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 Brian D. Gale, president and CEO of I.D. Images, Brunswick, Ohio. Here, Gale expands on industry challenges, the economy’s influence and the rewards of investment.
Brian D. Gale: I was a non-family succession plan for [Richard Yisha], the founder of I.D. Images. I spent some time consulting for him and we worked out a plan where I would join [Yisha] full time as the chief operating officer and have options to acquire a significant minority equity position. After a couple of years, he promoted me to president and “retired.” I say “retired” because he got bored after a short period of time and got back involved in the business. We then worked out a deal for me to buy him out completely.
I always wanted to run [and] own a business. My dad ran his own business (services), and I wanted to have a tangible product. Labels and printing appealed [to me] because the product is consumable and they’re used virtually everywhere. I also saw an opportunity to grow due to fragmentation in the industry. It’s a great industry with great people.
How do you set goals for yourself? For your business?
BDG: I have always set one-, three-, five- and 10-year goals for the business and on a personal level. I think it’s important to strive for things. I enjoy learning new things, and I try to use that both personally and for our business. I constantly say to our team, “If we’re not getting better, someone else is, and that someone else wants our customers.” It’s important that your business goals consider your customers/markets.
It’s also important to have long-term goals to keep your business focused. It’s easy to get distracted with new opportunities. I find myself asking if opportunities fit with our long-term plan. One of the challenging things about being an entrepreneur or owner is it’s easy to say “yes” to everything. I’ve found some of my best decisions involve saying “no” to potential opportunities.
What do you expect to be some of the biggest challenges the industry will face?
BDG: [First,] an aging workforce. As baby boomers begin to retire, it’s going to be critical to replace them with talented people. [Second,] consolidation. As owners look to retire, consolidation is inevitable. [And third,] pricing challenges. Operating costs continue to rise, but raw materials have stayed fairly steady for the last several years—five to be exact. That makes it hard to get price increases. Inflation will come at some point, but until that happens, it is critical to manage operating costs in order to remain competitive.
What keeps you up at night?
BDG: My biggest concern is finding talented people. It’s no secret that baby boomers are beginning to retire. Print is labeled a “dying industry.” It’s not—there are plenty of great jobs and careers available. We, as an industry and as a company, need to do a better job communicating those opportunities to the public. The one thing that we often overlook is [that] our industry uses technology in virtually everything we do. Graphic artists are in high demand. Press operators need computer skills.
What do you think is the most exciting, cutting-edge thing your company is doing right now? Why?
BDG: A few years ago, we made a large investment in linerless label technology, allowing us to produce linerless labels efficiently on one machine without any secondary operations. It’s finally starting to pay off. It’s exciting to be at the forefront of a change in our industry that benefits the environment and improves efficiency in the labeling process. The environmental impact is pretty straightforward—there’s no liner to discard after the label is applied. Removing the liner allows us to put more usable labels on a roll, greatly improving efficiency for mobile printing applications. It’s also exciting to see our team embrace the opportunity to do something different. We’ve had people volunteer to learn how to use the equipment.
What would people be surprised to learn about you— hobbies, special interests, etc.?
BDG: I enjoy fly fishing, and have even tied a few of my own flies. I’m not that good at the fly-tying part. (People who know me know patience is a virtue I lack!)