executive perspectives : Front Page News
Tales from a top executiveFebruary 2013 By Elise Hacking Carr
Wise President and CEO Bill Prettyman has ink running through his veins. A fourth-generation printer, Prettyman continues to uphold his family’s legacy in an industry that put them in the headlines.
His family has owned the Butler Eagle, a daily newspaper with a circulation of 30,000, since 1900. The reins have been passed from generation to generation, beginning with Prettyman’s great grandfather all the way down to his cousin. Along the way, David Wise purchased The Eagle Printery, a commercial printing company owned by the newspaper. After five years in business, Wise realized he needed a competitive advantage over the other commercial printers churning out the same product in nearby Pittsburgh. Business forms, particularly snap apart forms, were the perfect solution, so he launched Wise Business Forms.
Prettyman joined Wise Business Forms in 1980. From that point, the company—and Prettyman—continued to grow. In 1981, Prettyman initiated the startup of a plant in Fort Wayne, Ind. As the general manager, he inherited three Butler team members, a building, new equipment and the working capital to get started. Prettyman’s brother, Jeff, later took over as general manager, enabling Bill to start another plant in Atlanta.
The two brothers eventually reunited when Jeff moved to Atlanta to lead marketing efforts. When Wise retired in 1994, Prettyman assumed leadership.
Here, he talks shop and opens up about himself.
Print+Promo (P+P): How do you set goals for yourself? For your business?
Bill Prettyman (BP): The first step in the process I use is to create a Life Plan, which came from a company called Building Champions. It is a process for looking at each area of your life that is important to you, setting out the vision and purpose for that part of your life and creating the disciplines that will help you achieve that purpose. For me, the real key to making progress toward these goals is to have a weekly review to make sure that my priorities have not changed, that I am meeting my commitments and that I have the best focus for the coming week to make progress. Obviously, life happens along the way and some weeks I can achieve more and some weeks I achieve less, but the goal is progress not perfection. If I get too caught up in perfection it just leads to frustration. [In regard to the company,] I meet with our key managers as a group and one-on-one every week to discuss our focus and what we need to do to make progress in the coming week. I try to keep that focus as simple as possible so everyone can understand what needs to be done. I believe that simplicity and clarity are two of the primary drivers of progress. People need only a few goals if they are to accomplish them. We have a great team of people at Wise so my role is make sure we understand what needs to be done, remove whatever obstacles are in the way and get out of the way to let them do what they do best.