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 talked to Lam Bui, president and CEO of Complete Print Shop Inc., Phoenix. Here, Bui discusses the power of referrals, industry challenges and how he creates a culture of happiness in the workplace.
How did you first get started in this industry, and what path did you take to land in your current role?
Lam Bui: I fled my homeland in 1975 near the end of the Vietnam War. I was fluent in French, and had been a law student and an officer with the South Vietnamese Rangers. After I arrived in Phoenix, I began working odd jobs, washing cars and later working at an in-house print shop. That led me to start my own company in 1979 with $600 and one employee.
How do you set goals for yourself? For your business?
LB: I always treat my business like a family. I make sure my “family” is taken care of. I am just happy with incremental growth—little by little. When my employees show interest in new equipment, we, as a team, evaluate the pros and cons and derive the plan if, and when, we will acquire the item(s). I work closely with my accountant and make sure we still are growing year-to-year and are keeping up with inflating costs of paper and supplies. Offering clients quality products and fair pricing, remains my priority.
How does the economy continue to affect the industry?
LB: Well, it’s a trickle effect. When our customers’ businesses are slow and their sales volumes decrease, they aren’t utilizing their marketing materials as quickly. Of course, that affects us. The reorders don’t come in, and new designs and new products aren’t being generated. The customers only are doing enough to keep their doors open, if they’re fortunate. We are lucky to have grown our client base to what it is today, so the companies that close their businesses don’t affect us too badly. I always try to help when I can by giving my clients referrals and connections where it fits. I also remain frugal in my own spending, so when the economy is on a downturn, we are still doing well.
Because of our fair pricing, our clients continually send their referrals to me. Because of our ability to produce items with both digital and offset equipment, I’m able to help almost anybody. My business has grown substantially from referrals over the years.
What do you expect to be some of the biggest changes or challenges the industry will face?
LB: Staying abreast of the technological changes and having the capital to stay current with the new methods. Also, figuring out whether or not we will need the update to the new methods is another challenge. We have to provide the services our customers are wanting. When our customers begin to ask for new technology, we will consider it. Inkjet technology is rapidly growing, not just for large-format work, but now in the press rooms. Until we decide to investigate and invest in that technology, we will make sure we increase our efficiencies with our traditional methods.
What keeps you up at night?
LB: One of the only things that keep me up at night is my staff. My success is directly related to the success of my employees. I always want them to feel that coming to work is their second home and not a job. If I don’t have happy people, I don’t have a happy company. When they are happy, I’m almost guaranteed the work they give me is top-notch.
The other thing is I have to make sure the money is flowing right and that we don’t spend over our heads. That is achieved by staying frugal and smart about the day-to-day operations of my company.
What do you think is the most exciting, cutting-edge thing your company is doing right now? Why?
LB: Well, it’s not really “cutting-edge,” but we continually cross-train all of the employees. Our company culture is that of a team. I just make sure everyone accomplishes one new thing every day, one day at a time. I rely on my employees’ strengths as individuals and then the team falls in place. I want them to feel good about themselves and what they’ve accomplished that day when they go home at night.
What would people be surprised to learn about you—hobbies, special interests, etc.?
LB: Because of my background, the most important thing in my life is freedom. I love to learn about history and families and freedom around the world. I like to visit museums that show history and freedom of all cultures and backgrounds.