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Brain Squad

Shop Floor to Top Floor: Wide-Format Leaders Self-Reflect

Every print pro has an origin story. For these Brain Squad members, some experiences have been more impactful than others.




“WITH GREAT POWER comes great responsibility,” Uncle Ben told Peter Parker (aka Spider-Man) before he died. Although leaders in our industry tend to have less dramatic origin stories than most superheroes, they can likely relate to that quote. After all, their business decisions shape their own lives and those of their employees, and their decision-making process is heavily influenced by individual experience.

They also can likely relate to the extent to which our background shapes our experiences. With that in mind, we asked the Brain Squad directly: “What role have you held that best helped you be the wide-format printer you are today?” Here’s a sampling of what they had to say:

  • I do not believe it is a single role but more a culmination of all the roles and skills learned over the years. That being said, the few companies where I have worked taught me various lessons on what works and what does not, and how to treat people. I will say the longer I am in business and the more employees I have had, the better my understanding of why certain business owners can be cynical or difficult with regard to employees and how they are treated in general. I just chose to learn the lessons and endeavor to be better at hiring, rather than pool everyone into a worst category. — Brian Hite, Image Options
  • I think the trick to this for me is it wasn’t just one role. I had the opportunity to work in several different roles in the organization. That really contributed to a better overall understanding of the organization and my role in the process from start to finish. When applicable, we incorporate that into our training for new hires so they understand not only their role, but also how their role impacts departments before and after them. It is not uncommon for a new employee to work 1-2 weeks in every department before they finally end up training for the role they were hired to fill.  — Elaine Scrima, GSP Companies
  • Rolling up your sleeves and being in the production trenches. This helps better understand what it takes to get a job done. Not every job is the same as we don’t necessarily produce a static product. We lean on our experience to create each new project. Jason Roberts, Futura Color
    Being woman-owned. —  Christine Walsh, Alpha Graphics Baltimore
  • My Accounting background is helpful in allowing me to best run my business. My background in sales is also extremely helpful. My partner is experienced in purchasing and shop management, so as a team we work great. — Ann Durso, Express Sign & Graphics
  • Critic. It’s actually tough (at least for me) to be the critic, but if I didn’t care so deeply about the quality of the prints, our output would just be average, at best, and we wouldn’t have the solid reputation in the field that we have. — Jim White, Go Graphix
  • My wrap installation experience. The installer side of our business can have high turnover. I’m able to effectively train new applicators.  — Malcom Gieske,
  • I think a mashup of all the roles I’ve held as a signage or branding professional have helped me, from being an entry-level, low-on-the-totem-pole newbie through to press operator, designer, fabricator, installer and so on. I’ve operated in small mom-and-pop shop, corporate franchise and indie company settings. All roles and environments have merged to give me the impetus to be the printer and print company we are today. — Derek Atchley, Atchley Graphics
  • Workflow manager. — Tami Napolitano, Awesome Graphics
  • The same role I always have held, but spending as much in the production space as possible to understand what is happening on the floor is crucial. There can be no sugar-coating the situation when you’re present. — John Sherman, Flavor Paper
  • It’s not really a role, but my industry connections and friends have helped shape my perspective and our business at Olympus. Working with other printers (some would call friendly competitors) has had a gigantic impact on Olympus and I’ve developed some lifelong friendships. — Brian Adam, Olympus Group
  • In most companies, the employees do the bulk (if not all) the work. For me, my most important role is the company mouth. It’s the most fun and has been quite successful. I get the pleasure of talking to clients, posting to social media, promoting our clients’ events and new products, and even working on our website. I think I’ve done just about everything in the printing industry except to actually run a press! What I currently do may be the most important and fulfilling role I’ve ever had. — Jim Dittmer, JDA Creative Color
  • Taking care of my customers and employees. — Peter Brunner, Full Sail Graphics & Marketing
  • When I was in sales and had to source wide-format printing, I knew what was important to me personally. Now that I am on the other side, I know which qualities mattered to me the most and try to satisfy those. — Tim Bezner, Westmount Signs and Printing Co.
  • Being a problem solver. Sometimes the solution is not us, but another company that specializes an area that meets our clients project needs. — David Kaiser, Digitype Design
  • Active community member and engaged learner in the industry. — Gina Kazmerski, Image 360
  • Sales. Everyone should be beholding to a client and communicate with them. I also grew up in the industry in the ‘80s, when you had to understand color theory. Sometimes software does not always get it right. — Rick Mandel, Mandel Graphic Solutions
  • Production manager. Being the guy who helped make sure every product got out the door right and on time back then gives me the credibility that I need today with the staff and the customers to solve their problems, and to instill confidence in them while doing so. — Wade Neff, Strategic Factory
  • As a business owner, you see it all from start to finish. — Ryan Clark, Direct Edge
  • Every role at bluemedia is service first, service second, and service third. We get hired by the client. For their project, we have been hired to produce a specific outcome. Our job is to serve to that outcome and make some friends along the way. — Jared Smith, bluemedia
  • Owner and occasional operator. — Pat Dacy, 3V Signs & Graphics LLC



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