Executive Perspectives: Steve Patton of HCF Inc.
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 Steve Patton, president of HCF Inc., Hillsboro, Ohio. Here, he reflects on his professional journey, promotes positive thinking and shares the key to his company’s successes.
How did you get started in this industry, and what path did you take to land in your current role?
Steve Patton: I got started in the printing industry straight out of high school. I had always wanted to run a press but got hired as an inventory control clerk at Rotary Forms Press. I worked there for nine years filling different roles in all three of their operations. Then, in 1987, I went to work at HCF Inc. [then Highland Computer Forms]. At first, I was doing purchasing and scheduling, but over the years have done about every job in the plant. Then, in 2019, we were given the opportunity to buy the company from the founder, Phil Wilson. So, Rob Jones [HCF’s vice president] and I worked out a plan to make it happen.
How do you set goals for yourself? For your business?
SP: Rob and I work very closely together to set goals for HCF. We try to keep them realistic and obtainable and, at the same time, push ourselves enough that it is difficult. I have always set goals for myself the same way—look at what has gone right and wrong and try to figure out how I can be better.
How does the economy continue to affect the industry?
SP: Well, I have been around a long time and I have seen many ups and downs. Granted, COVID has been the most interesting, but the trick is to always find the opportunities that are present. Even as this industry continues to change, there are a lot of opportunities for those who are open to change and willing to adjust to the present. Will paper continue to decline? Probably, but there will also be new products developed. The trick is to stay flexible and agile with your thinking and processes.
What do you expect to be some of the biggest changes or challenges the industry will face?
SP: In one word: labor. Currently, it is very difficult to hire young adults. At HCF, we have been blessed with an excellent workforce. A lot of our employees have 20-plus years of service, and it is difficult to replace that talent in today’s environment.
What keeps you up at night?
SP: Not much. I learned a long time ago to not worry about what I can’t control. There is—and always will be—a lot of challenges in our industry (just like every mature industry in the U.S.). So, I try to adjust to whatever is being put in front of us.
What do you think is the most exciting, cutting-edge thing your company is doing right now?
SP: As a printer, we sometimes overlook all of the changes and new products we have produced and developed, so this is a tough question. We do have several cutting-edge products that we continue to roll out. At HCF, we pride ourselves in being able to figure out a way to produce items that others have had to walk away from.
What would people be surprised to learn about you?
SP: For the last 10 years or so, my wife and I have been doing mission work in Haiti. She works with the children while I am normally working construction, building a school or church. It is very rewarding work and is a way that we can give back to those less fortunate than ourselves. We are also very involved in our church serving in various capacities. We have five grandkids, ages 4 to 13, so that keeps us busy as well. I grew up on the family farm and still live there today. We raise corn, soybeans and registered Limousin cattle. The grandkids show on a state and national level.