Joel Quadracci Adds Class to the Quad/Graphics Legacy
I’m not trying to launch a Joel Quadracci fan club, but after hearing his acceptance speech upon receiving the 2016 Soderstrom Award from the Idealliance during Graph Expo last year, then seeing him more recently at the 2017 EFI Connect Conference as part of a one-on-one “fireside chat” with EFI CEO Guy Gecht, it’s clear that Joel Quadracci is one class act.
Only 48 years old — but already at the helm as CEO for the past decade of the now-$4.6 billion, 20,000 employee Quad/Graphics — his gray hair lies testament to the stress of reinventing an industry behemoth and continuing a family legacy that was spawned by his bigger-than-life father, Quad/Graphics founder Harry V. Quadracci.
In his sitdown with Gecht, Joel reminisced about growing up during the creation and subsequent rise of Quad/Graphics, and the industry discussions that took place around the dinner table. And, although Quad expanded largely through Greenfield plant growth while under his father’s and then uncle’s tutelage, Joel realized when he took over that future success would dictate Quad to become an industry consolidator.
That led to the acquisitions of World Color, Vertis and Brown Printing, but also the necessity to close 36 printing plants in a six-year span to shrink industry overcapacity and close several outdated facilities that came with each transaction. He even revealed how older equipment was sold off as scrap metal, just to ensure that it wouldn’t end up back in the marketplace.
As Joel talked about the need to close those plants — and the realization that doing so would turn the lives upside down for many displaced people who worked in those facilities — what struck me was the genuine pain and remorse he felt about having to execute on what he believed was needed for the good of the company as a whole. Frankly, even the thought of having to make those types of hard decisions could never be part of my DNA.
Long immersed in the “Quad family” culture created and espoused by his parents, Joel clearly doesn’t fit the stereotypical mold of a ruthless, bean counter-type CEO who cares little about his workforce. After all, what other industry player maintains company-owned primary care (QuadMed) facilities for thousands of its workers — and now even treats 350,000 non-Quad patients as a service for other area businesses?
As Quadracci quipped to Gecht during their keynote chat at EFI Connect, both Quad/Graphics and Joel had the same founder. On a more serious note, he pointed out that there is no finish line in business. “Actually, there is — but you don’t want to find it,” he said. At 48, Joel Quadracci is a long way from crossing the finish line.