As part of Print+Promo Marketing’s ongoing feature, Executive Perspectives, we get to know leading professionals in the print and promotional industry. This month, we interviewed Andy Ogren, CEO of Blanks/USA, Brooklyn Park, Minnesota. Here, he details his career path, discusses the impact of major economic trends, and expands on company developments.
How did you get started in this industry, and what path did you take to land in your current role?
Andy Ogren: I attended the University of Wisconsin-Stout’s four-year program for graphic arts management. My interest in the printing business started in high school with a graphic arts program. Out of college I owned several businesses unrelated to printing. I sold those businesses when I purchased a consumer products company startup in the static cling window décor category for big-box retail. All of our products were printed UV litho when UV litho was very rare and just emerging as a technology in 1991. We successfully competed with prime printers in static cling products even though we outsourced all of our production.
After selling the business and operating several others over the years, I purchased Blanks/USA in 2006 from the founder, Gil VanderHam. Since 2006, we have been supplying paper merchants specialty print media pre-converted, allowing the printers the ability to bypass the finishing process in certain product categories. Some of our top products include Kant Kopy security paper, die cuts (such as door hangers and perforated paper), wristbands, ID cards, presentation folders and tickets all pre-converted in various ways to mitigate or eliminate the need to finish [in] post-production.
How do you set goals for yourself? For your business?
AO: Our goals are mostly set by trying to improve our products to better accommodate what the marketplace is needing. We have eight patents and proprietary processes and materials for our products. This assures, in most cases, a superior product option to our competitors’ offering.
How does the economy continue to affect the industry?
AO: We have seen many printers vanish against difficult market conditions, such as in the 2008 recession. Our mix of products has dramatically shifted to much more plastic or synthetic products from virtually none early on in my tenure. We also have seen a reduction in distribution partners with consolidation and elimination of retail store locations. And, finally, the pandemic [of] two years has required us to dramatically change some of the ways we do business to compete in a new market featuring supply chain issues for several of our top substrates.
What do you expect to be some of the biggest changes or challenges the industry will face?
AO: The biggest short-term challenge [is] the lack of reliable supply sources of raw materials. Additionally, the lack of employee options has been very difficult for manufacturing companies.
What keeps you up at night?
AO: I think the biggest challenge for us is the employee shortages without much improvement of the situation in sight.
What do you think is the most exciting, cutting-edge thing your company is doing right now?
AO: Our products are always being improved, which is probably the best thing. Secondly, our communication with our customers regarding our varied products is being upgraded and refreshed. This will allow our merchants the ability to see all of our products and prices in a matter of seconds online.
What would people be surprised to learn about you?
AO: I am a gentleman farmer, which means I am not a good
farmer, but I want to be a good farmer. I love the tractor working the fields.