Executive Perspectives: Lance Luka, president and owner for Ignite Graphics
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 Lance Luka, president and owner of Ignite Graphics, Elmhurst, Ill. Here, he details his professional journey, talks about what motivates his work and explains why he’s ultimately betting on print.
How did you first get started in this industry, and what path did you take to land in your current role?
Lance Luka: I got started in the printing industry when I was 19 and working as a proofer at RR Donnelley, while going to school for graphic arts communications. After a few years there, I moved to a prepress company. I went into sales and became a top producer in a short time. After five years, I had an idea to start my own company. Chris Plath, Rick Baruch and I founded Imagine Print Group. In 10 years, we grew it to over $20 million in sales. We sold it to a private equity company. From there, I joined a web company and co-founded a sheetfed and digital division. After five years, an opportunity presented itself to purchase a turnkey printing facility. This is when I started Ignite Graphics Group with my wife Sharon. We started everything from scratch, including the logo, job tickets, estimating software, workflow, all of our employees. [In another] five years, we were [named] one of the fastest-growing printers and mailers in the United States [by] Printing Impressions, [the sister brand of Print+Promo]. Our goal at Ignite is to become as much of a single-source solution for our customers as we possibly can be, while still offering exceptional service and reliability. We have a packaging division, direct mail, digital, sheetfed and web divisions. We recently just added our fifth die cutter, a 40-inch BOBST die cutter. We are also in the process of acquiring a 30-year-old lettershop with over $2 million in revenue for 2019 to continue our incredible growth and to support our customers’ needs.
How do you set goals for yourself? For your business?
LL: Every decision that we make inside of Ignite is based on our customers’ needs. We have signage all over our facility that states “Customer is King,” and we all work for you. It is our core value that we put the customer first.
How does the economy continue to affect the industry?
LL: I actually think that printing is on the rise. All the email marketing campaigns that piqued everybody’s interests years ago have slowly started to diminish with spam blocking, and people are coming back to print and direct mail for much better investment on their marketing spend.
What keeps you up at night?
LL: I’m more of an optimist. I don’t stay awake at night worrying about bad things or problems, but I [turn] that energy into positive things and ways to grow and make our business better.
What do you think is the most exciting, cutting-edge thing your company is doing right now? Why?
LL: Our state-of-the-art workflow has added integrity every step along the way. We start by serializing every record of data with a 12-digit serial number, which is guaranteed to be unique to your mailing. This serial number is encoded into a 2-D matrix on every variable piece of the mailing. Also included in the 2-D matrix is all the information necessary to determine the contents for each record. Our inserter’s four-way matching capabilities (full-sheet feeder scanning, two pockets with cameras [four additional non-camera pockets for static or selective inserting] and the newest technology in PDF workflow for inkjet) ensure integrity in mail projects from start-to-finish. All of this put together guarantees integrity in the mailing. That’s a fancy way of saying that the cameras read the 2-D matrix, and this drives the machine. The data in the matrix instructs the machine on how many pages should be collated and folded, tells it which inserts the record should receive, matches the serial number to the serial number of any personalized inserts and, finally, if utilizing closed-face envelope without window, matches the serial number to the data/recipient mailing information to spray on the envelope. We were careful to create maximum flexibility with the purchase of a Rival Production Series inserter. With a modular, scalable platform, this machine can process A7 to 10x13 flat envelopes and anything in between.
What would people be surprised to learn about you?
LL: People who haven’t known me for that long are surprised to know that I grew up playing ice hockey, and played junior A hockey with some great NHL players like Doug Weight, Eric Lindros and Chris Tamer, to name a few. I had several colleges to choose from, but I hung up the skates, as I knew that I was hot in the commercial print and mailing world. As we all say in the industry, once you get ink in your veins, you’re in for the long haul. I absolutely love this industry and the challenges [it presents] all of us every single day. Each day is different from the last.