriend (and soon-to-be-wife Jean) he opted for UARCO.
After the layoff scare, Petro later became the company’s youngest million dollar salesperson, then advanced to national accounts sales director, where he was responsible for more than $45 million in national business. UARCO then changed hands a couple times, first to a Japanese bank, then to Standard Register.
His career really took off after the Standard Register acquisition. Petro moved on to IKON Business Solutions as global client services director, where he developed $8 million to $9 million in international contracts using a distribute-and-print model. Equally as lucrative was his next venture with a print ASP (application service provider), cirquit.com, where he generated ‘Web to print’ solutions for large Fortune 50 companies.
Thus, Petro was taking something of a risk by getting two partners to go in on Global Soft Digital Solutions.
“Global Soft is patterned after the way I have built my career,” Petro explains. “What motivates me most is offering value to customers and creating something specific for them. About 75 percent of our revenues come from application-specific programs. You go to a customer, build a relationship, find an application, help them develop it and add value.
“What motivates me is when we help them develop a cutting-edge technology print application that’s coupled with mailing and fulfillment that delivers bottom-line results. It’s gratifying to see quantifiable ROI results of that specific application and to win that customer and see residual business.”
The late John Rademaker helped shape Petro’s views on the value of print sales relationships, underscoring the fact that print salespeople have the unique opportunity to become an integral part of the customer’s core business. Petro hasn’t stopped working hard, either.
“I never ask anyone to do something I won’t do myself,” he says. “There’s not a press in our facilities that I can’t run. Most people perceive me and my partners as people willing to get into the trenches.”
Petro loves to play softball and coach his daughters’ traveling soccer teams. He’s also an electronics buff with a passion for stereo equipment. Married for 15 years, the Petros have three daughters—Kristen, Sara and Kelly.
Christopher Wells, 34
President and CEO, LaVigne Inc., Worcester, MA
Chris Wells was in the process of building his new home and, being a former professional painter, he insisted on doing all the internal painting and staining himself after work, between 7 p.m. and 3 a.m. He was a business manager with Leadership Dynamics (LDI) at the time, consulting for a commercial printing company, LaVigne Inc., and its president, Toby LaVigne. LaVigne told Wells he was looking to recruit a vice president of sales and marketing. Wells responded that he would look into finding a candidate.
“I joke to this day,” Wells quips, that “it must have been a combination of the paint fumes and being sleep deprived that led me to submit my name as a candidate for the position."
On Christmas Eve of 1998, he accepted the vice president post with
LaVigne. When the president decided to leave and start another company one year later, Wells took the helm.
“When I was 22 years old, I set a goal that I wanted to become president of an organization with 50 or more employees prior to my 30th birthday,” he says. “I made it by three months.”
A graduate of Tufts University with degrees in economics/industrial organization and Spanish/Latin American literature, Wells owned and operated a 25-employee residential painting company while still in school. Upon graduation, he took a position as district manager for College Pro Painters, where he rose to general manager.
Newly married and traveling heavily on weekends, Wells began to rethink his priorities following the death of his father. He left College Pro to pursue a career in management consulting and goal setting, putting to use the teachings of his father. “Consulting can be a bit frustrating because you tend to work with an organization for a period of six months or so, then leave,” he says. “When you return six months later, many times the organization has reverted back to the negative behaviors that were in place before.”
With LaVigne, Wells has found a professional home. The company has been profiled in more than 30 publications detailing its exploits in the digital printing realm. Wells himself was named to a “40 Under 40” list covering central and western Massachusetts and, in 2002, he was named one of the top 10 “CEOs to Watch” by the Worcester Business Journal. Wells serves on the HP Digital Print Advisory Board, the PINE board of directors and the NAPL Industry Trend Analysis Board. He is also a member of the Young President’s Organization.
An avid skier, guitar and piano player, Wells is married to his high school sweetheart, Jennifer, whom he started dating at the age of 15. They are the parents of three children: Connor, 7, Eric, 5, and Olivia, 2. The Wells household is teaming with life, including a rat terrier, a Norweigan elkhound, a cat and four kittens.
Gary Wetzel, 40
Senior VP and CFO, Von Hoffmann Corp., St. Louis
Gary Wetzel’s ultimate goal is to become a CEO, which only makes sense. He’s done just about everything else already. He started out as an engineer designing and installing presses for Harris Graphics, which took him around the country to printers like RR Donnelley, World Color, Banta, Quad/Graphics and Quebecor. He transitioned from field engineering to sales engineering, which “morphed” into technical sales, Wetzel says.
After Harris was gobbled up by Heidelberg, Wetzel went overseas to lead the introduction of the heralded Sunday gapless web press technology in Europe. More than a dozen presses and in excess of $100 million in sales later, Wetzel came back to the states ready for a new challenge.
“I knew that I wanted to run a company some day,” he exclaims.
So the Worcester Polytechnic Institute graduate went back to school, obtaining an MBA from Columbia Business School. That segued into a vice president of finance role with the $700 million book group at Quebecor. His latest task is that of senior vice president and CFO for a very active Von Hoffmann Corp., where he has two operating P&L responsibilities and also spearheaded the recent intra-organization prepress rollup that became Anthology Group.
Wetzel credits his knowledge of the business—from manufacturing to sales and finance—as well as communication and analytical skills for his success in the industry. He was greatly influenced by Mark Levin, a former sales executive at Heidelberg Web Systems who is now with Sun Chemical, and considers him a model for professional drive, commitment and success.
“I’m definitely driven by seeing successful results,” he says. “One of the motivations is to produce a visible, positive impact on improving results through change. In the time we’ve been here, we’ve restructured the company, completely revamped pricing systems, commission plans and intercompany policiesÉjust improving the way things are done in order to do a better job.”
Away from the office, Wetzel enjoys spending time with wife Christa, daughter Chloe, 6, and twin sons Kiefer and Chad, 4. He describes raising twins as a “wonderful nightmare. I’m a very involved father and the administration of having young infants doesn’t rock me at all.”
Craig Faust, 36
President and CEO, Hi-Liter Graphics, Burlington, WI
Craig Faust has crammed a lot of experience into a short amount of time in the printing industry. He broke in shortly after graduating high school and, enamored with the printing process and its evolving technologies, set out for a career, graduating from Madison Technical College of Graphic Arts and the University of Wisconsin Management Institute.
During college, Faust spent time in the prepress department at Widen Enterprises. He worked there 11 years, reaching vice president and COO of its digital printing division. Its founder, Mark Widen, stressed to him the importance of showing loyalty to employees, vendors and customers.
“He truly believed in forming lasting partnerships,” Faust says of Widen. “I witnessed the success achieved with this philosophy and have practiced it ever since.”
Faust’s next professional stop was The Printery, where he learned under the guidance of former owner Dick McMicken. “He taught me how to drive the business to an outstanding level of performance through efficient equipment utilization and employee achievements.”
When The Printery became part of the Consolidated Graphics network, Faust found himself in a leadership role as president. Consolidated CEO Joe Davis gave him the reins to both The Printery and Image Systems. But, in May of 2003, Faust set out on his own and acquired Hi-Liter Graphics.
“I have been fortunate that, at a young age, I was exposed to some excellent leaders/mentors who were giving of their time and insight,” Faust says. “I learned that valuing and rewarding people was the best way to attain business success. I hope to provide the same opportunities I had to the employees of Hi-Liter Graphics.”
Faust currently serves on the board of the Wisconsin affiliate chapter of the PIA and is involved with the Waukesha County Technical College graphics center. He is an ardent outdoor sportsman, enjoying hunting, fishing, snowmobiling and water sports, and collects art. He and wife Dawn have two children: a son, Nathan, 2, and nine-month-old daughter Natalie. She tends to the couple’s commercial and residential real estate holding and management company, Faust Investments. PI