Franklin Award Recipients Tom Quinlan and Michael Duggal Profiled, to Be Honored at Franklin Event
For over 60 years, the metro New York graphic communications industry has come together to honor a variety of national leaders through presentation of the Franklin Award for Distinguished Service. The tradition continues on November 17, 2021 at the 68th Annual Franklin Event, when two printing industry icons, Thomas Quinlan (2020) and Michael Duggal (2021) will be honored for their contributions and presence in our industry.
All too often, in all industries, leaders are recognized for their contributions but many observers often do not have a true picture of how significant their accomplishments have been. Printing Industries Alliance, through our Print Drives America Foundation, recently commissioned full articles on Mr. Quinlan and Mr. Duggal. Read on for a closer look at our recipients.
Tickets and sponsorships for this year’s Franklin Event, being held November 17, 2021 at Club 101 in Manhattan are still available. Contact Kim Tuzzo at Printing Industries Alliance at (716) 691-3211 or firstname.lastname@example.org, download the Event Flyer or visit the event page for orders and information.
Franklin Honoree Tom Quinlan Looks Back at His Days in the Industry’s Loftiest C-Suites
No previous recipient of the Print Drives America Franklin Award for Distinguished Service has climbed to greater heights in the commercial printing industry than Thomas J. Quinlan III, the 2020 honoree.
Quinlan most recently was chairman, president, and CEO of LSC Communications, a $3.5 billion company formed in 2016 as an independent spin-off from R.R. Donnelley & Sons Co. He had served since 2007 as the president and CEO of R.R. Donnelley, then the largest provider of printing and communication business services in the world. Quinlan also held various C-level positions with Moore Wallace and World Color Press as well as finance positions with Marsh McLennan and Kidder Peabody.
On the occasion of his receipt of the Franklin Award, which he and 2021 honoree Michael Duggal (Duggal Visual Solutions) will accept at the 68th Annual Print Drives America Franklin Event in New York City on November 17, we asked Quinlan to reflect on his time in the industry and the changes he has seen in the nature of the printing business over the years.
Please talk about your early days in the industry: where you broke in, how the arc of your career got started.
I was fortunate. I had worked in financial services companies including Kidder Peabody, an investment banking firm on Wall Street. Then I went to Marsh McLennan. KKR, a private equity investor, had a portfolio company called World Color Press that was looking for a treasurer. So I went over to interview with a gentleman who I heard had a rough reputation: Bob Burton (Robert G. Burton Sr., then CEO of World Color Press – Ed.). Bob hired me, and that was where I first got involved in printing.
I got there at the end of 1993. It was the best thing that happened to me, being involved with Bob. He was going to build the company up from where it was. He said he was going to consolidate the industry, and he did both. He also put together a heck of a team, people who to me were the tops not only in the print industry, but in any industry.
I had a great opportunity to learn about the industry and being a leader. As long as you delivered, Bob would give you more responsibility. I followed him to Moore, and from there, Moore acquired Wallace Computer Services (to form Moore Wallace in 2003 – Ed.).
In 2004, R.R. Donnelley acquired Moore Wallace and the Moore Wallace management team. There, I got to be CFO and COO, and was given the opportunity in 2007 to take the helm of R.R. Donnelley.
I was 44 years old, so it was quite an opportunity, quite a responsibility. And I had a great team, surrounded by fantastic people. We took care of our customers, we took care of our vendors, we tried to take care of all of our stakeholders. But at the same time, we were taking the company in a different direction, because of all that was taking place from a digital standpoint.
As the president and CEO of what was then America’s largest printing company, you oversaw some of the most significant business acquisitions in the industry’s history. Do you think that the industry has the same kind of dynamism and energy today?
Obviously, there are fewer multibillion dollar players, because of consolidation and divestments made from within those companies. But the energy is still there, and you still have R.R. Donnelley and Quad. LSC is owned by Atlas Holding Company. There are some other big players out there, like Cenveo and CJK Group. Every day, the industry continues to have people in it who are striving to evolve with the times from a technology standpoint.
You have also witnessed tremendous technological change in the industry. Which of these technological advances do you see as the most far-reaching, and why?
Honestly, I would say “Steve Jobs.” When he developed the iPhone, that’s when everything changed. We have some great equipment in this industry that can produce amazing products at amazing speeds, but Steve Jobs creating the iPhone is to me where we saw the biggest technological change for the printing industry.
Content didn’t have to be in physical form, because of the iPhone. As a result of that, social media developed, different types of devices developed. Everything with ink on paper was now easily transported over to electronic form.
What it did to the magazine industry, the catalog industry, the direct mail industry, the book industry, and the financial industry really opened the floodgates to moving from the physical world to the electronic world. The mobility of it, and the ease with which you could go ahead and deliver content to your fingertips, was to me putting the transformation pretty much on steroids, and it just took off.
In a 2015 interview with Mark Michelson of Printing Impressions, you stated that “print is the doorway to digital, and digital is the doorway to print.” As people continue to increase the amount of time they spend in social media and other non-print channels, do you think that the “doorway” relationship still exists?
I do, but the doorway I spoke of back then was this huge, monstrous doorway that millions of people would fit into at once. And now, each one of us has our own doorway. The doorway becomes specialized, and becomes unique for each of us, because of the way technology is. I know what you like, I know what you want to have, I know what your habits are, what your likes and dislikes are. So that doorway now becomes laser-like focused on the individual, as opposed to the masses.
Mass printing has really taken a sharp hit, but the individualization of the content, because of technology, allows me to market to you, or to talk to you, on an individualized basis. That doorway has become a lot smaller, but there are a lot more doors than there were back then.
How has the COVID-19 pandemic changed the demand for print? What kinds of printed communications will people be using more of, and less of, in a post-COVID world?
Especially for us in the United States, I don’t know whether it’s COVID or the political climate. But I do think there is something to physical content where the author’s name is associated with the content – it’s not some made-up tagline name for social media. There’s a truth to it, or a validation of the content. Therefore, I do think that because of the divisions within the country, as people down in Washington, D.C. start to look at all these social media companies, there’s an opportunity for physical content, i.e., printed content, to come back.
Not because of COVID, but because of the need to know who is saying what, and why they are saying it. At least we could have what I would call an honest debate on whatever the topic is, as opposed to now, where accountability is hidden.
If you were advising someone who wanted to launch a printing business, what key pieces of advice would you have to offer? What is essential for success in the print marketplace as it exists today?
I would say, have customers who have printed product that people really enjoy, really want, look forward to, can’t wait for it to hit the mailbox. I think customers are the key to any industry, the same as in ours. If you have a printing business – not labels, not containers or packaging, but printing – you’ve got to have something that people just can’t wait to see. Even with all the multichannel distribution networks that are out there today, you can’t start a business if you do not have customers with products that people want to see.
AARP is a good example. People look forward to receiving the AARP magazine, and it’s a population that is growing. Things along those lines, where it’s sort of a Cracker Jack prize in your mailbox. Sometimes it’s a good surprise, sometimes it’s a bad surprise, but you always look forward to receiving things in the mail. I don’t think that same excitement exists anymore.
The industry continues to struggle with hiring and retention. In your opinion, what is the answer to attracting the kinds of talent that printing businesses need?
Today, you can crew one of these football-field sized printing presses with three people – it’s not as if you need scores of people. Honestly, I think we need more automation on the back end. More automation on the back end will alleviate a number of things from a negative margin standpoint, and also will take the pressure off trying to get people.
Because in the warehouse, our industry is not competing against other printing companies. We’re competing with Amazon, UPS, FedEx. In my mind, the more automation we can do in this industry, the better the industry will be.
What do you regard as the highest of high points of your long and distinguished career in the printing industry?
I like to keep score, and I like at the end of the day to know that we delivered for customers. You know, no one in the printing industry does widgets. You don’t get the same page count. Files don’t come in on time. The process is an amazing one. The fact that we took care of our customers, whether they were publishing customers, book publishers, direct mail, or financial, we got their products out to where they needed to be on time, in the highest quality.
And, I always wanted people to leave the plant the way they walked in. We could fix a lot of things in business, but we couldn’t fix when people got hurt. Having those plant managers and line supervisors making sure everybody left the facility after that shift with the same number of fingers they had when they went in, and didn’t get hurt, and we got the products out the way they should be. That’s what it’s all about; it’s taking care of the customers and the employees.
What was your reaction upon learning that you had been selected to receive the 2020 Print Drives America Franklin Award for Distinguished Service?
My huge, heartfelt thanks to the Award Committee, and to Steve Drew of LSC for the nomination. That is an amazing award. When you look at the list of prior recipients, I’m overwhelmed that my name is going to be a part of this group. What a great honor to be bestowed upon; I’m just very grateful.
Michael Duggal on Pursuing Success: “If You’re Going to Do Something, You Might as Well Be the Best”
“I try to do the right things the right way each day.” This simple precept, inherited from his father, has guided Michael Duggal from his challenging early days in the industry to the extraordinary achievements that have earned him the 2021 Print Drives America Franklin Award for Distinguished Service. Mr. Duggal and 2020 honoree Thomas J. Quinlan III will accept their awards at the 68th Annual Print Drives America Franklin Event in New York City on November 17.
Duggal is CEO of Duggal Visual Solutions, one of the country’s premier providers of graphic imaging services. Under his leadership, the company has built an unparalleled reputation for technological capability and creative excellence. It has also attracted national attention for its extraordinary response to the COVID-19 pandemic in New York City, where it transformed itself on short notice into a mass manufacturer of protective gear.
The company, named a Best-in-Class Innovator by Printing Impressions last year, traces its origins to the photo lab that the honoree’s father, Baldev Duggal, opened in Manhattan’s Chelsea district in 1961.
“I was exposed to the industry at a very young age through my father,” his son recalls. “You’d go in with your dad in the morning, and you’d go home at night, so you’d be there all day, and that would be a pretty regular occurrence, because we were a pretty small business when we were growing up. I also saw what it meant to run a small business – bright and early, late at night, to work through the things that all small business owners have to work through.”
A Call from Home
As an adult, Duggal didn’t proceed directly into management of the family enterprise, having moved away from New York to pursue opportunities in other industries. He returned to his roots in 1995 after an appeal from his father, who was dealing with health issues and the pressures of running a conventional imaging business in a rapidly changing market for visual services.
“He basically told me that the financial part of running the business was killing him, and he needed me to come up and help,” Duggal says. “So I had to leave my job in Virginia, break my lease, and then head on up to New York City to help get the finances in order.”
By this point, the company had entered Chapter 11 bankruptcy and was struggling to establish a new identity after many years of being the New York metropolitan area’s premier photo lab. Film was rapidly disappearing from graphic production, and as a result, says Duggal, “the business was now facing the transition that so many companies did not successfully navigate.”
Once Duggal had stabilized its finances, the company emerged from bankruptcy and began to see growth as a more digitally focused operation. In 2002, after steering the company through a recession in the late 1990s, the bursting of the dot-com bubble in 2000, and the 9/11 disaster the year after that, Duggal took over as CEO and began accelerating its transition to the digital side.
“We did it on our terms,” he emphasizes. “We didn’t wait for things to completely stop before we stopped doing them. We moved away from a lot of conventional photographic services earlier on, so that we could focus on what would be the future. And so we were early adopters of a lot of technology.”
Through it all, Duggal never forgot his father’s admonition to excel. “It was his focus on, if you’re going to do something, you might as well be the best,” he says. “To have the best quality – to be relentless in that pursuit.
Nothing but the Best
This explains why Duggal Visual Solutions’ commitment to adopting new printing and imaging technologies is key to its business strategy. “We always want to offer our customers the best possible solution to their needs,” Duggal says. “We never want someone to have to go to someone else and get something better than us. We want to bring innovation to our customers, as opposed to having them force our hand.”
“We were the first company with a drum scanner back in the day,” he remarks. That was just the beginning of a campaign of technology investment that has made the company one of the country’s most multi-capable providers of printing and graphics services, adept at virtually every method of translating visual imagery into physical or digital form.
An equipment list doesn’t tell the whole story of any company, but the inventory at Duggal Visual Solutions demonstrates just how serious the company is about always being out in front with the best.
Among its industry-leading acquisitions are the country’s first HP Indigo 12000 B2-format digital press, which later became the first of its type to be upgraded with HP’s resolution-doubling HD imaging system. The company also hosted the U.S. debut of the Durst Rho 500R grand-format (16' wide) UV inkjet printer. Last year brought news that Duggal Visual Solutions had become the first provider anywhere in the world to install an HD Landa S10 Nanographic press.
Today the company’s highly diversified production capabilities are spread across nine facilities: two on the West Coast and seven on the East Coast, including its manufacturing headquarters in the Brooklyn Navy Yard. At these sites, says Duggal, “we always try to find through technology and process the better way to do something, and we search that out, because our focus is always on being the best first, not just making the most money.”
Vision vs. Bean-Counting
However, he adds that capital expenditure on this scale is not for the faint-hearted – or for the short-sighted.
“Sometimes our relentless investment and high-quality control standards hurt us financially,” he acknowledges. “But, doing great work is our passion. We’re a creative company staffed by creative and resourceful people, not a private-equity-run or a publicly owned company where they have a quarter-to-quarter mindset.
“We have a long-term vision, and I feel our future is more secure when we’re the best at something, as opposed to just a focus on profitability alone. I believe that by putting our customers first, in the long term the positive results for us will follow.”
“Obviously, you need to perform financially well to survive, but there are some companies where that becomes the only end, and I think that organizationally, those companies start to suffer,” Duggal observes. “Short-term, they can be successful, but long-term, they’ll suffer reputationally.”
Another spur to excellence comes from meeting the high expectations of the company’s A-list clientele, which includes luxury retailers, museums, galleries, sports leagues, event venues, and corporations around the world. Sixteen of Interbrand’s top 25 Best Global Brands are on the customer list, according to Duggal.
“These companies are tops in their fields, and they want to work with someone who’s top in their field,” he explains. “It becomes a natural partnership in that way. In the best customer relationships, you actually push each other. The customer pushes us, and we push them by exposing them to new technology, or them having new demands that we had never considered before.”
“We get better by working with the best,” Duggal declares.
Pivot to PPE
Duggal Visual Solutions became famous in 2020 for doing some of its best work not on behalf of clients, but for healthcare workers and other first responders on the front lines of New York City’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. With its city under lockdown, and its regular volume of orders nearly dried up, the company pivoted in just five days to manufacturing personal protective equipment (PPE): face shields and other essential items that the city so desperately needed.
Over time, millions of pieces were delivered, and Duggal credits the success of the effort to the heroism of his staff.
“Last year, there was a point when PPE manufacturing was virtually the only thing we were producing,” he says. “This was the height of it, in early March through April in New York at the most difficult time, when there were so many deaths. For people to come in and work during those difficult times at their own personal risk, to help others, was something so inspiring. I’m so glad and honored to be part of that with the team.”
“I can still draw inspiration from that today, to know what we’re capable of, that we’re made of tough stuff,” Duggal says. To know that when crisis calls, we’re not only capable of answering, but willing to answer.”
In his view, the graphic communications industry will have some adjusting to do as the threat of COVID-19 recedes. “I think that the market for visuals definitely shifted with the pandemic,” he states. “Particularly hard hit areas were around events. We did a lot of work around pop-up stores, events, and trade shows, and with so much of that disappearing, it really impacted business.”
The Challenge of Challenges
He predicts that some of it will come back, and that opportunities will be there for print service providers that are prepared to act on them. This means adapting to what he calls the most significant change he has seen in the industry during the 26 years he has spent in it: “incredibly short turnaround times” driven by last-minute purchasing decisions and compressed time-to-market requirements.
“The amount of time you get to complete a project continues to shrink every year, and I think COVID even accelerated that,” Duggal says, adding that the dealing with the pressure will be equally challenging for smaller providers that don’t have the resources and for larger firms that don’t have the flexibility.
He concedes that operating in the new normal won’t be easy even for a business as well equipped and versatile as Duggal Visual Solutions. “It’s been more uneven than I would like, from month to month and week to week. Your ability to forecast has definitely been impaired. I think it’s going to take another six months to a year for some of it to shake out.”
His plan for the interim reflects the same managerial values that have kept the company intact and growing throughout all of its ups and downs. “We’re constantly looking to get more efficient in the meantime,” Duggal says, “because the challenges are going to come, and it might be a different challenge next year. So we have to be ready by being the best we can be, the most efficient we can be.”
Something else he intends to stay focused on is engagement: with customers, with the creative community that the company serves, and with the metro area schools that incubate both potential future customers and potential future employees. Outreach to these groups was curtailed by COVID-19, but Duggal expects it to resume as restrictions continue to lift.
He’s convinced that the more people know about what graphic production consists of, the better use they will be able to make of everything it can do for them.
It’s All about Output
“When people are being creative without understanding the next steps, what’s possible, they’re being creative with one hand tied behind their back,” Duggal explains. “What they see when they do it in Photoshop, that’s only part of it. There are so many things you can do on the output level that enhance it – techniques, treatments, and processes that will allow you to do things beyond looking at the static image or the layout that you have in your file.”
Spreading that kind of knowledge also breeds relationships for Duggal Visual Solutions, the company’s CEO believes. “Anyone who communicates visually is going to need a graphics company to help them. There is always going to be a need for some level of helping people to communicate visually, and we want to be their solution for that. If we’re experts at what we do, there’ll be a demand.”
Duggal describes himself as “incredibly honored” to be selected for the 2021 Print Drives America Franklin Award for Distinguished Service, a tribute that has been paid to former U.S. presidents, captains of industry, and other national celebrities. Characteristically, however, he declines to claim the honor as belonging only to him.
In Short, ‘I Love It’
The honoree says he has dedicated himself to the industry “because I love it. To have it recognized with this award is something that was really gratifying, to have our work for the community during COVID recognized.
“And that’s not just me being recognized, it’s recognizing my team,” he hastens to add. “While I might be the recipient, I’m also being the recipient on behalf of an incredible group of people who I’m honored to work with each day. It is comforting to see those efforts get recognized.”
Truly a right thing to say, said the right way, by an awardee who stands behind every word.
The preceding press release was provided by a company unaffiliated with Printing Impressions. The views expressed within do not directly reflect the thoughts or opinions of Printing Impressions.