I joined the company in 2011. That was roughly seven months after the acquisition of IPC in Saint Joseph, Michigan. As things transitioned with Michigan and some people left the organization, there was a need for somebody in my position (Vice President of Commercial Sales).
When I came into the organization, we had two separate (commercial) sales forces. You had the legacy Walsworth team, and you had this newly acquired team in St. Joe. There were those who thought of themselves as Walsworth reps, and other ones who still thought of themselves as IPC reps. I had to do a lot of product market definition to try to figure out how to best integrate these two groups.
The process was fairly lengthy, and I had to try to figure out, to begin with, all of our systems and where to get information, how to dissect it, and understand the sales volume and profitability of each of our product segments.
Then, I had to determine the strengths and weaknesses of my sales team. And try to figure out, what do they need to better do their job on a day-to-day basis? What do we do well? Why do we do well at it?
The changes have been substantial. I think people used to think, especially on the legacy Walsworth side, that commercial was more of, ‘supplemental work during non-yearbook part of the year.’
In the early stages, we also really needed to identify that we weren't a transactional printer. How do we build an account strategy? There's more reliability and predictability when you start doing work with the same people and you recognize them as accounts instead of just orders.
I think that sales reps, by and large, have embraced the idea that, as an organization, they have more strength now collectively than they did individually. But it's still a work in progress.
We've continued to try to build people's awareness about the capabilities that go beyond just the facility they had worked in, or the organization they had worked for. If you take a look at the top sales reps two years ago, every one of them sold into at least two, if not three or four, different facilities. So to be a top performer, I think the team recognizes that if I don't expand my horizons, I'll never reach my highest levels of aspiration.
I spent time in the magazine, catalog and direct mail print environment. I had a little bit of book knowledge from working with some book publishers on promotional marketing.
I basically spent my entire life in printing. I started in high school in 1977, in a three-year high school graphic arts program, which led me to a graphics management program at the University of Wisconsin-Stout. Somewhere in between, I took a speech minor, which started driving me toward sales. I spent the initial seven years after college as a sales rep and then became a sales manager. And I've been in sales management ever since.
I liked the freedom of it. I liked the responsibility of having to create my own success. Of course, no sales rep creates success on their own. But I liked the concept that I had to go out there and be the catalyst to start that effort.
I was very technical in my younger years. I was more of a technical seller, using my print knowledge, as opposed to having sales skills. As I continued to progress, I tried to become more of a salesperson. As I grew, I tried to become more of a businessperson. So you go through that evolution, and you look at the business differently from all three of those perspectives.
Humility. I think it’s the number one thing. A humble person will evaluate what they've done and try to figure out how to improve.
Perseverance is also very obvious. If you're constantly trying to read the situation, saying, ‘What could I have done better?’ Even when you succeed – I think that's really what drives a good sales rep. Having the ability to ask questions that other people might not ask and figure out ways to do it better and extract more information from a client so you can better align yourself and company with what they're trying to achieve.
This might sound a little overarching, but print is really at the core of our democracy. The printed word is important for everybody. Beyond that, print serves a very directed purpose.
Studies show that reading a book is more substantive to a student than reading it off a tablet.
I think the interaction of getting the right messages to the right person in the form of a catalog or magazine and having material that's important to somebody is key. I think printing serves the higher ambition of getting the right information into the right people's hands, in a way that is entertaining and compelling.
I'm from a town in North Central Wisconsin – Merrill, Wisconsin. Population 9,500. I was born there, raised there, lived in the same house, we never moved growing up. Which is amazing for somebody who has now lived in about 13 different homes in five different states as an adult.
I've been married to my wife Cynthia for 38 years. We have one child, our son Jeremiah. He and his wife, plus three grandkids. They all live in the Finger Lakes area of New York.
I like to hunt and fish. My wife and I both like to downhill ski. I do a lot of hiking.
Over the years we've done canoe trips in southern Ontario. Cynthia and I have skied four or five different states, throughout the Rockies and the East Coast. In the last five years, we vacation only in Naples, New York, where our grandkids are.
Probably Jeremiah Johnson. That’s who my son is named after.
This one hit me only in the last couple of years and it's Flags of Our Fathers. It reminded me of every influential person in my life when I read it. Everybody who contributed to who I am today from my parents to my high school football coach to all kinds of people in my life who made a difference.
I was a running back at Merrill High School. I played on a team that only lost five games in three years. We were co-conference champions my sophomore year, and undefeated conference champions my senior year. I played with some really talented people in front of me.
I was middle school class president. Or maybe that I trained in martial arts.
I trained for about seven years. I started in an Okinawan martial art called Seishin Karate. I was a brown belt. It was a way for me to push myself past where I thought I could go.
It would just say “why,” and that came out of my martial arts training and some of the philosophy. Because if you can figure out why, you can figure out what to do next.
We have been able to succeed in getting people to embrace the idea that we are into account development, not just selling jobs. We've done a great job of properly vetting the acquisitions we've completed. We've done a very good job of retaining business, which is a critical part of acquisitions.
When I started, we were at about $62 million in (commercial) sales. Today, we're right around that $150 million mark. That's been an accomplishment through proper acquisitions, integration, upgrading of equipment and training of the sales team.
There are so many, I think it's more of a culmination of things. What I've enjoyed the most is we have sales reps who have really developed and turned into something special. And just watching that coaching take action and watching the success of people.
Again, you can never be too prideful and live in the past. I like to say I haven't accomplished everything I'm going to because it's not over yet.