Sage Veterans Fuel Industry Bloodlines — Michelson
THERE DOESN’T seem to be any logical explanation for why people who end up working in printing tend to remain in the industry, often for their entire working careers. It’s surely not due to some chemical brain reaction that occurs in response to the smell of ink pervading a pressroom or the mesmerizing rhythm of high-speed equipment churning out product. Nor is it that these individuals lack the job skills to do anything else. But, when someone gets bitten by the printing bug—causing ink to flow through their veins—chances are they’re hooked for the long haul.
That reality helped make it relatively easy for us to locate 20 “lifers” with more than 35 years of industry service under their belts for this issue’s cover story. Serving in a wide array of job capacities during their careers, they currently range from company owners and vice presidents to sales managers, schedulers and even a 79-year-old environmental safety director. Surely, there are countless others throughout America who also would have met our service criteria.
Despite ongoing industry change from a technological standpoint, M&A transactions and plant closures, the veterans we included have always landed on their feet and adapted to the new paradigms. They learned long ago that printing is really a “people” business, driven by the relationships that exist between printer and customer, employer and employee, printer and supplier. As our industry continues to become more data-driven and digitized, requiring workers with new IT and database skill sets, let’s not lose sight that experienced workers serve as the foundation upon which companies are built. As a business—and an industry—it’s hard to get where you want to be in the future if you don’t embrace the lessons learned from your past.
Speaking of industry veterans, I’m sad to report the passing of long-time PRINTING IMPRESSIONS contributor Roger Dickeson, whose monthly “Dickeson on Productivity” column was a mainstay in our magazine since the late 1970s. Internationally known as the father of the War on Waste, Roger surely left big footprints. A Marine Corps captain and pilot in WW II who flew some 50 missions in the South Pacific, he went on to earn an MBA in accounting and then a law degree. Roger left his law practice in 1964 to become CEO of Nebraska Farmer Co., a printer and publisher, followed by stints at several other printers over the next two decades. He also authored four books and launched a consulting firm, PREM Associates.
When Roger revealed to me this spring that he was terminally ill, indicating he wanted to keep writing his column to the end, I interviewed him for his keen insight about the industry he loved so dearly. When asked where he felt printers fall short, Roger raised three issues: 1) the false belief by managers who think they’ve actually reduced their costs by reducing their Budgeted Hourly Costs, 2) the misperception about the importance of velocity of cash flow, partly due to use of traditional general ledger systems, and 3) the unnecessary delay in getting relevant information to those people who must make the daily decisions.
“We haven’t moved our management model ahead with technology and the times,” he lamented. “We’re still using the old models that don’t give us the decision tools we need. We need to get with dashboards and weekly decisions tools—and use them. We can’t wait until the end of the quarter or month to find out the results of our decisions.”
Good advice, Rog (as he called himself in his columns). Your desire for constant learning, even at age 85 and homebound, was remarkable. A true visionary with noble bloodlines.
Mark T. Michelson