When you think about making a difference, what does it mean to you? We all may have different definitions of success, but one indication that you’re headed down the right path is when your peers recognize you for your achievements.
The Printing Industry Hall of Fame presents an annual celebration of lifetime achievement for those who have truly made a difference in our industry. This year, The Dingley Press Chairman Chris Pierce was inducted into the Hall of Fame on the 30th anniversary of the awards.
Always looking for the chance to succeed
Over the past three decades, Chris Pierce has been involved with some of Dingley’s most pivotal moments — times of great challenge and transition. At those periods, he made decisions that many would call risks. However, Chris didn’t see them that way; instead, he saw them as choosing the path of success.
“If you’re faced with closing up or quitting, but you see a way you could succeed, why wouldn’t you try?” Chris says.
“When we lost the LL Bean catalog in 1980 — and that was 95% of our business — I still thought there was a chance Dingley could succeed,” he says. “I was young, and that’s part of it. But there were also 75 to 100 people who were going to lose their jobs, and I wanted to save their jobs as well as my own.”
Chris was at the helm when the company needed to retool and move to a new location. At the time, Dingley was bringing in $8 million in revenue; the company borrowed $7 million for the move. In 2004, the company was purchased by The Sheridan Group, but in 2013, Chris bought it back. Chris says the risks he took weren’t about him, but reflect his trust in the people he works with.
“I have a great respect for people who can accomplish great things in a manufacturing environment,” he says. “I also had a lot of confidence that they would pull together and work together, which is what they’ve always done.”
Customer relationships founded on what we have in common
With so many changes in the catalog industry over the past few decades, Chris says some of the most important lessons he’s learned are about knowing what you do well and finding a cultural connection with your customers.
“You’ve got to ‘stick to your knitting’ — to know what your limitations and strengths are,” he says. “Our prices have always been competitive, but the customers we’ve done best with and who have stuck with us the longest have been the small companies we have a lot in common with.”
Chris says he sometimes forged relationships with customers who were fellow entrepreneurs; not by talking about printing, but by discussing things they were both dealing with as business owners, such as medical insurance.
A strong culture for a strong future
So what does Chris envision for the future of The Dingley Press? In 2004 Dingley was the 11th largest catalog printer in the country; today, it is the 4th largest. Dingley has grown, but he notes that the new ranking has more to do with how the industry has contracted through consolidation.
“More people pay attention to us now,” he says. But he also confirms that Dingley still has that small-company feel and culture that have helped it win, and keep, so many customers.
“We’re very open with our customers,” Chris adds. “When there’s an issue, we deal with it as forthrightly as we can and make it good. We also have expert people at Dingley who work well together to run the business, and there’s a spirit of togetherness that everyone can sense.”
Chris expects Dingley Press to continue enjoying gradual growth and strong performance in the years to come.
So what does it mean to make a difference? Chris Pierce has certainly made a difference for us at Dingley and for all our customers. Thank you, Chris!