As I reflect on our recent trip (my first) to the PIA President’s Conference; it was a great opportunity to meet, mingle, and learn about leadership, business development, and finance trends happening in the printing industry. It’s hard to sum up everything that was discussed, but there were a few key topics that really stuck with me:


Keys to Successful Leadership


There’s been hundreds (if not thousands) of books written on this subject so I’m not going to rehash everything that was said but there were a few key messages that resonated with me:


  1. Focus – Focus on the things you are good at. It’s tough to be everything to everybody so you should focus on what you’re good at; focus on the things that are most important to you.
  2. Commitment – For me this ties into Passion and Communication (both other key qualities); you obviously have to have commitment to your customers but also to your company, business, and especially your employees. There we’re multiple examples discussed where companies listened to their employees, challenged them to make decisions (taking risks), and recognized significant benefits to their businesses.
  3. Positive Attitude – I’ve heard it said many times so there has to be something to it; according to Catherin Monson, CEO of Fastsigns International – “85% of success is built on confidence”. Most people (and companies) have a fear of failing and not knowing the answer; we heard it more than once that people need to be willing to take risks (and fail) and ask questions. According to Bob Danzig, people need to “Live a life of curiosity”.


Print is changing and we have to evolve


We’ve all heard that, but it was certainly a key topic discussed throughout multiple presentations/breakouts at the show. I think it was said best by Jeff Hayzlett in his presentation Think Big, Act Bigger – “Adapt, Change, or Die”. It’s brutally honest but let’s face it, customers’ expectations are changing as is the marketing mix and many printers have had to adapt to become “Marketing Services” companies providing a vast array of services from online ordering, to website development, to digital integration, and even packaging (in addition to traditional print – for additional examples look no further than the latest issue of Print Works!) – its turning from a transactional business to a solutions business. Companies that want to succeed need to assess what their customer’s need, ask questions, and understand what’s driving the inquiries. While many studies have shown tangible media (i.e. print on paper) has shown to be easier to read, more enjoyable, and increases comprehension, there is no question that all businesses (not just printers) have to adjust their products or services to meet the changing needs of the customers they serve.


A Positive Culture


Many of the speakers, one in particular (Doug Rawson, President of Superior Lithographics) talked about creating a culture where their employees were encouraged to make suggestions on how to make improvements to their company. Doug brought his entire management staff to speak about how they have transitioned their business “…from a traditional “top down” managed organization to one centered around employee empowerment and continuous improvement”.  They take any and all suggestions, no matter how big or small and implement them as long as long as they can afford it, it’s safe, and it won’t compromise a job getting out the door – in (3) years they have implemented hundreds of changes that have had major improvements on processes and company culture.


There were many more ideas and presenters that were notable that I could write on about for the next week; it was truly a great event and I’m honored and thankful that PIA allowed Domtar to participate – Thank You!