Top 50 Suppliers 2017 Interviews: No. 1 - Ennis Inc.
Every year, Print+Promo releases its 2017 Top 50 Suppliers list. To give you some insight into what it takes to make it to the top, we spoke to Keith S. Walters, chairman, CEO and president of Ennis Inc., No. 1 on the list.
What was your company’s biggest accomplishment over the last year?
Keith S. Walters: [I’d say] the acquisition of Independent Printing and its increased capabilities to our company. Independent brings a strong brand name and reputation to Ennis. Independent is known for its presentation folders and checks, but [the company] is also a major producer of traditional and digital commercial print, bringing capabilities we don’t have in our other facilities. For instance, Independent has a Fuji J Press that allows for the digital printing of full-size presentation folders in small or personalized quantities.
What is your company’s top priority for 2018?
KSW: The continued pursuit of additional printing companies that bring value to our customers.
Besides sales numbers, what makes a top supplier?
KSW: [It’s the combination of] breadth of product lines, technology/e-commerce assistance, sales assistance, consistency in product and service, and the ability to adapt to unusual needs.
What is the biggest challenge facing the industry today, and how can we work toward a solution?
KSW: Obviously, [there is] the continued decrease in the demand for many printing products and finding products with a better life cycle, but I believe the value of consistency in a company is undervalued. One of our industry’s biggest challenges is to believe in the organizations that got the industry to where it is today and its ability to adapt to the changing environment. We need to keep our industry in the right frame of mind if we plan to succeed in the future. None of us have all the answers, but great teams find a way to win.
What is the toughest part about being in charge?
KSW: That depends on the personality of the individual. I actually believe it is harder to not be in charge. Of course, there is no one to blame for decisions that don’t go as planned, so why waste the time? Encourage the organization to forget the past and move forward. I don’t think you can ever look surprised or disappointed when in charge. Maybe that is the hardest part.
Whom do you admire most as a business leader?
KSW: Actually, there are many people I admire, but not solely as a business leader. Success in business has much in common with sports success, in my mind. Our company is run very similar[ly] to the sports teams on which I have always participated. A great coach is first a person with values the team can believe make sense. Admiration in business requires success, which has a lot to do with the opportunities that present themselves. Having the team ready to react to the situations as they present themselves are the leaders I admire. If it looks easy, I know the work it took to make it that way.
Is there anything you would like to add that we haven’t already discussed?
KSW: It is critical to improve your organization every day. The idea that individuals in my role constantly come up with grand strategies that change companies and industries is overrated. Leaders should work to prepare their organizations for the “game.” That is, in my opinion, the real value a leader brings to an organization. I have been on many sports teams in my life, and I have yet to see a coach play during the game!
To hear what other leading suppliers had to say, check out our 2017 Top 50 Suppliers list—complete with bonus information like an in-depth analysis and top 10 rankings for four leading product categories.
Elise Hacking Carr is editor-in-chief/content director for Print+Promo magazine.