Beware the Customer Breach of Faith
Wednesday night, I watched my daughter, Kristina, graduate from eighth grade. Like every other parent there, I was filled with pride and amazed at how the years have melted away. Seems like only yesterday she was dragging her sippy cup and stuffed dog, named Old School, all around the house.
What I missed at the office was a late afternoon missive from the Government Publishing Office (GPO), announcing a $750,000 settlement with Quad/Graphics in light of allegations of potential security lapses by the printer in processing/producing GPO jobs. You can check out all the details here without me getting too deep into the weeds with a rehashing.
In many ways, I feel sorry for Quad; well, as much as you can feel sorry for a multibillion-dollar corporation. Like RR Donnelley, it employs enough people to sell out a hockey arena. In its last Printing Impressions 400 ranking, Quad listed 25,000 employees. Chances are, you won't meet nearly that many people in your lifetime.
That's quite a gaggle of folks to be accountable for, and make no mistake about it, company patriarch Joel Quadracci must answer for the actions of every one of them. This is where he has my sympathy. It is virtually impossible to take a 25,000-count sample of America's workplace and find nothing but gems. You want every employee to walk in lock step with the company's mission statement, but the reality is, many fall far short of our highest aspirations. And that's life.
I'm not criticizing or singling out Quad's Chalfont, Pa., plant, nor does it matter if the allegations hold water. This can happen anywhere, and I am confident it's more prevalent than we realize. There's only so much a company can do in terms of putting standards in place for the handling and disposition of sensitive documents that contain personal or classified information; if the chain of custody isn't followed, the employees are placing their employer in a vulnerable position.
Speaking of my daughter, she is a travel softball player (which means I am constantly broke, exhausted and sunburned). Early on, I stressed the importance of always wearing her fielder's mask and batting helmet at all times … I've abused the motto "practice like you play." That keeps her safe and makes the use of protective gear second nature to her. I stressed it so much early on that I need not mention it to her now.
Not to get too preachy here, but the link is obvious. All an employer can do is make certain their training and safety procedures are followed so closely that they become second nature. There's nothing that can be done to stop employees from fudging the sign-in sheets or other chain-of-custody paperwork, other than to stop employing them.
The guess here is that several employees — perhaps a manager or two as well — have been sacked at the aforementioned Quad plant. I'm not painting the printer as a victim, either. The onus is on Quad to do a systems check on potential failures in procedure.
This $750K slap in the face stings, but Joel Quadracci and his late father, Larry, labored for decades to build Quad/Graphics' reputation. The company will shake off this setback and reinforce its security and chain-of-command measures. Had it been a private customer that had discovered the potential breaches, chances are you would not have heard a word about it, but since it's the government …
There's a takeaway for those of us who are not as bullet-proof as Quad. The act of losing a huge contract due to security lapses can be downright fatal for the 99.9% percent of printers that generate less revenues than the Sussex, Wis.-based heavyweight.
Your reputation, your integrity, is like your virginity. You only get to lose it one time.