One on One with David Torok
How does a 100-year old printing company map out a robust path of growth for the 21st century? David Torok, CEO of Texas-based Padgett Printing, ought to know. He’s spent the past 17 years guiding Padgett through an extraordinary evolution from traditional print provider to a cross-media powerhouse. Under his leadership, the company grew in sales from $8 million to over $29 million and has become a major digital and offset technology leader capable of producing and mailing 750,000 pieces per day. Torok brings over 30 years of industry experience to Padgett, is active in national printing activities, and has agreed to speak at the NPES Annual Conference early next month. We sat down with him to talk about Padgett’s trajectory and get a preview of what he’ll be sharing at the Conference with members.
How would you describe the changes your business model has undergone during last ten years?
We realized that offset printing is becoming more of a commodity every day, because the press manufacturers have put such quality in and taken the craftsmanship out of it. Paper mills have made their paper very consistent; same with the ink and plate manufacturers. You have high consistency with all this automation – the craftsmanship isn’t there. So if we are going to add value to the product, it has to be more than putting ink on paper. Our proposition right now is that we add value either through the database, through the mailing, or through fulfillment and distribution. Basically after the toner or ink goes on paper is where we start adding our value.
Even so, you’ve put a lot of effort into tooling up the shop to handle a broad range of new jobs and applications.
Yes, we “kissed all the frogs” as they say, and it expanded from there. Today we’re like Noah’s arc: we have two NexPresses, two Digimasters, two Creo CTP, two cutters, two stitchers…we are the king of twos; it gives you redundancy and flexibility.
But you knew it’s not about “If you buy it, they will come.” You had customer demands driving your investments in offset and digital technology, correct?
Yes, and it’s very interesting to look at what’s resulted from that. What ends up happening in today’s world is the customer who gives you digital work eventually gives you offset work, and offset customers will give you digital work – there is this synergy between the two. Our biggest digital customer three years ago is now our biggest offset customer. Our biggest offset customer three years ago is now our biggest digital customer.
That flies in the face of predictions five years ago that digital is going to take work away from offset.
No, they really complement each other. When we talk about hybrid printing, it’s a combination of offset and digital, and that is a big reason our sales have grown 50 percent in the last three years.
What kind of vertical markets are you serving?
We’re doing work for the banking and insurance markets, the retail market, a major utility, and a hospital.
Isn’t there a hill to climb in terms of finding good people to sell digital printing?
This has been the hardest thing of all. We have tried everything: getting offset people to sell digital; hiring digital people to sell digital; hiring from outside the business, people with a background in selling equipment who understand long cycle times for a sale.
Today we’ve evolved into a team-selling approach. We identify our target customer and connect to him through top management. You can’t rely on the print salesman to go out and identify that this bank, hospital, or retail operation is a great opportunity for Padgett Printing. We’ve got to be able to learn as much about the business as we can, and go in there and team-sell them. And now by the way, here’s my techie who can talk to your techie about tab-delineated files and the latest coolest sequel server till they’re blue in the face. Know what that translates to? We’ve tied in to you through our IT group, we’ve used our IT as a competitive advantage, and now it’s very painful for you to leave us.
What will be the essence of your message to the vendor community at the NPES Annual Conference?
If we’re successful, you’re successful. Anything you can do to make us more successful is going to help you.
What have you learned over the years in terms of collaboration with the vendor community?
If we were still printing like we did in 1902, we wouldn’t be in business today. We are big enough now to afford the technology, but we really need those partnerships. Right now we have partnerships with Kodak, Heidelberg, Komori, and with our mailing operation. They come out to our site regularly and we talk. We go out to the trade shows and meet them. The key is that we need them to understand where we’re going, and to help us have a smooth journey every step of the way. NPES