Discount Labels Unaffected By Parent Company Cenveo’s Bankruptcy
Earlier this month, Cenveo announced that it reached a revised Chapter 11 plan of reorganization settlement agreement with more than 70 percent of its creditors, clearing the path for the printer to emerge from Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection this summer. Since the initial news broke, many twists and turns followed, thereby leading to the question: How was industry supplier and Cenveo division Discount Labels affected—if at all?
For Print+Promo’s June Executive Perspectives column, we interviewed John Becker, senior vice president of sales and marketing for Discount Labels, New Albany, Ind. Here, he talks about the importance of investing in the future and sets the record straight on his parent company Cenveo’s financial situation.
How did you first get started in this industry, and what path did you take to land in your current role?
John Becker: I first stepped foot in a printing press in 1983 at the age of 15—a small printer on the South Side of Chicago [called] Atlantic Press. I started as a runner, which basically meant the guy keeping the baler filled and then emptied. I moved to warehouse management and then press operations. I worked full-time, on the mid-watch, for my junior and senior year of high school. I can still jog a bundle as well as anyone in the industry today. I joined the U.S. Navy (where I was a shipboard electrician) out of high school, and then took a 32-year hiatus from printing into various industries, but found my way back. After running businesses in physical security and utilities, as well as spending four years in Asia as general manager for a Fortune 500-sized company, [I found] the smell of ink and paper hasn’t changed and is still my passion.
How do you set goals for yourself? For your business?
JB: Goals are simple: growth. Growth of revenue, obviously, but [also] growth of operations. If sales and marketing does its job right, there will be a need for more customer service representatives, more press operators and more folks in shipping. These goals are achieved by delivering quality product to our professional customer base.
What do you expect to be some of the biggest challenges the industry will face?
JB: Consolidation of distributors and retirement of owners are the biggest challenges. Staying close to our customer base (i.e., distributors) is key to keeping relevant in an ever-expanding industry. We also have to understand and have respect for our competition. We need to make sure that our customers stay aware of our increased capacity and capabilities.
What keeps you up at night?
JB: [I often think about] educating our distributors as we expand capabilities and capacity. We are well known in the industry; we need to make sure everyone understands the breadth of our company. Many of our 30-year customers are surprised at our expansion in equipment and capabilities over the years. While we are their go-to for simple labels, our capability to print UL labels, variable data, consecutive numbers, barcodes, QR codes and more have to be realized.
What do you think is the most exciting, cutting-edge thing your company is doing right now? Why?
JB: We are constantly building systems and processes to put our customers’ expectations first. We are implementing 5S and Six Sigma into our manufacturing process. We have grown to 500 employees at the plant, managing more than 60 presses. We’ve upgraded our customer experience with new technology, including the effort we are currently making to redesign our web services. We are expanding our capabilities with new ABG finishers, another [Mark Andy Performance Series] P5 press and a Domino. We’ve hired a new marketing director and brought on a new firm to build tools and resources for our distributor base. We are moving to a regional sales structure that includes regional sales managers in nine regions across North America. Investment in our business is key, and we are focused on that investment now. And while we continue to maintain a myriad of flexographic presses, we have invested in digital technology with a fleet of HP Indigo printers.
It’s no secret that your parent company, Cenveo, has been making a lot of headlines this year, particularly in regard to its Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing. How is Discount Labels’ affected, and are there any misconceptions that you want to clear up?
JB: Discount Labels has always been run as an independent arm. Most of our senior leaders have tenures of 20-plus years. Our first shift press operators average 19-plus years; second shift is not far behind. We are making major investments at this time, including regional sales managers, marketing resources, new presses, new finishers and a redesign of our shipping processes/equipment. Discount Labels is in investment mode, and this is a big growth period for us. As far as Cenveo goes, this company is coming out of this period stronger than when we went in. Our customers understand this and have been supportive.
What would people be surprised to learn about you?
JB: I am a Navy veteran who loves the water. Lakes, rivers, the ocean—I cannot get enough of them. These locales are the backdrop for my cigar and bourbon hobbies (habits).