Employee-Driven Culture Statement, Diversification Power Success at Hatteras
Often, when we hear the word “convergence,” our thoughts immediately go to diversification around services and equipment. And while that is absolutely a major part of the trend, as commercial printers continue to find new ways to bring complementary product and service offerings under a single roof to create new revenue streams, one often-overlooked aspect is the workforce.
Hatteras, based in Tinton Falls, N.J., has taken this aspect and cultivated it to help the business grow. The shop, which started in 1983 as a commercial printer, today produces a wide range of products, including signage, marketing and branding materials, variable data direct mail, packaging, event graphics, and more. “There has been a lot of change here over the past few years as we have evolved as a company,” says Bill Duerr, president.
But while the family-owned operation was certainly moving in the right direction in terms of technology and services, Duerr notes that a decision was made to spend an equal amount of energy focusing on the 275 employees who enable Hatteras to be successful, embarking on a journey to develop and define the company’s culture.
“We hired a company called MVP Development Group,” Duerr explains. “In the initial six-week exercise, they worked with about 90-100 employees across the entire company. As owners, you think you know your culture, but it’s important for your workforce to have a hand in developing it in order to create buy-in. We worked with MVP to establish a culture statement that everyone agreed on.”
That phase went over so well, Hatteras retained MVP for another 12 months to help them as they now take that culture statement and “operationalize” it, finding ways to work the mission into the day-to-day actions employees take across all levels.
“The culture statement was developed by the employees, not the owners,” Duerr points out. “With so much change happening in the company, we wanted to get everyone pointed in the same direction.”
Leaders of Tomorrow
One of the biggest changes Duerr believes will come from this initiative is the concerted effort to develop the staff into better leaders across every department. “We want to build established, trusted leaders,” he notes. “Being a private, family-owned company is a benefit a lot of times, but when trying to scale more leadership across the organization and create more dynamic teams, it can be challenging. Our hope is to develop a broad group of leaders, and then empower them to make decisions.”
He believes strong leaders create stronger teams, which in turn allows the company to continue to grow. And by decentralizing the decision-making process, Hatteras will be even more scalable and able to adapt to changes than it is today.
“We don’t have any plans to change the ownership structure,” Duerr explains, “but we also don’t want every decision to come from a single point. This will change my role by allowing me to focus on the future — I can continue to develop what the vision needs to be for the company going forward, while our strong leaders can move things forward on a day-to-day basis.”
Always Looking Ahead to the Future
Until about 10 years ago, Hatteras’ growth was centered around the world of offset printing, creating a solid slate of products and services, with a range of customers in several key verticals. However, as the market evolved, explains Duerr, and as digital technologies improved enough to meet the quality standards of the company, “we felt we needed to become a more dynamic service provider.”
While print remains the core service, Duerr notes that Hatteras couldn’t continue to be so narrow in the types of printing it offered. Production digital, as well as wide-format, printing are technologies he sees as complementary to offset, which is why the company began its convergence journey there.
“Wide-format and [production] digital are the two growth areas for print,” Duerr says. Hatteras is still about 60% offset, with digital and wide-format each capturing roughly 20% of its workload. During the next five years, however, he believes those numbers will continue to shift. He says that while Hatteras’ offset business is still growing incrementally, the company’s mix of work is changing, leading to a slow decline of offset as a percentage of total sales, whereas its digital and wide-format business grows at about an even pace.
While Duerr notes it is hard to pin down completely, given how rapidly technology and the market is shifting, he estimates offset will likely make up about 50% of the business by 2025, with digital and wide-format growing to around 25% each.
“That said, it’s all becoming pretty complementary,” he notes. “We are turning jobs that have components across all three platforms. They have different sizes and quantities, so it makes sense to run them cross-platform, and we are trusted by the brands to keep it consistent. So even though we are breaking down the revenue into those three divisions, we see where each creates opportunity for the others.”
The next big growth area Duerr is eyeing, however, is packaging. Short- to medium-run packaging is an area he believes will feature heavily in his product mix in the future. Hatteras has already started looking at ways to prepare for that shift, improving operations in the finishing side, for example, with the addition of a new folder/gluer that will allow the shop to be more efficient.
Hatteras already offers what Duerr calls product assembly services, where the shop produces some components, the brand supplies others, and personalized or versioned packaging and materials are created, assembled, and shipped directly from the print shop. “We are leveraging our data processing capabilities, variable data printing, finishing, and our assembly and mailing teams,” he notes.
But while that service already draws on quite a few of the competencies Hatteras has spent the past decade building, the ability to ramp it up and offer it on a wider scale — with a more robust set of offerings to go along with it — is going to be a major push in the coming years. “We want to leverage the existing department and position it to create new revenue streams,” he says.
New Growth Opportunities in Fulfillment
Fulfillment is another aspect of that shift, going hand-in-hand with the package printing and kitting services. Hatteras already offers custom fulfillment services for some of its customers,
Duerr notes, but as he looks to expand that entire division from the initial steps the shop started to implement, he sees fulfillment becoming another major growth area in the future.
Hatteras exemplifies how convergence into new products and services can create a stronger, more nimble print service provider. “I don’t know the secret sauce,” Duerr says. “We continue to try new things and, when they work, we scale them up. The more dynamic you are, the more challenging it is to manage. That’s why we went down the culture path, to try and bring these services altogether.
“I feel like we’re just getting started and, as a company, we need to keep looking forward,” he explains. “We have to get exposed to what our customers are doing, and what challenges they are up against — the better in tune we are with that, the better we can position ourselves for the future.”
With the market and industry changing so fast, “never rest on your laurels” seems to be the unofficial motto of Hatteras. Evolving the people, process, product, and technology simultaneously, and always striving to anticipate what comes next, is a strategy that will continue to serve Hatteras for many more years to come.
Toni McQuilken has been writing and editing for more than a decade. Her work includes B2B publications – both in print and online – in a range of industries, such as print and graphics, technology, hospitality and automotive; as well as behind the scenes writing and editing for multiple companies, helping them craft marketing materials, write press releases and more. She is a self-proclaimed "tech geek" who loves all things technology, and she knows that she is one of a select group of people who get to do what they love for a living.