Executive Perspectives: Tony Rouse of Team Concept Printing
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 Tony Rouse, founder and CEO of Team Concept Printing, Carol Stream, Ill. Here, he takes readers on his professional journey, shares how he responds to uncertainty and talks about his return on recent investments.
How did you get started in this industry, and what path did you take to land in your current role?
Tony Rouse: When I was a teenager, we had a vocational school attached to our high school. Upper classmen I knew strongly suggested that I take this printing class, so I did my last two years. When I graduated high school, I loved it so much I went right home and looked for a job in printing. I was hired to empty trash cans and do deliveries at a printing company, [and] could not be happier that my start was from the very bottom. From there, I went to the prepress department doing negatives and making plates for about nine months and then moved to running a printing press using my skills from my vocational school days. Within 12 months, I was running the pressroom and then ended up running the company four years later. After a merger with another location, I ran that company until the fall of 1997. I knew after the experience of the merger and seeing every aspect of a printing business [that] I wanted to really put my stamp on it. I could not do that if I didn’t own it, so I left that business to start out on my own. It was a scary move for me, and some said it was crazy, but I wanted to give it a shot.
I then spent six months putting together the business plan and base operating structure for Team Concept Printing. As you can imagine, we started from humble beginnings. I ran a press in the off hours and went out and did sales during the day. Fortunately, betting on our quality of work and relationships paid off. We assembled a great TEAM—we knew that was key to our success and [it] allowed us to stand out.
We moved to our current location in 2000, where we have continued to grow the company. Over those years, my role has always been modified; however, for several years now, my focus has been on keeping our eyes on the future and what we need to do next. That, along with a love for estimating and sales, [keeps] my calendar filled daily.
It’s crazy to think that the job and industry I first loved as a teenager, I still love as much today. Not a lot of people get to say that. I’m blessed and lucky in that regard.
How does the economy continue to affect the industry?
TR: In my view, the economy always has some bearing on this one way or another. One thing I have noticed over the years seems to be a pretty serious tie to consumer confidence and our business. I feel like if the end-consumer is confident, our customers want to spend money to try to grab that business. Fortunately, during other recessions like now, we were in a position to lean into the challenging time to reinvest and refine our business. I know this is an incredibly tough economy for all of us, but I am so inspired by how our team is responding to the world we are in.
What do you expect to be some of the biggest changes and challenges the industry will face?
TR: I feel two of the big ones will be the revamping of the postal system with the related postage increase, [along with] the continuing shrinkage of players in the industry, as well as paper suppliers and manufacturers. If paper suppliers begin to struggle, it could create a ripple in the supply chain.
What keeps you up at night?
TR: Thank goodness we are at a point that nothing does anymore. I can tell you there have been times in the past [that] have, but we are fortunate to be past that. We are actually really pumped up about this industry and our future. I have to say that after 35 years of being in this business, I lose sleep sometimes thinking about the positive opportunities in front of us.
What do you think is the most exciting, cutting-edge thing your company is doing right now?
TR: We are currently in the middle of an almost $5 million expansion of both equipment and nearly doubling our space to now 60,000 square feet. We are adding three brand new pieces of equipment, a six-color Komori Lithrone GL640 40-inch press, a high-volume perfect binder and our own die-cutting and conversion equipment to seriously support our growth in the packaging portion of our business. [Between] that, and the addition 18 months ago of our LUX FX line of products allowing us to do digital spot UV and foil, there has been so much exciting stuff going on right now.
What would people be surprised to learn about you?
TR: Being a family man has always been first and foremost in my life and has brought me so much joy. I truly have been blessed. As my career has developed, I really have enjoyed becoming more of a philanthropist and helping charitable organizations. It is so great to try to make an impact with some of the wonderful groups doing wonderful things!