2022 Women in Print and Promo: Chris Kumfer, Wise
Wise, Fort Wayne, Indiana
Chris Kumfer is still celebrating her promotion to general manager of Wise’s Fort Wayne, Indiana plant. This is a woman who knows what drives her, what she wants and how to get it — even if that means changing course. For Kumfer, it was about gaining independence and crunching numbers. A career in print gave her both.
As a young college student, Kumfer needed a full-time job with benefits that would allow her to continue her accounting studies and move out of her parents’ house. Several applications later, she received a call from local trade manufacturer Wise about a receptionist position. Roughly six months in, Kumfer transitioned into a customer service role. It was her lightbulb moment.
“The CSR job was a blend of customer contact and working with numbers, both of which speak to my soul,” she said. “Even ink colors are specified by number. All the measuring, working with fractions and the pricing satisfied my desire to work with numbers and have them balance.”
Kumfer left Indiana University, got her certified forms consultant credentials (CFC) and fully embraced the print lifestyle. She was appointed to customer service manager in 2008. In addition to leading the office staff, Kumfer set policies and procedures. She hired, trained and coached. She also fielded customer complaints and reviewed pricing. Kumfer spent the last two years diversifying her experience as production manager, which she credits with setting her up to be a successful general manager.
Looking ahead, Kumfer is most eager to onboard labels at the Fort Wayne operation.
“We started this journey last year, but we are really ramping it up as our volume is starting to grow,” she shared. “Learning something new and mastering it are always exciting for me. Working with the team to figure out how to be successful for not only ourselves, but our customers, is what drives the business. There is a lot to look forward to here in Fort Wayne.”
Her Proudest Career Achievement
I achieved CFC status in April 1996. I worked very hard studying all areas of the industry to achieve this status. Even though some of what I needed to know didn’t apply to what Wise could produce, it helped me tremendously with understanding forms usage and what other options are available to customers. In my customer service position, I could understand what customers were requesting and let them know how we could help. If it was something we couldn’t produce, I could speak to what they needed and why we couldn’t help. If I knew of a supplier, I would refer them. It gave me an extra layer of service to offer the customers.
On Working in a Traditionally Male-Dominated Industry
Early in my career, I felt as if what I had to say didn’t carry the same weight as a man saying the same thing. I explained something to a customer who wouldn’t believe it until a man in my company would confirm it. I also have the voice of a little girl, which immediately puts me at a disadvantage. To overcome this, I have had to learn to speak with authority and confidence. It also doesn’t hurt to mention how long I have been working in this industry. Once people know I have experience under my belt, it changes the whole tone of the conversation.
Who Inspires Her
That’s easy! Sally Spurr. She was the general manager here before me. She planned on retiring, but is so valuable to Wise they offered her the director of continuous improvement position. I was blessed to have her as my boss for 15 years. She has shown me how women can do anything they set their minds to and inspired me to apply for the general manager position I now hold. Everything I have seen her do she has done with confidence, intelligence and grace. She encouraged me to learn all I could about all aspects of the business and gave me constructive feedback as I took on more and more responsibility.
Her Job Advice to Women
It’s a great industry to be in. It is constantly changing and exciting. If you choose to be in this industry, you need to learn all you can and be confident about your knowledge.
Her Biggest Lesson Learned
There is always more to the story. If I listen long enough and hear from every point of view, I will learn so much more from all involved. It could be a customer interaction, supplier issue or even listening to an associate. My knee-jerk reaction is almost always wrong, so I need to listen and ask questions.
Her Upcoming Goals
Professionally, I want to maintain high quality and outstanding service from my plant. We have always put the customer first, but with supply chain issues it’s becoming more difficult to meet customer expectations. This would also be a personal goal. I don’t want to let down the people who work with me. Since I’m now steering the ship, I want to keep everyone on an even keel.
What She Wants People to Know About Her
I am determined in what I do and in reaching goals.
How She Thinks Companies Can Attract and Retain Female Talent
Promoting the existing female talent would show outside candidates there are opportunities for them to grow within the company.
How She Recharges
I spend time with my family playing games, watching movies or just hanging out.
Elise Hacking Carr is editor-in-chief/content director for Print+Promo magazine.