As part of Print+Promo’s ongoing feature, Executive Perspectives, we get to know leading professionals in the print and promotional industry. This month, we talked to Phil Sperling, president and CEO of Printco Inc., Omro, Wis. Here, Sperling discusses his approach to goal setting, the importance of engagement and how his company is positioning itself for future success.
How did you first get started in this industry, and what path did you take to land in your current role?
Phil Sperling: Printco was started by my grandfather, and, as the third-generation owner and president, I guess I was born into the industry. Like many others, I had a negative perception of the print industry, so I steered away from it for 10-plus years and I took a very indirect path back to my roots. I got into our business because I wanted a steady and consistent job to provide for my family. Honestly, I expected it to be boring—boy was I wrong! I’m still surprised how exciting our industry is and how passionate I am for print.
How do you set goals for yourself? For your business?
PS: I am perpetually adding goals and big ideas to my bucket list. I have annual goals and monthly resolutions from personal and professional slants. Goals serve as a rudder for getting somewhere, and life is too hectic to just go adrift. Printco’s goals are set by our management team, and we use G.I.V.E. (Growth, Innovation, Valuing customers, Employees) as our framework to ensure our focus and energy are spent on these four critical areas to succeed.
How does the economy continue to affect the industry?
PS: Not much differently than a majority of other industries. There are opportunities and challenges to be met in both down and up cycles of the economy.
What do you expect to be some of the biggest challenges the industry will face?
PS: We need to stop the “print is dead” talk. Print is exciting and evolving with plenty of examples of amazing companies and brilliant people in our industry. I think the merging of mega printer consortiums and the graying of our industry today will generate bigger challenges down the road. These trends slow the pace of innovation and adoption of change in the industry. When you add the loss of knowledge and expertise through retirements, and fewer school print programs and print training programs, there will be a greater gap in the industry. An educated and healthy “middle-class” is necessary and good for the economy and our industry.
What keeps you up at night?
PS: What will the next evolution of Printco be? Are we listening and in tune with our customers’ needs as they quickly change? How can we be one of those amazing companies in print? How do we retain and attract talented people? What else do I need to learn about printing? There’s plenty that keeps me up at night, but as long as I have good coffee and good relationships, I’m good.
What do you think is the most exciting, cutting-edge thing your company is doing right now? Why?
PS: The level of engagement and involvement of our employees is exciting and energizing to me because there are so many ideas coming from all areas. We are better with our efficiency, quality and culture due to a variety of changes I had little or nothing to do with. Also, last year we reinvested in a new HP Indigo  and added new software that improves our non-print services, better combining print and electronic marketing together in a coordinated effort. It’s nothing earth-shattering, but we’ve transitioned from our past traditional business forms-only [model] and no longer fit the forms printer mold.
What would people be surprised to learn about you—hobbies, special interests, etc.?
PS: I’m a CPA and an only child. Many times I’ve heard: “You don’t seem like an only child/accountant.” Since boring and spoiled are the main labels associated with those, I take it as a compliment. I enjoy not fitting into a mold and surprising people.