2019 Women in Print and Promo: Didi MacPherson, Alliance Printing Associates
President, Alliance Printing Associates, Santa Fe Springs, Calif.
How she got her start: I was hired into the industry at 19 with a company that provided business forms and printing. I worked for that company for 17 years. For the first 10 to 12 years, I was an inside support person. I would price, process and manage orders for the salespeople. I slowly transitioned into outside sales until I was laid off. At that time, Tom Gerl, my business partner now, was a salesperson for the same company. The owners went through a divorce and were advised to lay off the sales staff and keep our accounts, so they could keep all the profits. To my shock, they took that advice. It was a very painful time for Tom and I. Tom was the only breadwinner for his family, and my family relied on my income as well.
It was Tom who approached me just a day or two after being laid off and thought we could start our own business. We both reached out to our clients, and they all agreed to come with us as long as the pricing and service were the same. We never signed agreements that would not allow us to contact and maintain our clients. Within a week, we had our business license and office, and because I had a long history in the industry and had worked with many printing manufacturers closely, several of them extended us credit. A couple of years later, we began to go after more promotional work, and that is now about 50 percent of our income. Honestly, it was never my intent to own my own business. I was content with selling, but the way it worked out has been a blessing!
What she does: I am involved in the overseeing of daily activities, supporting the sales staff and handling my own accounts.
What brings her joy professionally and personally: My biggest joy in my work is being able to provide a great atmosphere for our employees. We do our very best to encourage a good work/life balance, along with a good compensation package.
Her proudest career achievement: Just the fact that Tom and I started this company in a week after we were both laid off and here we are 22 years later. Most recently, I am very happy that we were able to purchase our own building.
On working in a traditionally male-dominated industry: Honestly, I have never had an issue with being a woman in this field. The men in this industry have always treated me with respect, and I have never felt inferior.
Her job advice to women: Be confident. Don’t let being a woman deter you from doing anything. You even have an advantage of becoming a certified woman-owned business should you decide to. My certification has opened the door to some very large opportunities with nice-size companies.
Who she turns to for career advice: At this point in my career, I work out issues, concerns and ideas with my business partner, Tom. In the beginning, I did reach out to owners of a couple of manufacturers and distributors to get direction. Her upcoming goals: Professionally, I want to get our company over the $5 million mark. Personally, I’d like to continue to improve my health and spend as much time with my six grandkids as possible.
How she maintains a work/life balance: With being able to access email by phone, we are never really off unless we make an effort to separate work and life. I do monitor my emails off hours, but do not process or answer until morning or after a weekend, unless it is urgent.
Final thoughts: Owning a business brings stresses not for the weak at heart, such as the care of employees, how to handle AP/AR and taxes, how to structure your company—partner, LLC, incorporate, insurance and so on. That being said, I have truly enjoyed owning my own business and the flexibility it allows in my work and life.