Executive Perspectives: Jeff Hartman of CP Supply
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 Jeff Hartman, president and CEO of CP Supply, Bettendorf, Iowa. Here, he explains what motivates him, imparts advice on navigating current business challenges and shares an exciting investment for 2023.
How did you get started in this industry, and what path did you take to land in your current role?
Jeff Hartman: I started as a salesman for a small promotions company in the early ’90s and quickly determined that the print industry was a great opportunity. Therefore, I started my own company in 1992. Back then, I was printing T-shirts from a small office space. It didn’t take long to recognize a lot of people were doing the same thing from their garages, so business was a race to bottom-dollar pricing. With a little research I found that no one within a 200-mile radius was printing on ridged flat stock, so my journey into large format began.
How do you set goals for yourself? For your business?
JH: First and foremost, I am a very driven person by nature. When I see something out there that I think is attainable, I go after it, and I don’t quit until I achieve it. I don’t mean to say that each journey is easy — there are a lot of times where there are twists and turns, and I must pause and pivot my strategy to accomplish the result. My point, though, is that I’ll always keep trying once I set my mind to something. When it comes to business growth, I never let a big win lure me into taking a break — always try to make the last win catapult you into the next big one.
How does the economy continue to affect the industry?
JH: I see there are a lot of issues, like the general supply chain or employee acquisition and retention, but I don’t necessarily like to dwell on the cause or how to fix the bigger issue. As it pertains to my business, I see the obstacles we’re all facing and concentrate on ways to overcome them at a micro level. An effective strategy against supply chain issues, for instance, is simply buying a lot of supplies and buying early. Obviously, this strategy can cause hardships like financial strain or packing your warehouse to the brim, causing work efficiency to suffer, but over the course of a busy season it reaps rewards. ... Buying supplies early means you’re beating demand inflation, lead time issues and ultimately the loss of business opportunity. Trust in yourself that you will find a way to sell the inventory purchased.
What do you expect to be some of the biggest changes or challenges the industry will face?
JH: One of the biggest challenges I see are customer demands and how to rise to those demands. In a world with Amazon, end-users expect what they want, how they want it and when they want it with information about it at their fingertips. This all translates to keeping up with continuous streamlining of your processes and equipment. We’re always trying to do more with less by automating. The upfront investment in this way of working is substantial, but the ROI is easily worth it.
What keeps you up at night?
JH: Everything I’ve talked about so far is essentially standard business risk versus reward propositions. How do I overcome an obstacle? Applying X risk for Y reward is a tricky dance all executives must participate in. [Ask] questions like, how do I stay ahead of the curve, how much will that cost, when is the best time to pull the trigger on that idea, and how fast can I accomplish it to keep the business competitive and growing?
What do you think is the most exciting, cutting-edge thing your company is doing right now?
JH: We are very excited to be working with Kento Digital Printing. [The company has] developed the first-of-its-kind hybrid single-pass printer that brings the advantages of inkjet digital printing and high-quality flexographic printing on the same high-speed press line. We will be its first North American installation in January 2023 and will be the host to printing demonstrations. We have no doubt interest in its innovation will quickly grow. We are highly impressed with not only the quality, speed and versatility the press enables, but the exceedingly genuine people within the organization.
What would people be surprised to learn about you?
JH: People may be surprised that I am not afraid to get my hands dirty. When a project is under a deadline and needs to get accomplished, I am usually right in the mix. Not a lot of business owners that have been in the game as long as I have are willing to do that. When I’m not working, I am trying to spend as much time with my family as possible.
Elise Hacking Carr is editor-in-chief/content director for Print+Promo magazine.