New CEO Mary Lee Schneider, Technology Boost Spark Wave of Change at SG360°
There is some indefinable characteristic about Mary Lee Schneider, president and CEO of SG360°, a Segerdahl company, that demands to be emulated. Although the top exec of the Wheeling, Ill.-based direct mail and marketing solutions specialist has only been on the job for six months, she spent 20 years in various positions with RR Donnelley, including serving as president of digital solutions and chief technology officer.
In less than 30 minutes, Schneider was able to illustrate — with the same deft precision and accuracy of production inkjet printheads — the challenges and opportunities that confront her new employer. It was readily apparent that Schneider has her fingers on the pulse of SG360°, and the unbridled enthusiasm that lined her words indicate the choice to select her as the CEO replacement for Rick Joutras (who still remains as chairman) was a stroke of genius for both the company and Schneider.
Prior to joining SG360°, she was president and CEO of Follett Corp., a provider of educational content and services to the K-12 and higher education markets.
Schneider alternated between a 30,000-foot executive perspective and a granular shop-floor point of view. One message came across crystal clear: she has a laser-beam focus and vision for the continued success of SG360°. That vision includes continued organic and M&A growth, along with an aggressive capital expenditure program.
One thing’s for certain, though; Schneider didn’t picture herself sitting in the captain’s chair of another printing industry heavyweight following her successful career at RR Donnelley. But SG360° provided a fresh approach to the market, one she couldn’t resist.
“My passion is in using technology to solve customer problems,” she says. “SG360° has a very loyal, blue chip customer base. Our corporate culture is a big part of it, and we’re ESOP-owned, so we’re pretty nimble and can act quickly to take advantage of opportunities. We can turn on a dime, strategically, to do what is right for our clientele. To me, that is fun.
“It’s a different time and place in the industry. With the economy seemingly on steady footing, a lot of growth opportunity exists for our company,” Schneider adds. “We have a can-do attitude here, and that got me really energized.”
SG360°’s sweet spot is as a medium- to high-volume direct mail services provider for a wide array of verticals, including financial services, specialty and general retail, automotive, consumer products and consumer packaged goods. Roughly 35-45% of that work is considered moderate to highly complex work. The company, which notched $300 million in overall sales last year, has three manufacturing locations in Wheeling and a fourth in nearby Broadview (Ill.), which was the former Lehigh Direct plant acquired in July of 2014.
Under the broad umbrella of direct mail is a wealth of products and services, including web offset with in-line finishing, sheetfed offset and digital printing output; marketing and data analytics; binding and finishing; and mailing capabilities. Not to be ignored is the firm’s battle-tested kitting and fulfillment department, which Schneider sees as a major point of differentiation that sets SG360° apart from several of its competitors.
“We have inkjet imaging heads mounted in-line with our high-speed, traditional web offset presses, as well as some unique ways to bend and fold paper,” she points out. “How we come off our wide-web press and into the complex kitting products that we develop is really unique. On average, when a package comes off our presses, it has five components in it: other envelopes, letters, cards, laminated cards, etc. We truly peg the meter in terms of the complexity of what’s in our package.”
Customer acquisition is a major focus of SG360°’s direct mail program, which means its clients are only successful if the campaigns are able to achieve their objectives. Schneider notes that in one 30-day period, SG360° rolled out 1,000-plus unique templates that were developed specifically for customer acquisition campaigns.
Performance Exceeds Expectations
Another example of the company’s ongoing commitment to serving customers is the recent installation of an HP Indigo 10000 digital press. SG360° has also committed to upgrading the 10000 press to the HP Indigo 12000 when the upgrade is released in 2017. At press time, the 10000 was only in production for about a month, but Schneider says the results have exceeded expectations. Other existing digital output devices include an Océ ColorStream 3700 continuous-feed inkjet press with an in-line Hunkeler finishing system and a Canon imagePRESS C7010 VP from Canon Solutions America, as well as multiple HP Indigo 7600s.
As the company has grown through acquisition, it has annexed a number of different digital printing technologies, making SG360° a “United Nations” of digital presses, according to Schneider. Roughly 15% of its output is digital.
“Anybody who wants to play at any scale in this industry, particularly with direct mail, needs to offer customers a continuum of customization options,” Schneider explains. “Some clients want highly unique pieces produced on our high-speed [offset] presses at 4,000 fpm. Those seeking highly customized pieces, where every aspect of the page — with every revolution of the press — is different, get their jobs completed digitally.
“We want to triple, if not quadruple, the digital aspect of our platform during the next three years. In order to do that, we have to be strategic and select press platforms that we can scale from, in order to maintain consistency and quality, and to be able to consolidate equipment. It’s wonderful to have an exotic zoo of different press technologies ... but at some point, when you get to a certain size, you need to pick and choose the providers you want to work with long-term.”
The most recent HP Indigo investments represent a mere fraction of the capital outlays made by SG360° in recent years. Following its acquisition of Lehigh Direct, the company invested $10 million to beef up its capabilities, and it paid immediate growth dividends.
While Schneider wouldn’t put a dollar figure on SG360°’s annual capex budget, she did note that about 60% of the company’s outlay went toward bolstering the kitting and fulfillment operations, a platform that has tripled its volume during the past three years.
Speaking of Lehigh Direct, SG360° is keeping a watchful eye on the marketplace for other M&A opportunities. Schneider says there are no barriers to what the company will look at, though she notes that a potential candidate’s logistical footprint would ideally be configured to meet customer needs.
“It’s nice to be healthy and have a strong balance sheet, and it’s also nice to be in a place where you can improve operations,” she says.
Schneider sees a key to growth entailing the development of deeper relationships with clients by providing broader services. She notes that SG360° has grown top-line sales with its top 20 customers each year for the past five years. They keep customers coming back by finding solutions — through printing, multichannel communications and data management — to help produce quality programs that stand out from the competition and help clients grow their revenue streams and customer acquisition efforts.
Schneider hopes the company will continue its quest toward developing more cohesion among its four facilities, cherry picking best practices from each operation and then applying them across the board. Continued success will require SG360° to stay on its toes.
“Ultimately, customers judge whether we’re doing well or not,” she concludes. “It’s a huge source of pride that our customers trust us with their work year after year after year. In the direct mail business, there generally aren’t many [long-term] contracts. So you’re only as good as the last campaign or job you produced. We continue to get those opportunities because we can deliver. And we’re very proud of that fact.” PI