TLMI Converter Meeting

By Jack Kenny | March 30, 2010

Best managed companies reap awards

TLMI Chairman Frank Gerace, center, congratulates the winners of the 2010 Eugene Singer Awards for the best managed companies in the industry. From left: Doug Kopp of Kopco Graphics, Lori Campbell of The Label Printers, Craig Moreland of Coast Label, and David Carmany of Consolidated Label. The Label Printers won the award for the first time; the others have won in previous years.
Four US label converters who have risen to the top of their field were presented with the prestigious Eugene Singer Awards for Management Excellence by the Tag & Label Manufacturers Institute (TLMI). The prizes were presented March 9 at TLMI's annual Converter Meeting, held in Palm Springs, CA, USA.

The awards recognize excellence in business management measured and defined by an established set of growth and profitability ratios through the participation in the TLMI Management Ratio Study, which is open to the institute's members. The Singer Awards are given annually to four narrow web converting companies, each within a certain sales range category. Here are this year's winners:

- Coast Label Company, Fountain Valley, CA, won in the small company category (annual sales under $6 million) for the third time.

- Kopko Graphics Inc. Fairfield, OH, won for the mid-range company category (sales of $6 to $14 million). This is Kopco's second Eugene Singer Award.

- The Label Printers, Aurora, IL, won for the first time in the medium company category ($15 to $35 million).

- Consolidated Label, Longwood, FL, won in the large company category (above $35 million). This is Consolidated Label's eighth Eugene Singer Award.

"TLMI congratulates this year's Eugene Singer Award Winners," said Frank Sablone, TLMI president. "The association's converter members continue to realize the benefit of participating in the TLMI Ratio Study, and the tangible ongoing value the study provides to their businesses and to their business planning strategies. TLMI is honored to be able to continue to provide this service to our converter members."

Networking and education

The annual Converter Meeting drew representatives of nearly 50 label printing companies. The late winter meeting, which is limited to label converters and those suppliers who are active on committees and the board of directors of TLMI, comprised four days of networking, business sessions, and recreation.

From left, Lisa and Walt Zeek of Kopko Graphics,
and Elaine and Dave McDowell of McDowell Label & Screen
The first day's business session began with a presentation by Peter Ricchiuti, an economist who teaches at Tulane University. Ricchiuti predicted that energy prices will remain high; demand is strong in China and India, but supply is weak. New gasoline refineries will lower prices, he said, but construction of these in the United States faces a strong challenge by the NIMBY – Not In My Back Yard – folks.

Attacking what he calls a financial myth surrounding unemployment and the stock market, Ricchiuti cited as fact that an unemployment rate above 6.6 percent is accompanied by stock returns at or above 20 percent, and that unemployment below that number yields an annual stock return of about 7.5 percent. Interest rates will rise, he said, probably in the second quarter. "This is good and it means that the economy is in good shape," he added.

Jason Jennings, an author and a researcher, presented to attendees some of the findings he has gleaned from his study of tens of thousands of companies, explaining the attributes that separate the most successful from the crowd. The first trait, he said, is cause: "Leadership in companies that grow consistently do what they do and turn it into a cause. A cause is big and bold, inclusive, the non-financial reason for doing what you do." Causes fix things that are wrong, give meaning to people's lives, drive momentum, fuel passion, and build cultures. "Hire people who want to be at your company," he said, "who want to make it a better place. You can train people to do a job, but hire an attitude before aptitude."

From left: Bob Zaccone of GSI Technologies, Joel Carmany of Consolidated Label, and Kathy and John Pedroli of CCL Label
The second trait Jennings illustrated is the ability of leaders to let go. "An inability to let go of yesterday's ways is what will be the demise of a company. Let go and you will be better able to deal with change."
Trait No. 3 is that everyone in a successful company knows the strategy. "If people are not emotionally attached to the company's strategy," he said, "they are not connected to their work." The fourth trait is to get everyone to act like owners: "Everyone neeeds to understand how what they do creates economic value."

And the fifth trait of companies that grow consistently is that the leaders are stewards. "A steward," Jennings says, "values service over short term interest, abandons power over others, and knows that the only thing that counts is people and taking care of them.

"By their nature stewards share knowledge with workers, are accessible daily to workers and customers, and keep their hands dirty: They stay a part of the day-to-day business; the more you step away, the worse your company will perform. Stewards are called to serve, to give people the opportunity to grow personally, professionally and economically," he said.

Lessons from our peers

From left, Bill Muir and John Crosby of Grand Rapids Label, Steve Lee of RotoMetrics, and Christopher Che of Hooven-Dayton.
One well received panel discussion featured four prominent label company leaders, answering questions from their peers in the audience about a variety of current topics. The panelists were Dave McDowell of McDowell Label & Screen, Frank Gerace of Multi-Color, Mike Falco of Topflight, and Joel Carmany of Consolidated Label.

Question: How do you keep up morale during these difficult economic times?

McDowell: The key is to keep people busy. November and December are slow months for us, so we undertake R&D projects that we normally do not have time for.

Gerace: Employee morale has been difficult for the past year. We have had 11 straight years of bonuses, but as a result of the downturn there was no bonus in 2009. We provide a lot of communication about the business to our employees, and about the numbers, on a monthly basis.

Falco: We have communicated more about what we are doing in sales, educating them more about sales opportunities and our sales and marketing programs. Most people are in manufacturing and we have to educate those people about the sales staff role.

Carmany: We had accounts that were down, but other accounts that were up, and our sales were up last year. We went on with business as usual, which made our employees feel so good – seeing what was going on in the outside world. We found that people worked even harder than normal because they were so thankful for their jobs.

Q: What kinds of metrics do you employ to measure internal production?

Gerace: We slice and dice our numbers in a number of different ways. We track gross profit at the plant and floor level. We keep track of linear feet of material per minute, on income per employee. We focus on our yields.

Falco: We tie financials down to something the employee can understand. We look at revenue per employee. Every work area has to have some kind of measurement. Each has goals based on their individual work center. We track average waste per job. And then we ask our employees what improvement plan they have for their specific function.

Carmany: We have a scorecard for everyone. We post daily shipments in dollars. What are your material costs and what are your dollars? We have a daily average that they have to meet individually and by plant. We post daily on a board with a plus/minus system that rolls to an end of the month goal. There's a variable bonus for every employee based on meeting that sales number. We post all press operations. Management's bonuses are tied to profit. Daily orders and shipments are what is important.

McDowell: We measure waste and job cost. We share that information with the employees. We run a lot of multi-process work and eight- to 10-color jobs every day. We have a lot of trouble with downtime. We focus now on uptime and have instituted a program based on Nascar teams for each press.

Q: How do we measure and keep track of sales employee performance other than actual sales?
Falco: We measure KPI – Key Performance Indicators: how many phone calls made, how many emails, how successful they are getting appointments, once they have the appointment, travel, etc. We try to sell a program versus a product. If they do not hit 70 percent of their KPI, they do not get a bonus.

Gerace: New business development has taken a much larger approach in this market. We have been much more aggressive than in the past. We keep track of that new business in a very rigorous way.

McDowell: We treat sales people like top level executives. We measure them in number of quotes per order. There are constant sales contests, a moving target to keep them engaged and interested.

Carmany: We follow Sandler sales training – stop following dead opportunities and move on with your efforts. All sales people go through the training. We're very focused on new accounts. Sales managers and the sales person are involved early on in new accounts to get them to move faster. This helps the sales people with these new ventures. And our customer service department is on commission.

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