As part of Print+Promo’s ongoing feature, Executive Perspectives, we get to know the leading professionals in the print and promotional industry. This month, we talked to John C. Peterson, president and owner of AmeriCAL Inc., Omaha, Neb. Here, Peterson discusses his leadership style, 2017 goals and the importance of personal customer service.
How did you first get started in this industry, and what path did you take to land in your current role?
John C. Peterson: While pursuing studies in journalism at Creighton University, I acquired a summer job in the sales promotion department at Paramount Paper in Omaha, Neb., one of the largest label manufacturers in the country at the time. I found the label business so interesting that I did not return to school in the fall. Except for time in the U.S. Army, including a tour of duty in Vietnam, labels have been a very important part of my life. In 1983, my wife Melinda and I started AmeriCAL Inc. in our garage with limited capital and no customers—all based on the premise that there was a demand for smaller quantities and faster turnaround times. That was true then and even more so today. We now have facilities in Omaha, Neb.; Palm Springs, Calif.; and Kent, Wash.
How do you set goals for yourself? For your business?
JCP: My personal goals haven’t changed much over the years. I can remember my parents, especially my mom, reminding me to always set a good example. This is something that I believe has served me well, both personally and professionally. As far as business goals, the one that has remained constant from day one is to always take care of our customers’ needs. If you allow this goal to be your focal point, most of the short- and long-term goals fall into place and are attainable.
How does the economy continue to affect the industry?
JCP: Although the economy can have adverse effects on business, these conditions, I feel, can somewhat be offset by constantly upgrading internal efficiencies, whether by acquiring new equipment, inserting new technologies, and maybe, most importantly, providing and educating our customers with new products and innovations to help them acquire new business.
What do you expect to be some of the biggest challenges the industry will face?
JCP: There are a host of challenges, not the least of which is governmental intervention, be it in human resources or overregulation. Being a small business our cost for legal assistance has risen significantly. Also, modern-day technology is becoming a huge player socially and in the business environment. While this might allow us to better serve our customers in some areas, it could also make us lose that personal touch, which I feel is essential to maintaining a strong business relationship. I’m a firm believer in one-on-one customer service communication. I do not want this replaced by emails.
What keeps you up at night?
JCP: Not much. My wife of 45 years and I have been blessed with four wonderful daughters. Three have printing in their blood and one is a fine educator of young persons. Business-wise, I am surrounded by hardworking, knowledgeable employees who share my vision for keeping this company on the right path.
What do you think is the most exciting, cutting-edge thing your company is doing right now? Why?
JCP: Most exciting—by quarter two of 2017 we will have our proprietary business operating system, which we have been working on for a long time, up and running. This system will provide the necessary information to manage our company to better serve our customers. We are currently upgrading our prepress department with state-of-the-art software and platemaking equipment, which will enable us to print finer quality four-color process labels. We also are looking to expand our current digital printing capabilities. There are many systems available; however, each has its benefits and limitations.
What would people be surprised to learn about you—hobbies, special interests, etc.?
JCP: Probably that I like to design skill toys and games, and hold several design patents. Also, I acquire and refurbish Chandler and Price, Kluge, Heidelberg windmills and other old letterpresses. I just finished an 1885 Model No. 4 Job Press and it’s a beauty! My wife and I are avid golfers and still play a lot, even though both of our games are going south. One advantage to this is we can see where our drives land.