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Golden rule

Sep 1, 2007 12:00 AM

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Earlier this year, the National Assn. for Printing Leadership (NAPL) (Paramus, NJ) presented 17 graphic communications companies with 2006 Management Plus awards.

Management Plus allows graphic communications companies to analyze specific areas of their operations as a tool to judge individual management performance vs. industry standards. After completing a self-analysis, companies may choose to enter the awards competition based on their results. The Management Plus program is sponsored by AMERICAN PRINTER, MAN Roland and Compass Capital Partners.

Awards include the William K. Marrinan Hall of Fame award, as well as Gold, Silver and Merit awards. In Part One of this series, we spoke with Tom Mercier, president and CEO of Hall of Fame winner Bloomington Offset Process, Inc. (BOPI) (Bloomington, IL). In Part Two, we've listed all the Management Plus winners and highlighted two Gold award honorees. Here are their stories.

Where the customer is king

Some former sales reps struggle in management roles, but not Lisa Arsenault, president of McArdle Printing (Upper Marlboro, MD). “McArdle's always been a service-oriented company,” she says, “but I think I filtered it through the whole company from running sales and being a sales rep at heart. You always go to what you know. I came from the customer side of things, knowing and always striving to figure out how was I going to give someone the most phenomenal experience so that if they did go someplace else, they would want to come back because it wasn't quite as good.”

A dedication to its customers is at the forefront for the printing company, which just celebrated its 60th anniversary this year, and just one of the reasons for the company's rapid success with Management Plus. After only two years of competing, McArdle has two awards: a Silver last year and Gold this year. “We felt like we got an Academy Award!” Arsenault jokes.

And the award goes to…

McArdle got started through the guidance of long-time mentor and accounting firm associate Joe Becker, who suggested that Arsenault enter. “The application was so easy for us to fill out because it's everything we already do,” she notes. “We have a strategy, we have a marketing plan and we do customer surveys. We're very wrapped up in our strategy, and I think that's one of the reasons why we've done well quickly in NAPL.” Not content to simply rest on its laurels, McArdle has a three-year strategy that is updated every year. “We're always tweaking,” Arsenault says.

Part of the appeal is the Management Plus scorecard. “You feel like you live on an island when you work in a printing company, because private companies don't want to disclose some of their data,” says Arsenault. “[The competition] gives us takeaways to come back to our business and see what we do better or what these other companies are doing differently and how we can incorporate it into our business.”

The company experienced significant growth in 2006, installing new equipment and growing annual sales from $39 million to $44 million.

‘We do it all’

After 38 years as a family-owned company founded by Walter and Ed McArdle, the company's largest customer, Bureau of National Affairs (BNA), a publisher of time-sensitive publications, purchased McArdle Printing in 1985, the same year Arsenault joined the company as a sales rep. Today it is a web and sheetfed printer with digital and mailing capabilities, as well as a full-service bindery. “We've really closed the loop on everything a customer can do under one roof — from digital to conventional to hybrid printing to mail — we do it all here,” Arsenault says.

The company's 150,000 sq. ft. houses 220 employees and four Heidelberg coldset web presses: a two-color, a four-color and two six-colors. It also operates a Xerox iGen3, installed in December 2005. The most recent acquisition is a 10-color MAN Roland sheetfed press, installed in January 2007. “We knew some of the magazines we print that are short-run were vulnerable to technology changes in the heatset web market with their runs dropping and technology changing,” says Arsenault. “We really wanted to protect our existing business by adding this technology.”

Mailing has been with the company since the beginning, which has printed dailies and other time-sensitive materials for years. To add to those capabilities, the company recently added an intelligent inserter that allows McArdle to do three-way intelligent matches, something Arsenault sees as unique to a printing company. “It's mostly mailhouses or direct mail printers [that use this machine]. We brought it on board because we wanted to integrate variable data programs with static work and be able to blend the two.”

School's in session

McArdle has a unique perspective on meeting customers needs. “We try to position ourselves to address [customers' issues] before there's a huge need,” says Arsenault. This led the company to develop customer-geared training seminars, held every other month, to educate clients and potential clients on various hot topics in the industry based on customer feedback and suggestions. The most recent seminar, about migrating from Quark to InDesign, saw 45 attendees. Before that, another 45 clients attended a lecture on mailing, conducted by the U.S. Postal Service, to learn about the new regulations before they changed. McArdle even goes onsite for company-specific training programs.

Arsenault started this program five years ago, and she says it has been wildly popular. “I really felt that printing companies didn't do a good job training customers on technology. It was a black hole for them.”

Not only do these programs allow McArdle to anticipate customers' needs, but it allows customers to anticipate the needs of their organization as a whole. “We've been doing a lot of training on going green and what that is going to mean when their bosses say, ‘We want to go FSC, what do we have to do?’ We're helping them stay ahead of issues that are popping up on the top.”

And the training is applicable to all companies, not just those who deal with print. “We just did a class at Fannie Mae, and they asked us to come back and do it again for another group of people who don't buy print but need to understand about the how the corporation wants to be more responsible in its role in the environment.”

A ‘cool’ business to be in

Training also is given internally to employees, most recently on the company's storefront software, PageFlex. Arsenault wants McArdle's employees to understand how the company's technologies will impact its customers and how to anticipate any questions coming their way. “You want to give them as much knowledge as you can, so when they touch the customer, they can be as thorough as they can on the spot without [having to ask several people],” she says. “You lose credibility that way.”

Besides training her workforce, Arsenault is keen to hire people who “picked printing intentionally.” McArdle hires interns from Clemson University on an ongoing basis, and the company has hired several graduates from Clemson and Rochester Institute of Technology.

Service with a smile

McArdle makes it a point to stay in touch with its customers, sending out customer surveys on a weekly basis. According to Arsenault, “Ninety percent of [people in our company] will tell you they work for a customer-driven company, not a sales-driven company. We know the money will come if we're customer driven.”

Arsenault says putting the customer first is the only way to succeed in a constantly changing industry: “Our customers are redefining themselves to their customers. I think a lot of printers struggle with [these changes]. They have a handle on who they were, but a lot struggle with who they're going to become. We have done a really good job of defining who we are, where we're going and how we fit into our customers' world. We're helping them communicate and touch their client in a more relevant way than we ever have before through static print. It's hard work to constantly stay out in front of customers, but that's your only advantage anymore.”

Go for the gold

“I've always been driven to manage. I love doing it,” says Tim Poole, president and CEO of Dome Printing, a $34 million, 100,000-sq.-ft. printer in Sacramento, CA. With an attitude like that, it's no wonder he secured the company's first Gold Management Plus award. Dome has been involved with NAPL for years, seven of those in the Management Plus competition. That was the impetus for the company's ISO 9001:2000 registration in 2003; many of the requirements for ISO lined up with what the company was already graded on in Management Plus. And with five previous Merit awards behind them, the company looks forward to a lot more Gold in the future.

Presses make the printer

Dome Printing is primarily a web printer, with 65 to 70 percent of its work in that segment, but the company also boasts strong sheetfed capabilities with two Speedmaster XL 105 presses from Heidelberg installed a year and half ago. This all-Heidelberg shop's lineup also includes two web presses: an M-110 half heatset web with inline finishing, and a six-unit, six-color, 16-page M-130 heatset web. Both are equipped with QTI closed-loop color to aid in tight color control.

Dome also boasts a fully digital prepress department, having installed Creo's CTP server, platesetter and proofers in 1997, as well as a full in-house bindery. The company does a lot of direct mail — eight to nine million pieces per month — prompting the purchase of inline finishing on its presses.

“We do it all,” says Tim Poole. “Our specialization isn't unique in our industry, at least not in our perspective. But as we've had a chance to work with more companies over the years, we find one of the ways in which we are unique is the amount of expertise in different types of products when it comes to finishing work in the bindery. It just accents what we print.”

Free to be FSC

Environmental consciousness isn't something new for Dome Printing. The company's CTP technology has eliminated film disposal and storage, as well as the chemicals used to process film. It also uses paper with 10 percent post-consumer waste; it recycles all paper waste, plates and press by-products, including oil; and its facility is equipped with afterburning units to reduce VOC emissions. What is new is certification from the Forest Stewardship Council, which occurred in April 2007. To celebrate, Dome held an event in San Francisco and gave out 500 Japanese maple trees to local print buyers.

“We're a California company,” stress Tim Poole. “As with all California companies, we far exceed any regulations that companies have to comply with nationally when it comes to pollution control, water quality and energy usage. We also do it because we take a lot of pride in our facility.”

Family ties

Dome Printing began its 93-year journey in 1914 when Byron Dome founded Dome Engraving, a trade house supplying engravings for local printers and newspapers. The transition to printing came in 1969 when Ray and Arlene Poole purchased the company, shifted the focus to offset printing. Dome has been a family-run company ever since.

From the pressroom to the management offices and everything in between, Ray and his three sons — Tim, Andy and Bob — have been a major part of the company. Tim Poole started 25 years ago as a press operator and moved through the ranks as pressroom manager, GM and vice president of sales. Andy, now vice president of manufacturing, joined Dome as a bindery operator, later becoming bindery manager, production manager and plant manager. Bob Poole, now vice president of sales, worked in the shipping department in 1985. Other roles over the years included bindery operator and prepress manager, where he was instrumental in the company's conversion to CTP.

Despite the close working relationship, the brothers stress that sibling rivalry isn't a problem. “Tim, Andy and myself have our different roles to play in the company,” says Bob Poole. “We all challenge each other on a day-to-day basis, but when we leave every day, we leave as friends and brothers. We all have the same vision, and we're not afraid to challenge each other when something comes up.” Tim echoes, “I couldn't imagine not having two partners I trust immensely.”

Dome's sense of family extends to all of its employees. Many of its 155 employees are husbands, wives and their children. “You hear about a lot of companies where people aren't allowed to date in the company,” says Amy Labowitch, marketing and inside sales manager. “That's just not the way it is here. It's a unique perspective, especially in corporate America, but it seems to work for us.”

Shiny happy people

Making people happy is standard operating practice at Dome Printing, both for its employees and its customers. “We get so many clients that come through here saying that everybody is smiling,” notes Bob Poole. “It's really amazing how often we hear that, of all things. [Our employees] are a sales force also. They're constantly making sure our customers are taken care of. They're our backbone.”

Happy employees are long-term employees. Tim Poole says the company sees very few positions open up. “If they're here, they don't leave unless something drives them away — like a different business or retirement.”

And finding the right people for the job often is a job in and of itself, something Dome learned when it added mailing capabilities two years ago. “The tough part, which we always thought we had a handle on, was dealing with employees and training them to run equipment,” says Tim Poole. “We hired and let go a lot of people until we found the right group, the people who fit into the culture of our company.”

Dome Printing also takes pride in finding the right customers. Excellent service results in high retention rates, notes Bob Poole. “We're not the cheapest printer,” he says. “I work with a local agency and they're all about saving money. I stuck with my pricing, and my competitors kept coming in lower and lower. Finally, they pulled the job from me and they switched over to my competitor. That lasted one month. They said they couldn't stand the customer service and poor quality, and I got the job back. That happens a lot.”

Tim Poole adds, “There's always a market sector of clients that will continue chasing price, and they're mandated by their organization to do it. We find that we don't attract those clients.”

Day to day, year to year

According to Tim Poole, the greatest challenge is keeping up with technology and staying ahead of the competition. “You can't sit back for a minute in this business,” he says. To ensure they stay on track, the seven people who make up the executive committee at Dome Printing have daily meetings to discuss each day's activities.

Dome also makes a point to try and reinvent itself every three to five years, something that Tim Poole considers part of the company's success. “We see many companies out there that are completely confused as to why they're not successful,” he says. “We can see their business models not evolving. We see that way too often in our industry.”

Part of Dome Printing's current plan is to achieve 10 percent growth. In the meantime, it is large enough to be on the cutting edge but small enough to retain the personal touch customers have come to expect.

Carrie Cleaveland is assistant editor of AMERICAN PRINTER. Contact her at

All about Management Plus

Honoring executive excellence for more than 20 years, NAPL's (Paramus, NJ) Management Plus program helps participating graphic-arts companies evaluate themselves against their peers. The two-part program requires entrants to first complete a comprehensive self-evaluation form, which requests details on the company's financial performance, internal control systems, marketing/sales plan, vendor relations, business planning, human resources, environmental concerns, quality control and community/industry affairs.

The second, optional part of the program involves submitting the results to the annual Management Plus competition. Entries are judged on how well they rate in the above areas compared to companies of similar size. Merit, Silver and Gold winners are selected based on their score. The William K. Marrinan Hall of Fame award is bestowed on companies that have won several Management Plus awards over successive years.

In addition to the award, the Hall of Fame inductee and the top Gold award winners in each category (there are five categories based on sales volume and one for in-plant printers) will present scholarships to the graphic communications schools of their choice. The scholarships are funded by NAPL and the Management Plus sponsors.

For more information, see

2006 NAPL Management Plus Award Winners

William K. Marrinan Management Plus Hall Of Fame Award

  • Bloomington Offset Process, Inc. (BOPI), Bloomington, IL; Thomas Mercier, president and CEO ($10-$25 million)

Gold Awards

  • Z3 Graphix, Lenexa, KS; Kelly Schoen, CEO ($5 million)
  • Action Printing, Fond du Lac, WI; Robert Carew, president ($10-$25 million)
  • Dome Printing, Sacramento, CA; Tim Poole, president (over $25 million)
  • McArdle Printing Co., Inc., Upper Marlboro, MD; Lisa Arsenault, president (over $25 million)

Silver Awards

  • Swifty Printing & Graphics, Arlington, TX; Jerry Mechell, president ($1-$5 million)
  • Bradford & Bigelow, Inc., Danvers, MA; John Galligan, president ($10-$25 million)
  • Classic Graphics, Charlotte, NC; David Pitts, president($10-$25 million)
  • Daily Printing, Inc., Plymouth, MN; Don Bergeron, executive vice president ($10-$25 million)
  • Think Patented, Dayton, OH; Ken McNerney, president and owner($10-$25 million)
  • Western Graphics, Inc., St. Paul, MN; Tim Keran, president and owner($10-$25 million)
  • ALL-STATE LEGAL, Cranford, NJ; Robert Busch, president and CEO(over $25 million)
  • ColorDynamics, Allen, TX; Charles Chalifoux, president (over $25 million)
  • The EPI Companies, Marietta, GA; William Woods, Jr., CEO (over $25 million)
  • Hammer Packaging, Rochester, NY; James Hammer, president and CEO (over $25 million)

Merit Awards

  • Wordsprint Inc., Wytheville, VA; Bill Gilmer, president $1-$5 million in sales
  • Nies/Artcraft Companies, St. Louis, MO; James Finger II, president and CEO (over $25 million)

Additional information can be found at NAPL's Web site,