Last year, Clendenning announced his retirement as INX’s president and CEO, which goes into effect in the beginning of May. Clendenning has had a major impact at INX, helping to lead the company’s entrance into digital printing, its growth in the packaging ink segment, as well as its expansion in the US, South America and Europe.
Meanwhile, Clendenning is a longtime supporter of numerous industry organizations, including the National Association of Printing Ink Manufacturers (NAPIM). A longtime NAPIM director, he received the Ault Award, NAPIM’s most prestigious honor, in 2007.
As he prepares for retirement, Clendenning took some time to offer his thoughts on his time in the ink industry, the changes he has seen and what the future may hold.
L&NW: How did you get your start in the ink industry?
Rick Clendenning: In 1971, I was fortunate to get an entry level position at Acme Printing Ink in Fullerton, California as a tub washer while finishing getting my business degree at California State University, which was down the street from Acme. My father worked at Acme as the production manager and he told me that he was going to be harder on me than anyone else. He wanted me to work hard and learn everything I could about the business. My father taught me a lot as I moved to different production positions. When I graduated in 1973, I was promoted into the laboratory, so I ended up staying. I’m glad I did.
In 1979, the company moved me and my young family across the country to Charlotte, NC to help start up our Metal Decorating ink manufacturing plant. I served as the production and lab manager to start. This is where I really began learning a lot about the ink industry and growing with the company. It was a great move.
L&NW: What have been some of the accomplishments that you are most proud of?
RC: I have been with basically the same company, INX International, for 48 years. Acme, the company where I started, was acquired by SAKATA INX in 1988. Since that time, I’ve had many opportunities to continue learning as I was working with a very good large international company, SAKATA INX.
I was able to continue moving and growing into higher positions, and in 1999 I was promoted to be the president of INX International Ink Co. I was very proud and honored to be asked as I realized that I started in an entry level position of a small, family-owned ink company and was now being asked to lead the third largest ink company in the US. A few years later, my title changed to president and CEO – another proud moment. I became president when I was 49 years old. This year I turn 69 and will retire the beginning of May. Again, I was very fortunate to run our company with all the great people we have. Without all those people, I could not have been successful at all.
L&NW: Along those lines, what are some of your favorite memories of your time at INX?
RC: My favorite memories are all about the people, our customers and my colleagues around the world. I have been to almost 50 different countries for business, which I never thought it would have been possible in my lifetime. The management team at INX that I was able to work with and alongside for so many years were tremendous and helped me and our company so much. My wife Kitty has been with me for this whole ride, and without her support I could not have done everything that I needed to do for so many years. We were married in 1971, the same year I started in the ink industry, and she did a great job in raising my two sons, Jim and Andy, who have also supported and helped me more than they even know. So, without the support of my family and colleagues, I would not have been so lucky to have a wonderful career with a great company.
L&NW: How have the ink and printing industries changed over the years, and what do you think might be coming next?
RC: The ink and printing industries, over the years, have changed a lot. It is a much harder business now than it was 40 years ago. Environmental requirements, technology needs, printing speeds and customer demands have all changed and evolved. Competition in both industries are bigger and stronger, putting more demands and pressures on all related companies. With all this pressure, the result is we are all getting better in what we do. Consolidations in the ink and printing industries will continue and increase over the next few years. There will be more opportunities for companies to grow larger and stronger through normal organic growth and more acquisitions.
L&NW: How is INX set for the coming years?
Rick Clendenning: I believe INX is well positioned for many years to come. My replacement as president of INX, John Hrdlick, will continue to grow the company as the management team is committed to support him as they have supported me for years. John is excited about the new opportunities in his new role, and he will do great job for the company and the people we have both worked with for many years. I am so glad that I was able to step aside and watch him move into the president’s position while I have been around for the last year to support him. He deserved my total support as he has been supporting me for almost 40 years while we worked together. This move for John is well deserved and I am so proud to be able to watch him be successful. INX grew sales last year and the plan is to grow even more this year and beyond.
L&NW: What would your advice be to the present and future leaders in the ink industry?
RC: I would like to ask all of them to take care of our industry and the people who work in it. The ink industry has been good to me and I tried to be good to it as well. This industry is great and to keep it that way, you need to have two very important things: Technologies and even more important, people! We all need to keep developing good people who will take care of our company and customers, and keep developing new technologies into the future!
L&NW: What are your plans for the coming years?
RC: Because of my work and travel for the last 48 years, I missed a lot of time with my wife and my two sons and their families. I want to spend more time with them and especially my six grandchildren. I don’t want to miss any more time with them now, as time is precious and they are all growing up too fast. Kitty and I will take some time together to travel around the US, as we haven’t seen a lot of things that we have right here because of my work and International travel. We will also try to hook up with some old friends that we were very close to years ago and just haven’t had time to go see them for many years. I might even try to get much better at golf, too.
In closing, I want to wish SAKATA INX and all my friends and colleagues there, all the best in the future. I owe them a lot for allowing me to work for and with them for so many good years. Thanks!
David Savastano, editor of Ink World magazine, conducted this interview for L&NW. Ink World is a sister publication to Label & Narrow Web.