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 Tom Marchessault, chief operations officer of BCSI, Burnsville, Minn. Here, he talks about workplace caffeine habits, trailblazing into electronic territory and why marketing-based products are here to stay.
How did you first get started in this industry, and what path did you take to land in your current role?
Tom Marchessault: My father started the business [then Business Card Service Inc.] in 1954. I worked my way through every department in the early days and took over operations in the mid ’80s when we were converting our operation from manual to electronic. We created a process that eliminated steps that most printers continue to struggle with today. Every aspect of the technology we created was pioneering, as no one else had done it before. Selling electronic entry in 1983 was a lot of fun because most customers did not even know what a modem was. We found that selling through tech-savvy distributors was a more effective way to bring in new customers and began to sell through distributors only. With the advent of the internet, our distributors wanted to offer their own front end, so we began to integrate with third-party front ends. One temporary challenge [came] when the first distributor asked me to accept a print-ready PDF. So, we created an automated pre-flight tool that validates the PDF and saves it out in a format that allows the system to handle the PDFs without touching them. We continue to offer our own front end that customers typically access through a single sign-on through customer front ends. Today, business cards make up [fewer] than 50 percent of our sales, as we have expanded into many different products like flyers, brochures, letterheads, envelopes, greeting cards, note cards and postcards.
How do you set goals for yourself? For your business?
TM: Goals to me are always something just a little beyond reach. Otherwise, you have to question if it’s challenging enough. When the company goals start being achieved 75 percent, it’s time to raise them. It’s amazing how many ways you can find to increase efficiency.
How does the economy continue to affect the industry?
TM: Every time the economy tightens up, corporate America starts to pull back, looking for ways to cut costs. Our products are all marketing-based and can be temporarily reduced, but, in the long run, every company that wants to grow needs to include a diverse marketing plan. In January 2009, the front page of the business section of our local newspaper had three of our top 10 customers laying off thousands of employees. That was a clear sign of big changes. Not only did we have fewer end-users, but [we realized] those companies were not going to be hiring anytime soon, which meant no orders for new employees. Every business needs to be managed to be able to navigate through those peaks and valleys.
What do you expect to be some of the biggest challenges the industry will face?
TM: I’m concerned about the current trend with a shrinking print market. I think there will be more consolidation and lower prices. Those that will succeed will need to be able to compete.
What keeps you up at night?
TM: We have made our reputation on high quality and service. Making sure every customer continues to get that high level of service is always a concern, especially when you are in a growth period, as we are now. We are currently initiating 12 large customers. I sleep at night by making sure I have the best staff with a great plan to take care of customers, and I don’t drink caffeine after noon.
What do you think is the most exciting, cutting-edge thing your company is doing right now? Why?
TM: Our ability to integrate with multiple ordering platforms is making life easy for our customers and improving their profits and efficiency. This differentiates us from our competition and has resulted in significant growth of our business. In the past, we were more locked into specific ordering platforms, but we’ve become more flexible and have expanded our capabilities to integrate, improving customer experience by streamlining ordering, tracking and invoicing for our customers.
What would people be surprised to learn about you—hobbies, special interests, etc.?
TM: I love golf and typically ride my bike 10-15 miles before heading to the office in the summer. I read a lot of books about World War II. I am fascinated with what so many 18-21 year olds went through in the war. On my toughest days, it really puts things into perspective.