Over time now, I reflect over this year and some of those in the past, and the joy of participating in professional organizations’ awards contests like IPMA’s (In-Plant Printing and Mailing Association) In-Print™ Awards. They provide challenges that can be used to leverage pride and respect on a different level– a different view if you will. As leaders, we are always looking for opportunities that bring recognition. What better mechanism could there be than one being orchestrated and judged by one’s peers? Everyone loves to hear, job well done…especially from our customers, but still there is something special from having earned the respect and honor of being recognized by your peers.
Over the years, I have been blessed to work for excellent above average printing companies. Some were even under my guidance, by which I mean the combined efforts of my team were so outstanding in the performance of their abilities to be recognized by their peers. For example, many awards were won by Creative Multigraphics from PIAS (Printing Industries of America -South) and GATF (Graphic Arts Technical Foundation) for Excellence in Printing and Design. Members of staff were recognized for specialized skills in being Diamond or Ruby Award members. Opportunities abound within these organizations for technical training, surveys, regional data, and sharing experiences.
When I first attended association conferences, I did not fully understand or appreciate the value and importance, that management placed on entering projects and earning awards. In retrospect, there is nothing quite like being recognized by one’s peers. Our customers recognize us mostly by being loyal. Our peers, however, know what efforts and skills were used to produce each piece. Honestly, it did not take long after seeing and hearing our customer’s reactions to the levels of quality and service that was being reflected in the awards hanging on the walls, to develop a certain amount of pride. I also noticed that fellow staff members exhibited more pride in just the internal selection of pieces to be submitted or the management applications we used to instill better operations, services etc. Watching and listening to the comments in those selections of submission pieces showed me their sense of pride in investment.
In the end, though everything I have mentioned above is positive and powerful, there is much more that comes from entering these events. Over the years I have enjoyed winning sales and marketing awards, business recognition for participating and helping in events sponsored by various organizations. In 2015 my operation was recognized by IPMA as Print Shop of the Year for management and growth. We were a small group of about 9 working in a small University but I still see the smiles and pride of the staff when they were honored by the Board of Regents and had an article in the local paper.
Currently my operation, University of Nebraska Lincoln Print and Mail Services, has been awarded many honors by their peers. I.E. Best of Lincoln for Printing in 2019, 2020 Best of Show for Offset printing from ACUP+ (Association of College and Universities), and 2022 Best of Show for Offset Printing from IPMA’s In-Print™ Awards. During the years from 2018 to 2022 we have earned multiple platinum, gold, and silver awards which we proudly display on our operation’s walls. I must say it is extremely gratifying and provides moments of extreme pride to me personally to be recognized by these awards, but then to see the pride and excitement of the team is awe inspiring and very inspirational. Additionally, we have extra fun in getting additional awards which we present to our customers whose design and confidence afforded us the opportunity to perform to start with. What a great way to recognize our customers for a job well done!
Now is the time to step into the fray so to speak. IPMA, ACUP, and other professional organizations are asking for your submissions in their awards competitions. I have heard some comments such as “why enter, it’s always the same people winning”. My easy answer is if that was the case, then the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, University of Oklahoma, Oregon State University, Bloomberg L.P., or the Church of Scientology would never have entered. All of these had to make the decision to enter what they thought was their best and they all have won. Which of you as leaders don’t believe your team has something to bring to the table? Take up the challenge. Show your pride and enter.
Coming to the end of another year sometimes gives one pause to reflect. Looking back at how things began, shifted, things accomplished, things that came from nowhere and now impact how we do business. How the year changed from the previous years or now that I getting older, I reflect on my friends, family, and the fantastic mentors I have had. Many of my mentors, my uncle Norman Mott, Mac Harbor, Joe Floyd, Cindy Lawson all participated in professional trade organizations for training but also for the opportunity to share and learn. Being active in their contests was just part of the fun. Groups like IPMA, ACUP, PIAS, or Sales and Marketing Executives and Press Associations all offer great opportunities to share, learn and grow.
However, throughout my career I have found that there were other means of mentoring and opportunities for my growth as well and supported the growth of my team. Membership in trade organizations really played a role. They provided education, business statistics, and programs to reward and expand knowledge. Some of these organizations were industry specific, some were not. Some were highly technical, some were social. But all had something in common: something that gave more than they got and certainly more than they cost.
The non-personal instruction often came from other areas, in some cases books, colleges and universities, trade schools, and professional organizations. Since I am reflecting, allow me to talk a little about some of these that help me and others. Membership in IPMA, PIAS, PIMW (Printing Industries of America Midwest), GATF, Chambers of Commerce, Sales and Marketing Executives of Northeast Arkansas; and ACUP+ just to name a few. There are several groups that offer training. Individual companies have hired speakers and trainers to increase staffs’ skills in various areas: some inspirational- motivational, some specialized in human relations. What all these have in common is open positive opportunities to gather, meet and discuss ideas. To discuss things that worked, things that didn’t, and more importantly, the opportunity to engage in one-on-one conversations with like-minded people in all aspects, levels if you would in experiences and knowledge that they want to share.
So, in the end, be active, seek out ways to show off your team and organization. Contests like In-Print™ are a great avenue. The goodwill alone from your staff pride in being recognized is worth the time and effort. The national or regional esteem that you can share with your upper management and customers can have long lasting positive results, uplifting your organization’s reputation. Don’t sit there, enter now!
John Yerger was born into printing and has served in almost every position from a printer’s devil to owner. He has a BS in Communications Printing Management and in senior management in private sector print operations and three different higher education in-plant operations. John has directed operations with digital, wide format, graphic design, offset, letterpress, flexography and mail centers managing upwards of 70 staff and mulit-million dollar budgets.