2019 Top 50 Suppliers: Ennis Inc. Positioned to Stay Ahead of the Curve
Any member of the C-suite worth his or her corner office understands that change can’t be stopped. It can, however, be managed. Maintaining a long-term vision while whispers of paper fluctuations, political uncertainties and a dying trade grow into screams requires placing a greater emphasis on customer needs. For some, that means pivoting to new verticals. For others, that may involve implementing an acquisition strategy or tweaking product lines.
No matter the method, the end-result always remains the same, which is what unites the leaders of Print+Promo’s 2019 Top 50 Suppliers list. They don’t pretend to have all the answers, but they do have clear goals in mind for both inside and outside the plant.
To give you some insight into what it takes to be a leader in the print and promo space, we spoke to Keith S. Walters, chairman, CEO and president of Ennis Inc., No. 1 on the list.
What was your company’s biggest accomplishment over the last year?
Keith S. Walters: Within the last year or so, we’ve acquired Wright Business Graphics, Integrated Print & Graphics (IPG), The Flesh Company and, more recently, Ace Forms. These four acquisitions have added more than $100 million in revenue to Ennis. All of these companies are strong brands, have great reputations and quality employees, and were family-owned businesses with long histories. We are very proud to have them join the Ennis family.
How is your company positioning itself to continue to stand out in 2020?
KSW: It all starts with our foundation of a strong financial position and solid balance sheet. Add in these great new additions, and we are well positioned.
How do you maintain a long-term vision and focus for the company in the face of constant change?
KSW: You can have a long-term strategy only if you are financially sound.
As one of the longest-tenured companies on Print+Promo’s Top 50 Suppliers, what would you say are the attributes that contribute to such a successful run?
KSW: [Since we are] financially sound, our successful acquisition strategy and our decentralized approach to operations management [contribute to our success]. Our general managers manage their businesses daily—not once a month when they get their financial results.
What is the biggest challenge that people in this industry are facing, and how does your company tackle that matter?
KSW: We all know demand for some of our traditional products is in decline. Managing during this decline is more difficult when the competition doesn’t know their true costs. Not knowing their true costs weakens the entire supply chain. Ennis is not trying to be the lowest-priced supplier, but we are positioning Ennis to be a sustainable company that will be there for our customers when they need us.
Please explain how you and your organization make tough decisions.
KSW: I don’t believe there are easy decisions and tough decisions. If you follow the facts, those facts tell you what to do. The emotional aspect of some decisions may be harder to deal with, but the facts tell you what to do. Follow yours and the company’s core values, and the answers to these decisions become clear.
How do you motivate and inspire teams to achieve big goals?
KSW: If you have good employees and you empower them, they motivate themselves. We have fewer levels of management, and our general managers are motivated because we’ve empowered them to make the decisions and corrections that are required to run their businesses.
How do you decompress after a stressful time at work?
KSW: I don’t find work stressful. To me, work is like a team, and we all want to win. I’ve played sports all my life, and work is just another team competition. I can understand how it could be stressful if you don’t have core values that help drive the culture and make the decisions we discussed earlier clear.
Is there anything you would like to add to give our readers a better sense of your business approach and the industry at large?
KSW: The paper industry is continuing to consolidate. Within the last year or so, both of the primary carbonless paper companies have been for sale. Paper mills have been taking capacity out by shutting down or converting machines. During these times of change, our great relationships with the paper supply chain make sure that we can get the proper materials when our customers need them. As these transitions continue, these long-term relationships will continue to be important.