As part of Print+Promo’s ongoing feature, Executive Perspectives, we get to know leading professionals in the print and promotional industry. This month, we interviewed Bob Chanson, president of Meridian, Loves Park, Ill. Here, he talks about the art of innovation, banner opportunities for printers and his confident business approach.
How did you first get started in this industry, and what path did you take to land in your current role?
Bob Chanson: I graduated college in 1969 and started right away as a sales rep for Moore Business Forms in Rockford, Ill. Moore was the largest forms company at the time—I had many accounts and was selling over $1 million. After 20 years, I could forecast Moore was not keeping up with the marketplace, and I made the decision to resign. A small printing company was for sale in Rockford, and a colleague and I bought it and started Rockford Business Forms [now Meridian]. For two years, I honored my noncompete with Moore, and went after only new and existing accounts. After that, I regained 90 percent of my old customers, and Rockford Forms grew exponentially. Later, Moore folded its tent.
How do you set goals for yourself? For your business?
BC: My goal has always been to show up fully and do what is needed—for myself, my business and my family. I trust my team of employees, and for day-to-day goals, we have weekly and monthly meetings to discuss and implement our plans. Looking ahead, I’m always open to new ideas and continue to position Meridian as a leader and innovator within the printing industry.
How does the economy continue to affect the industry?
BC: The marketplace is still very strong. Good people and companies survive and grow despite the political and economic climate. We have to be there for those companies that continue to succeed and need our products and services—to make their printing needs easy and accessible for them, so they don’t have to think about it. We help sustain their business, and, of course, that helps our business as well.
What do you expect to be some of the biggest challenges the industry will face?
BC: We must continue to keep pace with technology and products. [Roughly] 50 percent of what we sell now didn’t exist 10 years ago, so if we aren’t offering new products to the customers, new machines to produce those products and new services to get those products to the customer in the most efficient and cost-effective way, they will get it somewhere else. Access to printing products has changed—everything is online and in your face, on the sides of buses and storefront walls. Any new thing a customer sees in the printing industry, that they think would help their company to stand out and grow, we want to be able to provide it for them.
What keeps you up at night?
BC: Nothing worries me, as we have a team of good personnel to be out in front of the business climate. I trust my employees, and I trust the systems we have in place. I know they are coming to me with questions and solutions.
What do you think is the most exciting, cutting-edge thing your company is doing right now? Why?
BC: We are heavy into wide-format [printing], which is growing very fast—banners, vehicle wraps, window graphics, trade shows, promotional products, storefronts. Again, the technology exists and we want to be able to provide it to our customers. These are brand-new products and ideas [that] many companies are just now seeing as a potential way to advertise, promote and grow their business. Maybe they think it’s too expensive or it won’t work for them, but we are here to show it is available, affordable and makes a big statement.
What would people be surprised to learn about you—hobbies, special interests, etc.?
BC: I play a lot of golf, and I take a lot of customers. But I am best at driving my boat and drinking a beer—I’ve been boating since I was 12 years old, [which is] when I got my first boat. I’ve owned 10 boats since then, and I love being on the lake.