The opportunity came up to interview with Walsworth, and this position (COO) had never existed before. At the time I was with RR Donnelley, and they were going through some big changes.
I think the idea here was to create the COO position from the standpoint that Don wanted to grow the company. He felt as though there were some areas the company needed to focus on.
At that time, we were dominated by yearbook. We were 80 or 90% yearbook. So, the question was how do we get into a multi-billion dollar commercial print market? That was the goal those first couple of years.
(CFO Jeff) Vogel and I started the same week. Walsworth had an excellent history as a $90 million, one-location printer with aspirations to expand. It was a bit of a siloed organization and as you try to serve a broader market, you need all capabilities to work together. We needed tighter control operationally.
And we got our foundation pieces in place. Then there was the acquisition of Saint Joseph in 2010, then Ovid Bell in 2012. And then later, of course, Ripon in 2020. Now, we have coordinated processes. We have a solid technology foundation, and it can support an enterprise almost three times as large as it was back when I started.
Well yes, we really were evolving into more of a corporate-type organization.
There’s been investment. We’ve transitioned our yearbook production platform tremendously. Technology capabilities are key to our future. We’ve upgraded the bindery. I think in 2004, we had 19 non-perfecting presses. Today, we have five perfecting presses. We’re a much bigger business.
We needed reliable, repeatable, dependable outputs from our processes. And our people were able to accomplish that. The cycle times for a yearbook have been radically compressed. We're shipping more than 3,000 yearbooks in the month of May, which would have been unheard of back then. At the same time, we have built a tremendous commercial print capability to serve book, magazine and catalog markets. Walsworth has invested a tremendous amount of money in our platform over the past 20 years.
The market has evolved quickly, it's ever-changing, and you need to be able to adapt and respond to market changes. I mean, I've been part of plants and in businesses that don't exist today.
I was in a plant that produced encyclopedias, thousands of encyclopedias. Who buys that anymore? Dictionaries, law books, computer manuals and telephone books. We had a business that didn’t exist in the 1980s, but by the mid-1990s we were $500 million a year in computer manuals. And by 2000 it was zero again. So to be successful, you need to adapt to the marketplace. We’ve done that throughout the history of Walsworth.
I worked for a company for 10 years that had four business units. I was in the auto parts division. It was essentially a parts supplier to the Big Three automakers and into the aftermarket for engine bearings and bushings.
We also had a business that manufactured aircraft seals for gas turbine engines that were very precise; that were mostly for helicopters. But we also did it for the military for the M1 tank because it has a gas turbine engine. We were a government supplier to some degree, and it was precision manufacturing.
I graduated from the University of Pittsburgh with an MBA. There were many companies that were recruiting, and I got connected with one based out of Chicago. Their engine parts division was out of Cleveland, and it looked like a good opportunity. It was a big manufacturing complex. They also made the Mark 48 torpedoes for the U.S. Navy.
I'm from Washington D.C. My dad's family – my grandparents, literally came to Ellis Island from Eastern Europe. They settled in Wisconsin, and that’s where he grew up. He went to college during the Depression and served in World War 2.
After the war, there were opportunities to work in the U.S. government. My dad and his younger brother moved to Washington D.C. Several of my dad's family members ended up in the D.C. area with different government jobs. My mom and dad met while working at the Department of Agriculture. My mom’s family was from Maryland. It was great having a large extended family growing up.
My dad worked for the Department of Agriculture during the Kennedy and Johnson administrations. He was a deputy assistant secretary and worked for a program called Food for Peace, which was a worldwide effort to have better agricultural production for countries that needed it.
Yes, she was born in Quantico, Virginia. Her dad served and retired from the U.S. Navy. So she moved around quite a bit while her father was in the military. Cynthia’s family settled in Maryland where her mom worked for Health and Human Services and her father continued his career with local government.
Arthur and Anthony have both been in Lancaster, Pennsylvania since 1996, so for the largest part of their life that's been home for them. Anthony was born in Iowa and Arthur in Ohio. We moved several times for career opportunities and they met every new location enthusiastically. I am very grateful for that.
I love to go to just about any sporting event. My family got tickets to the (Washington) Redskins in 1960 (now the Washington Commanders). And we kept those until 2018. So we had season tickets for what… 58 years. We went to a lot of games, and not only in Washington, but a lot of other NFL stadiums too.
Our whole family likes to play golf. I like to work around the yard. I like to travel. I like to cook. I might even go to the casino every once in a while.
If you have enough time and enough money, the casino always wins. What you're looking for is a statistical deviation in the timeline that is favorable, and you’ve got to know when that appears, when to jump on it and when to leave.
You know, I'm not one to say this or that is the best. If it's with the family, that's what's important. We've been fortunate to do a lot of different things and travel. We traveled the coast of California and other spots in the country with the kids. Cynthia and I've been to Europe. I was responsible for a project in Barbados many years ago and of course needed to visit occasionally.
I grew up going to Ocean City, Maryland, and look forward to every visit. Great beach, boardwalk and restaurants. We’ve probably spent the most time on vacation at the beach somewhere.
I would say you can't beat a good steak unless it's summertime and it’s the blue crab season in Maryland.
You know, when I go to the movies, I just like to be entertained. A favorite is a tough question. So, there are two movies. And the first isn’t necessarily the movie. It’s the whole Star Wars saga. It just hit me when I was younger and now the next generation picked up on it so we can all watch it.
The other one is corny but it’s A Christmas Story. It came out when Anthony was younger. It’s a family tradition to enjoy this together every year.
I've moved nine times and stayed married (laughs). Cynthia has been very tolerant and supportive of me pursuing career opportunities. Truth be told, I think she likes to move occasionally too.
We have been married for 45 years, and it’s amazing everything my family has done to support me.
There’s one we still kind of sit around and talk about. It was the acquisition of IPC in St. Joe (December 2010). (IPC) was a private company, so we couldn't announce it ahead of time. It was a big secret. Don and I and John Burgess, we're going to arrive in St. Joe to make the announcement. We're going to fly up to Chicago on Sunday, drive over and spend the night. But a raging snowstorm starts, and as we get up Sunday morning, flights are getting canceled.
We are wondering, can we get to Chicago? Eventually, we get to the point of, no we can't. We rent a four-wheel drive out of the Kansas City airport and the three of us take off in a blizzard.
The next day, we get to Michigan City, Indiana, which is about 25 miles away from the plant, and we decide to get Starbucks. John had this newfangled app on his phone with a map. So we get off the highway and we're driving to Starbucks. We’re in the middle of the road and it's snowing so hard. There's no other cars and John says, we're here. We were 50 feet away from it and we couldn't see it.
Then Jeff Vogel was going to join us that night. He calls us and asks, where we were? We tell him we're at the hotel, exit 23. He says he missed it and he’s at exit 30. He turns around, but there’s no exit 23. We finally figured out he was in Indiana, not Michigan. (laughs)
This was a very important time and event in our company's history. And everybody went above and beyond and through raging conditions. We all look back fondly and chuckle for sure.