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Take it easy

Nov 1, 2009 12:00 AM

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The frost is on the pumpkin and the calendar is on its last page but one. It's a time for self-reflection, an opportunity to think about the past 10 months and to ask ourselves that annual question: Can I take all of my unused vacation time between now and New Year's Day?

Long after I physically log out from my work computer, whatever I was working on continues to run in my brain's background program. It's very difficult to avoid thinking about work concerns, even on my days off.

This past summer, I was off for about two consecutive weeks. Although I had some health issues to contend with, I felt something I hadn't felt in years: rested.

I thought of this as I read about Mallard Press (Lombard, IL) going out of business after 30 years. Owner Bob Gay offered WTT's Cary Sherburne some candid insights on the company's demise. According to Gay, the $5 million company had taken on so much debt, it couldn't rebound from some lean sales months. He was able to work with his equipment finance companies, but ultimately faced eviction from his landlord and could not secure the funds to move to a different location.

Gay's honesty impressed me. He acknowledged his mistakes, including waiting too long to make staff cuts. “I was operating as a man in business, not a businessman,” he said. “A businessman would have made cuts sooner, but the man in business hoped it would come back.”

Gay noted that the ordeal showed him the importance of family and the quality of life. As Gay prepared to meet with a bank, he asked his 14-year-old son to wish him luck. After doing so, his son asked: “Dad, if you get the loan, does that mean you will be able to come home on time now?”

“I had missed the point of what I was trying to do with my life,” Gay concluded. “If you came to my block, you would recognize my house, because it is the only one that needs its garage painted. I was so consumed by my business that I couldn't even spare the five hours to get that done.”

Hindsight is 20/20

What could Mallard Press have done differently? What about other companies in the same boat? “[Consider combining] with a compatible strategic partner to preserve value and transition from ownership in a graceful and orderly manner,” advises John Hyde, NAPL senior vice president.

“Mallard Press would have been an ideal candidate for a so-called ‘tuck in’ acquisition into the infrastructure of an acquirer/merger partner,” says Hyde. “This would have maximized the value of his customer relationships that are otherwise lost due to closing the business. Moreover, a strategic transaction would have avoided moving costs; those funds would have been available from his strategic partner. And, in a strategic transaction, the bank usually cooperates so that assets are converted to cash as part of a planned liquidation which has a better chance of debt recovery for creditors and preserving value.”

While we continue to hear that the economy is recovering, recovery won't happen soon enough for many printers, including TanaSeybert. The printer filed for bankruptcy this past September. UNIMAC Graphics (Carlstadt, NJ) subsequently received court approval to merge TanaSeybert into its fold of companies.

Formed through a merger in 2004, TanaSeybert united Tanagraphics and Seybert Nicholas. The printer traced its roots to 1913. According to its website, the company “witnessed the Great Depression, two world wars, the eight-track tape, and terabyte desktop hard drives; [it] has been around since Broadway was lit by gaslight and has evolved into a digitally driven graphic communications resource for some of the country's top firms.”

In memoriam

We're sorry to report Terri McConnell recently passed away. McConnell launched her career at Jackson Lab (Bar Harbor, ME) and Maine Printing (Portland, ME). She joined Harris Graphics, forerunner to Barco Graphics (Dayton, OH) in 1984. She subsequently joined Ohio Electronic Engraving and, later, Concept Co. Most recently, McConnell served as director of business and brand Strategy at Gravity, a division of Phototype (Cincinnati).

She contributed articles to many printing and packaging magazines including AMERICAN PRINTER. McConnell was a member of the Sustainable Packaging Coalition, Ghent PDF Workgroup's packaging subcommittee and past chairman of the F.I.R.S.T. Design Committee. Our condolences to her family and friends.

You can follow me on Twitter at as well as on my new blog: KOB on Commercial Printing at